Moral Grammar, "Crime and Punishment"

Reading Wayne's post "Do we posses a Universal Moral Grammar", brought back wonderful memories of Dostoevsky's most read novel, Crime and Punishment. Wonderful because it was the first novel my Senior AP English Literature students read and we just loved saying all those Russian names.

Written after his stint in prison in Siberia, this novel explores the very question of passion vs reason. Written in the stream-of-consciousness of the main character, Raskolnikov, it takes us through his Psyche via his aimless wandering and confusing rationalizations of "I did something wrong, but she deserved it, I did something wrong, but I'm helping society, I did something wrong, but I needed the money....." and it goes on and on until his mind and the purity of the ironic prostitute Sophia, get the best of him.

"Oh, God, how loathsome it all is! and can I, can I possibly.... No, it's nonsense, it's rubbish!" he added resolutely. "And how could such an atrocious thing come into my head? What filthy things my heart is capable of. Yes, filthy above all, disgusting, loathsome, loathsome!--and for a whole month I've been.... But no words, no exclamations, could express his agitation."

And so it goes until he actually does commit the murder in a gruesome, terrible fashion. (I dare not post that excerpt here as it really is quite atrocious and you'll just have to read it yourself to believe me)

Do we possess a universal moral grammar? Raskolnikov (don't you just love that name?) is the perfect character to study because his thoughts are based on the interviews Dostoevsky, while he was incarcerated, had with criminals. It's a great read and one I highly recommend.