Autodidact: self-taught



by V. L. Craven

Dostoevsky Crime and Punishment
001. he was always ready to revise his plans when new material, discovered in the process of writing, demanded it.
002. The murderer, as he wrote to Katkov, would be “an intellectually developed young man who has good inclinations” and who kills ‘under the influence of some of those strange, “incomplete” ideas which go floating about in the air…’
003. We sometimes encounter people, even perfect strangers, who begin to interest us at first sight, somehow suddenly, all at once, before a word has been spoken.
004 He kept glancing at the official, also no doubt because the latter was looking persistently at him, and one could see that he very much wanted to start a conversation.
005. In spite of his recent momentary wish for at least some communion with people, at the first word actually addressed to him he suddenly felt his usual unpleasant and irritable feeling of loathing towards any stranger who touched or merely wanted to touch his person.
006. To become more degraded and slovenly would have been difficult; but Raskolnikov even enjoyed it in his present state of mind. He had decidedly withdrawn from everyone, like a turtle into its shell, and even the face of the maid who had the task of serving him, and who peeked into his room occasionally, drove him to bile and convulsions. This happens with monomaniacs when they concentrate too long on some one thing.
007. …if one wants to know any man well, one must consider him gradually and carefully, so as not to fall into error and prejudice, which are very difficult to correct and smooth out later.
008. He marveled at himself. Razmukhin was one of the former university friends. It was remarkable that Raskolnikov had almost no friends while he was at university, kept aloof from everyone, visited no one, and had difficulty receiving visitors. Soon, however, everyone also turned away from him. General gatherings, conversations, merrymaking—he somehow did not participate in any of it. He was a zealot student, unsparing of himself, and was respected for it, but no one loved him. He was very poor and somehow haughtily proud and unsociable, as though he were keeping something to himself. It seemed to some of his friends that he looked upon them all as children, from above, as though he were ahead of them all in development, in knowledge, and in convictions, and that he regarded their convictions and interests as something inferior.
009. They lie and then worship their own lies.
010. Pride and self-confidence were growing in him every moment; with each succeeding moment he was no longer the man he had been the moment before.
011. peeking timidly into her daughter’s eyes in order to read the whole of her thoughts
012. …she looked much younger than her age, as almost always happens with women who keep their clarity of spirit, the freshness of their impressions, and the honest, pure ardor of their hearts into old age. Let us say parenthetically that keeping all this is the only means of preserving one’s beauty even in old age.
013. she’s shy to the point of convulsions
014. …it suddenly because perfectly plain and clear to him that he has just uttered a terrible lie, that not only would he never have the chance to talk all he wanted, but that it was no longer possible for him to _talk_ at all, with anyone, about anything, ever.
015. And when she made a move to run away in fear–it was as if something turned over inside him.
016. Never, never had she felt anything like this. A whole new world had descended vaguely and mysteriously into her soul.
017. …there supposedly exist in the world certain persons who can…that is, who not only can but are fully entitled to commit all sorts of crimes and excesses and to whom the law supposedly does not apply.
018. “The whole point is that in his article all people are somehow divided into the ‘ordinary’ and the ‘extraordinary.’ The ordinary must live in obediance and have no right to transgress the law, because they are, after all, ordinary. While the extraordinary have the right to commit all sorts of crimes and in various ways to transgress the law, because in point of fact they are extraordinary.
019. I do not at all insist that extraordinary people absolutely must and are duty bound at all times to do all sorts of excesses, as you say. I even think that such an article would never be accepted for publication. I merely suggested that an ‘extraordinary’ man has the right…that is, not an official right, to allow his conscience to…step over certain obstacles, and then only in the event that the fulfillment of his idea–sometimes perhaps salutary for the whole of mankind–calls for it.
020. 260-1: I deduce that all, not merely great men,
021. 262
022. 262-3:
023. The cleverer the man, the less he suspects that he can be thrown off with the simplest thing. It’s precisely the simplest thing that will throw off the cleverest man.
024. 419:
025. 419:
026. your crime will appear as some sort of darkening
027. 490
028. 491
029. 491
030. 518
031. 518
032. 519
033. 529
034. Perhaps it was only from the force of his desires that he had regarded himself as a man to whom more was permitted than to others.
035. 544
036. This alone he recognized as his crime: that he had not endured it, but gone and confessed.

Dostoevsky Notes from Underground
-01- … [the protagonist is] one whom circumstances have led or forced to take up the pen, to try to fix something in words, for his own sake first of all, but also with an eye for some indeterminate others—readers, critics, judges, fellow creatures.
