Raskolnikov's Rebirth: Psychology and the Understanding of Good and Evil

Raskolnikov's Rebirth: Psychology and the Understanding of Good and Evil

Raskolnikov's Rebirth: Psychology and the Understanding of Good and Evil

Raskolnikov's Rebirth: Psychology and the Understanding of Good and Evil

Synopsis

Author Ilham Dilman explains why a "thoughtful psychology," encompassing the varied modes of being experienced by humans, is the best tool for investigating the nature of good and evil. To illustrate, he employs Raskolnikov, Dostoyevsky's axe-murdering protagonist in Crime and Punishment, following his alienation from goodness, his return to it, and finally, his ethical rebirth.

Excerpt

Raskolnikov's Rebirth is concerned with the contribution psychology, the discipline, can make to an understanding of good and evil and of a person's relation to his morality. It argues that experimental, scientific psychology can make no contribution to such an understanding. In a sense analogous to the one in which we may describe a person as having no soul, such a psychology has no soul. It is blind to the kind of life in which human beings have a soul.

This book contrasts experimental psychology with what it calls a 'thoughtful' psychology which gives place to reflection on human life—a life which offers the possibility of autonomy to human beings, a life in which human beings find their individuality. I am interested in psycho-analysis because it has the potential of being a thoughtful psychology. Jung called Freud's psychology 'a psychology without a soul'. This book tries to show how Freud's perceptions, which were clouded by his scientism and his concentration on 'psycho-pathology', could nevertheless inspire a move towards a more thoughtful psychology. To this end I critically examine the contribution of a few later psycho-analysts to an understanding of a person's relation to good and evil and also to an understanding of religious belief. The book closes with a chapter on Dostoyevsky's Raskolnikov because in Crime and Punishment we have a profound appreciation of the relation of a person, a character in the novel, to good and evil, what it means to be alienated from goodness, and of the radical change he undergoes in his mode of being as he is reintegrated with goodness. In such reintegration Raskolnikov finds his soul, the soul he has lost in his alienation from goodness. Dostoevsky describes this as 'Raskolnikov's rebirth'.

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