The brothers Karamazov : guilt, alterity and the divine
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Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novel The Brothers Karamazov continually challenges the reader with variations of this concept: “Heart of my heart, my joyful one you must know that verily each of us is guilty before everyone, for everyone and everything” (289). The challenge is twofold: how does one envision this utterance moving from the realm of philosophical abstraction to an ontology of responsibility, and what is the obligation I am failing to account for regarding everyone and everything? Contained in this utterance of guilt before all is the relationship between the individual and others; it posits an intrinsic alterity. The Brothers Karamazov does not depict the ethicality of alterity as a secular responsibility, but rather a profoundly Christian one aimed at refuting atheistic Sensualism. Chronologically, then, I will examine how the novel depicts the moral depravity of sensualistic philosophy, how alterity is an ethical demand of responsibility, how it functions as an ontological posturing prior to behavioral acts and cognition, and finally as one that it is inherently religious. Thus, this essay serves as model of how Emmanuel Levinas’s theory of the Other, could be applied to the extant of The Brothers Karamazov.