-02- Everything that can be said about him, and more particularly against him, he already knows; he has, as he says in a typical paradox, overheard it all, anticipated it all, invented it all.
-03- ‘I mainly used to read, I wished to stifle with external sensations all that was ceaselessly boiling up inside of me. And among external sensations the only one possible for me was reading…’
-04- Notes from Underground has been called the prelude of the great novels of Dostoevsky’s last period, and it is so partly because here Dostoevsky first perfected the method of tonal distancing that enabled him to present characters and events simultaneously from different points of view, to counter empathy with intellection.
-05- … since Chernyshevsky believed that the value of a work was not qualitative but a quantitative concept, and that ‘if someone were to take some miserable, forgotten novel and carefully cull all its flashes of observation, he would collect a fair number of sentences that would not differ in worth from those constituting the pages of works we admire.’
-06- Giftlessness, as Dostoevsky feared and Nabokov knew, became the dominant style in Russia; it eventually seized power, and in the process of ‘making people happy’ destroyed them by millions, leaving its vast motherland broken and desolate. ‘The triumph of materialism has abolished matter,’ the poet Andrei Bely said in the famine-ridden 1920s.
-07- Mikhail Bakhtin noted in his study of Dostoevsky’s poetics: ‘Artistic form, correctly understood, does not shape already prepared and found content, but rather permits content to be found and seen for the first time.’
-08- ‘All Dostoevsky’s novels were written for the sake of the catastrophe,’ the critic Konstantin Mochulsky observed.
-09- …an intellegent man of the nineteenth century must be and is morally obliged to be primarily a characterless being; and a man of character, an active figure—primarily a limited being.
-10- I swear to you, gentlemen, that to be overly conscious is a sickness, a real, thorough sickness. For man’s everyday use, ordinary human consciousness would be more than enough; that is, a half, quarter of the portion that falls to the lot of a developed man in our unfortunate nineteenth century…
-11- I am strongly convinced that not only too much consciousness but even any consciousness at all is a sickness. …Tell me this: why was it that, as if by design, in those same, yes, in those very same moments when I was most capable of all the refinements of ‘everything beautiful and lofty’ as we once used to say, it happened that instead of being conscious I did such unseemly deeds, such deeds as…well, in short, as everyone does, perhaps, but which with me occurred, as if by design, precisely when I was most conscious that I ought not to be doing them at all?
-12- But the main feature was that this was all in me not as if by chance, but as if it had to be so. As if it were my most normal condition and in no way a sickness or a blight, so that finally I lost any wish to struggle against this blight. I ended up almost believing (and maybe indeed believing) that this perhaps was my normal condition.
-13- I’ll explain to you: the pleasure here lay precisely in the too vivid consciousness of one’s own humiliation; in feeling that one had reached the ultimate wall: that, as bad as it is, it cannot be otherwise; that there is no way out for you, that you will never change into a different person; that even if you had enough time and faith left to change yourself into something different, you probably would not wish to change; and even if you did wish it, you would still not do anything, because in fact there is perhaps nothing you can do to change into. And chiefly, and finally, all this occurs according to the normal and basic laws of heightened consciousness and the inertia that follows directly from these laws, and consequently there is not only nothing you can do to change yourself, but there is simply nothing to do at all.
-14- it is in despair that the most burning pleasures occur, especially when one is all too highly conscious of the hopelessness of one’s position.
-15- And here, with this slap—you’ll simply be crushed by the consciousness of what sort of slime you’ve been reduced to. But chiefly, however you shuffle, it still comes out that I always come out as the first to blame for everything and, what’s most offensive, blamelessly to blame, according to the laws of nature, so to speak. I’m to blame, first, because I’m more intelligent than everyone around me. (I’ve always considered myself more intelligent than everyone around me, and, would you believe, have even felt slightly ashamed of it. At least I’ve somehow averted my eyes all my life, and never could look people straight in the face.) I’m to blame, finally, because even if there were any magnanimity in me, I would be the one most tormented by the consciousness of its utter futility, For I would surely be able to do nothing with my magnanimity: neither to forgive, because my offender might have hit me according to the laws of nature, and the laws of nature cannot be forgiven; nor to forget, because even though it’s the laws of nature it’s still offensive. Finally, even if I should want to be altogether unmagnanimous, if, on the contrary, I should wish to take revenge on y offender, I wouldn’t be able to take revenge on anyone in any way, because I surely  wouldn’t dare to do anything even if I could.
