Science (HUM303)

“‘If, for example, in earlier times it was said to me: “Love your neighbour” and I acted on it, what was the result?’ continued Peter Petrovich, with perhaps excessive haste. ‘The result was that I divided my cloak with my neighbour and we were both left half-naked, for according to the Russian proverb: “If you run after two hares, you will catch neither.” Science, however, says: love yourself first of all, for everything in the world is based on personal interest. If you love yourself alone, you will conduct your affairs properly, and your cloak will remain whole. Economic truth adds that the more private enterprises are established and the more, so to say, whole cloaks there are in a society, the firmer will be its foundations and the more will be undertaken for the common good. That is to say, that by the very act of devoting my gains solely and exclusively to myself, I am at the same time benefiting the whole community, and ensuring that my neighbour receives something better than half a torn cloak, and that not by private, isolated bounty, but as a consequence of the general economic advancement'” (142-143).


2 thoughts on “Science (HUM303)

  1. Nicole

    I found this portion of the novel interesting especially when shortly after that, Rodya gives Marmaldov’s family money that he cannot spare. It is interesting to see the juxtaposition of his criminality and generosity. Later, he asks the police officer to ask himself if the children caught in the counterfeit ring were truly criminals or if they are just exercising the idea of “taking care of yourself.” His dialogue with the police officer and Peter’s speech force us to question what the limits of this idea are. If science teaches us to look after ourselves and put ourselves before everyone else, does this justify criminal actions that are committed out of desperation or poverty?

    1. apciv

      Thinking about the status of money, the way that it’s earned or given or taken, might be a really useful way into the novel. In one sense money is unreal. Its value comes not from any intrinsic worth but from the fact that it is a universal means of exchange. Is giving money an act of genuine generosity? Or are there other, more human and sincere, generous acts?

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