Sunday, January 15, 2012
Excerpt from CRIME AND PUNISHMENT by FYODOR DOSTOEVSKY
In short, I deduce that all, not only great men, but even those who are a tiny bit off the beaten track - that is, who are a tiny bit capable of something new - by their very nature cannot fail to be criminals - more or less, to be sure. Otherwise it would be hard for them to get off the beaten track, and, of course, they cannot consent to stay on it, again by nature, and in my opinion it is even their duty not to consent. In short, you see that so far there is nothing especially new here. It has been printed and read a thousand times. As for my dividing people into ordinary and extraordinary, I agree that it is somewhat arbitrary, but I don't really insist on exact numbers. I only believe in my main idea. It consists precisely in people being divided generally, according to the law of nature, into two categories: a lower or, so to speak, material category (the ordinary), serving solely for the reproduction of their own kind; and people proper - that is, those who have the gift or talent of speaking a new word in their environment. The subdivisions here are naturally endless, but the distinctive features of both categories are quite marked: the people of the first, or material, category are by nature conservative, staid, live in obedience, and like being obedient. In my opinion they even must be obedient, because that is their purpose, and for them there is decidedly nothing humiliating in it. Those of the second category all transgress the law, are destroyers or inclined to destroy, depending on their abilities. The crimes of these people, naturally, are relative and variegated; for the most part they call, in quite diverse declarations, for the destruction of the present in the name of the better. But if such a one needs, for the sake of his idea, to step even over a dead body, over blood, then within himself, in his conscience, he can, in my opinion, allow himself to step over blood - depending, however, on the idea and its scale - make note of that. It is only in this sense that I speak in my article of their right to crime. (You recall we began with the legal question.) However, there's not much cause for alarm: the masses hardly ever acknowledge this right in them; they punish them and hang them (more or less), thereby quite rightly fulfilling their conservative purpose; yet, for all that, in subsequent generations these same masses place the punished ones on a pedestal and worship them (more or less). The first category is always master of the present; the second - master of the future. The first preserves the world and increases it numerically; the second moves the world and leads it towards a goal. Both the one and the other have a perfectly equal right to exist.