-16- …perhaps a normal man ought to be stupid, how do you know? Perhaps it’s even very beautiful. And I am the more convinced of this, so to speak, suspicion, seeing that if, for example, one takes the antithesis of the normal man, that is, the man of heightened consciousness, who came, of course, not from the bosom of nature but from a retort (this is almost mysticism, gentlemen, but I suspect that, too). This retort man sometimes folds before his antithesis so far that he honestly regards himself, with all his heightened consciousness, as a mouse and not a man. A highly conscious mouse, perhaps, but a mouse all the same, whereas here we have a man, and consequently…and so on…And, above all, it is he, he himself, who regards himself as a mouse; no one asks him to; and that is an important point.
-17- Let us now have a look at this mouse in action. Suppose, for example, that it, too, is offended (and it is almost always offended), and it, too, wishes to take revenge. For it may have stored up even more spite than l’homme de la nature et de la verite. The nasty, base little desire to pay the offender back with the same evil may scratch still more nastily in it than in l’homme de la nature et de la verite, because l’homme de la nature de la verite, with his innate stupidity, regards his revenge quite simply as justice; whereas the mouse, as a result of its heightened consciousness, denies it any justice. Things finally come down to the business itself, to the act of revenge itself. The wretched mouse, in addition to the one original nastiness, has already managed to fence itself about with so many other nastinesses in the form of questions and doubts; it has padded out the one question with so many unresolved questions that, willy-nilly, some fatal slops have accumulated around it, some stinking filth consisting of its dubieties, anxieties, and finally, of the spit raining on it from the ingenuous figures who stand solemnly around it like judged and dictators, guffawing at it from all their healthy gullets. Of course, nothing remains for it but to wave the whole thing aside with its little paw and, with a smile of feigned contempt, in which it does not believe itself, slip back shamefacedly into its crack. There, in its loathsome, stinking underground, our offended, beaten-down, and derided mouse at once immerses itself in cold, venomous, and, above all, everlasting spite. For forty years on end it will recall its offense to the last, most shameful details, each time addeing even more shameful details of its own, spitefully taunting ans chafing itself with its fantasies, but all the same it will recall everything, go over everything, heap all sorts of figments on itself, under the pretext that they. too, could have happened, and forgive nothing. It may even begin to take revenge, but somehow in snatches, with piddling things, from behind the stove, incognito, believing neither in its right to revenge itself nor in the success of its vengeance, and knowing beforehand that it will suffer a hundred times more from all its attempts at revenge than will the object of its vengeance, who will perhaps not even scratch at the bite. On its deathbed it will again recall everything, adding the interest accumulated over all that time, and…But it is precisely in this cold, loathsome half-despair, half-belief, in this conscious burying oneself alive from grief for forty years in the underground, in this assiduously produced and yet somewhat dubious hopelessness of one’s position, in all this poison of unsatisfied desires penetrating inward, in all this fever of hesitations, of decisions taken forever, and repentances coming again a moment later, that the very sap of that strange pleasure I was talking about oncsists. It is so subtle, sometimes so elusive of consciousness, that people who are even the slightest bit narrow-minded, or who simply have strong nerves, will not understand a single trace of it.
-18- Once it’s proved to you, for example, that you descended from an ape, there’s no use making a wry face, just take it for what it is.
-19- Nature doesn’t ask your permission; it doesn’t care about your wishes, or whether you like its laws or not. You’re obliged to accept it as it is, and consequently all its results as well.
-20- These moans express the pleasure of one who is suffering; if they did not give him pleasure, he wouldn’t bother moaning.
-21- “So I’m bothering you, straining your hearts, not letting anyone in the house sleep. Don’t sleep, then; you, too, should feel every moment that I have a toothache.”
-22- And you ask why I twisted and tormented myself so? Answer: because it was just too boring to sit there with folded arms, that’s why I’d get into such flourishes. Really it was so. Observe yourselves more closely, gentlemen, and you;ll understand that it is so. I made up adventures and devised a life for myself so as to live, at least somehow, a little. How many times it happened to me—well, say, for example, to feel offended, just so, for no reason, on purpose; and I’d know very well that I felt offended for no reason, that I was affecting it, but you can drive yourself so far that in the end, really, you do indeed get offended. Somehow all my life I’ve had an urge to pull such stunts, so that in the end I could no longer contain myself. Another time, twice even, I decided to force myself to fall in love. And I did suffer, gentlemen, I assure you. Deep in one’s soul it’s hard to believe one is suffering, mockery is stirring there, but all the same I suffer, and in a real, honest-to-god way; I get jealous, lose my temper… And all that from boredom, gentlemen, all from boredom; crushed by inertia.
