English Final

English Final - Jacob Jessen English 106 Watson Fall 2009...

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Jacob Jessen English 106 Watson Fall 2009 Irrational Egoism In Notes from Underground , Dostoevsky uses a unique and isolated narrator that continuously rambles on about his opinions and life experiences. A philosophical approach can be taken to analyze the narrator’s ego. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, egoism is separated into three forms: rational, psychological, and ethical. All of these forms involve acting to profit one’s self interest. In Winter Notes on Summer Impressions , Dostoevsky provides an in-depth analysis of egoism that can be used to describe the narrator. In The Case against Rational Egoism in Dostoevsky’s “Notes from Underground,” James P. Scanlan attempts to determine whether or not the narrator is a rational egoist. This idea of rational egoism can be used to describe human nature and attempt to explain behavior of individuals. However, human behavior and actions may not be something that can be explained in a rational way. Egoism is related to the idea that individual self-interest is the reason of all conscious action. Nikolay Chernyshevsky describes egoism in his novel, What Is to Be Done? as “the model of admirable individual behavior and the key to harmonious social relations” (Scanlan 553). Chernyshevsky believes that egoists are models of excellence that benefit others through the effects of rational egoism. Dostoevsky has a different idea of egoism that seems much more appropriate to define the narrator. His idea of egoism involves putting oneself above all others in the world and having no concern for those others. Dostoevsky explains the egoistic principle in Winter Notes on Summer Impression s through the following quote: the personal principle, the principle of isolation, of intense self-preservation, or self- solicitousness, of the self-determination of the I , of the opposing this I to all nature 1
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and all other people as a separate, autonomous principle entirely equal and equivalent to everything that exists outside itself ( Winter Notes on Summer Impressions ). Dostoevsky creates a character with characteristics that rivals those of Chernyshevsky’s idea of an egoist. Chernyshevsky focuses on the good qualities involved with egoists. On the other hand, Dostoevsky’s idea of an egoistic character involves someone who is an “authentic, non-altruistic, morally repugnant egoist” (Scanlan 554). This type of character contrasts Chernyshevsky’s egoist. The narrator in Notes from Underground does not bring any benefit to others through his behavior. He demonstrates the principle of isolation that Dostoevsky describes by isolating himself from society and failing at any attempts to have positive interaction with others. For example, the dinner with his former schoolmates turns into a complete disaster due to his irrational thinking. At one point, he challenges one of the men to a duel. Another example is the way he interacts with Liza, who has fallen in love with him. He realizes that he never intended to help Liza
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English Final - Jacob Jessen English 106 Watson Fall 2009...

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