Crime and Punishment Revisited
In “Crime and Punishment” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (Wikisource has the 1866 book), is based on a delusional and a malicious idea: that remarkable things, the precious, the high, are above all, above all things, above all people. I say the higher things, not the superior people, the extraordinary men and women of which the protagonist speaks, because they are worth no more than an ordinary person, but what is worth is what they provide, although being united, man and his discovery, we find one and the other.
If you had to make the choice between Sir John Scott Burdon-Sanderson modern discovery of penicillin or the lives of ten, one hundred or a thousand people, what should we choose, what should we do? Live in ignorance where lives are lost, or end the lives of few, in exchange for others to live? Could fifty percent of humanity be sacrificed in exchange for the other half? Is the knowledge worth more than one hundred percent? Everyone could be sacrificed as long as he who left had that knowledge.
We could fall into a self-justifying syllogism: that Dostoyevsky’s novel would be above a person’s life, because it brings the remarkable idea that remarkable things are above all, and not only for that, but because of other subtle ideas and the literary quality it has.
The malicious idea is conditional if: that remarkable ideas involve murdering someone. It’s true that Burdon-Sanderson and Napoleon’s case is different. To discover his treatment no one needed to die, but to extend his ideology Napoleon felt justified.
The truth is that the human kills very easily, and we hold on to each other so as not to kill, through solidarity and knowledge. This subjection of one to another, similar to how the warrior ants form bonds and carry fellow fallen ants home and tend their wounds, what we call laws, by extension what we call culture, which includes laws, morality, tastes, appreciations, customs, systems of government guide us. They are nothing in themselves, but what we agree on. A novel is neither good nor bad in itself, but its assessment is the result of that obstacle, of those minds, which learn and through the asseveration of knowledge affirm to its teachings.