-23-  …as a consequence of their narrow-mindedness, they take the most immediate and secondary causes for the primary ones, and thus become convinced more quickly and easily than other that they have found an indisputable basis for their doings, and so they feel at ease; and that, after all, is the main thing. For in order to begin to act, one must first be completely at ease, so that no more doubts remain.
-24- I exercise thinking, and, consequently, for me every primary cause immediately drags with it yet another, still more primary one, and so on ad infinitum.
-25-try getting blindly carried away by your feelings without reasoning, without a primary cause, driving consciousness away at least for a time; start hating, or falling in love, only so as not to sit with folded arms. The day after tomorrow, at the very latest, you’ll begin to despise yourself for having knowingly hoodwinked yourself.
-26- perhaps I really regard myself as an intelligent man only because throughout my entire life I’ve never been able to start or finish anything.
-27- what’s to be done if the sole and express purpose of every intelligent man is babble—that is, a deliberate pouring from empty into void.
-28- man does dirty only because he doesn’t know his real interests; and that were he to be enlightened, were his eyes to be opened to his real, normal interests, man would immediately stop doing dirty, would immediately become good and noble, because, being enlightened, and understanding his real profit, he would see his real profit precisely in the good, and it’s common knowledge that no man can act knowingly against his own profit, consequently, out of necessity, so to speak, he would start doing good.
-29- That’s just the thing, gentlemen, that there may well exist something that is dearer for almost every man than his very best profit, or (so as not to violate logic) that there is this one most profitable profit (precisely the omitted one, the one we were just talking about), which is chiefer and more profitable than all other profits, and for which is ready, if need be, to go against all laws, that is, against reason, honour, peace, prosperity–in short, against all these beautiful and useful things–only so as to attain this primary, most profitable profit which is dearer to him than anything else.
-30- I boldly declare that all these beautiful systems, all these theories that explain to mankind its true, normal interests, so that, striving necessarily to attain these interests, it would at once become good and noble—all this, in my opinion, is so far only logistics!
-31- Civilization cultivates only a versatility of sensations in man, and…decidedly nothing else. And through the development of this versatility, man may even reach the point of finding pleasure in blood.
-32- Have you noticed that the most refined blood-shedders have almost all been the most civilized gentlemen, to whom the various Attilas and Stenka Razins sometimes could not hold a candle? And if they don’t strike one as sharply as Attila or Stenka Razin, it is precisely because they occur to frequently, they are too ordinary, too familiar a sight.
-33- Though man has learned to see more clearly on occasion than in barbarous times, he is still far from having grown accustomed to acting as reason and science would dictate. But even so you are perfectly confident that he will not fail to grow accustomed once one or two old bad habits have passed and once common sense and science have thoroughly re-educated and given a normal direction to human nature. You are confident that man will then _voluntarily_ cease making mistakes and, willy-nilly, so to speak, refuse to set his will at variance with his normal interests.
-34- …that man, whoever he might be, has always and everywhere liked to act as he wants, and not at all as reason and profit dictate; and one can want even against one’s own profit.
-35- Man needs only _independent_ wanting, whatever this independence may cost and wherever it may lead.
-36-…if one day they really find the formula for all our wantings and caprices–that is, what they depend on, by precisely what laws they occur, precisely how they spread, what they strive for in such-and-such a case, and so on and so forth; a real mathematical formula, that is–then perhaps man will immediately stop wanting; what’s more, perhaps he will certainly stop. Who wants to want according to a little table?
-37- We sometimes want pure rubbish precisely because, in our stupidity, we see this rubbish as the easiest path to the attainment or some preconceived profit.
-38- Well, but when it’s all explained, worked out on a piece of paper (which is quite possible because, after all, it’s vile and senseless to believe beforehand that there are certain laws of nature which man will never learn)–then, to be sure, there will be no more so-called desires. For if wanting someday gets completely in cahoots with reason, then essentially we shall be reasoning and not wanting, because it really is impossible, for example, while preserving reason, to _want_ senselessness and thus knowingly go against reason and wish yourself harm…And since all wantings and reasonings can indeed be calculated, become after all, they will someday discover the laws of our so-called free will, then consequently and joking aside, something like a little table can be arranged, so that we shall indeed want according to this little table.
-39- You see: reason, gentlemen, is a fine thing, that is unquestionable, but reason is only reason and satisfies man’s reasoning capacity, while wanting is the manifestation of the whole life–that is, the whole of human life, including reason and various little itches.
-40- But wanting is often, and even for the most part, completely and stubbornly at odds with reason.

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