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2010/11 Group Reads - Archives > The Brothers Karamazov - Background Resources

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

This site has plenty of useful information on Karamazov, including some well thought out analysis and some intriguing questions that would be useful for discussion. I'd encourage people to poke around in it, especially AFTER they've read a bit of the book. Lots of good stuff.

http://www.shmoop.com/brothers-karama...


message 2: by MadgeUK (last edited Nov 10, 2010 01:10AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Thanks Kate. The Dartmouth resource is also a good one. Again, there are some spoilers there:-

http://www.dartmouth.edu/~karamazo/do...


message 3: by Nemo (last edited Nov 09, 2010 11:35PM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) MadgeUK, could you please copy the resource links you posted in the Week1 thread here? I think they're very helpful and informative. Thanks in advance! :)


message 4: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Is this the stuff you mean Nemo:-

There is something about the use of the narrative, third person, voice here (SPOILERS):-

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article...

Here is something about the Russian character, which, it is said is more, 'oriental' than European, although the boundaries of continental Europe stretch to the Ural mountains, which divide West and East Russia.:-

http://www.petersburg-russia.co.uk/peter...

http://www.libarts.uco.edu/history/facul...

http://mapsof.net/uploads/static-maps/ma...

http://www.russia-ic.com/culture_art/tra...

Biog extract from the Introduction to Wordsworth edition of TBK: 'Dosteovsky joined a revolutionary socialist group when a young man and, when caught, 'the accused were all condemned to death and conveyed in vans to a large scaffold in the Simonovsky Place. As the soldiers were preparing to carry out the sentence, the prisoners were informed that their penalty was commuted to exile in Siberia. The novelist's sentence was four years in Siberia and enforced military service in the ranks for life. On Christmas Eve 1849 he commenced the long journey to Omsk, and remained in Siberia, "like a man buried alive, nailed down in his coffin", for four terrible years. His Siberian experiences are graphically narrated in a volume to which he gave the name of Recollections of a Dead-House (1858). It was known in an English translation as Buried Alive in Siberia (1881). In the Siberian "gulag" he was herded together with the worst type of criminal and thereby gained an exceptional insight into the dark and seamy side of Russian life. He formed new conceptions of human life, of the balance of good and evil in man, and of the Russian character....His life had been irremediably seared by his Siberian experiences and his release subjected him to fresh indignities as a common soldier. He looked prematurely old; his face bore an expression of accumulated sorrow; in disposition he had become distrustful, taciturn, contemptuous - his favorite theme the superiority of the Russian peasant over every other class; as an artist, though uncultured, he had ever been subtle and sympathetic, but afterwards he was tortured by tragic visions and morbidly preoccupied by exceptional and perverted types....From 1865, when he settled in St. Petersburg, Dostoevsky was absorbed in a succession of journalistic enterprises, in the Slavophil interest, and suffered severe pecuniary losses. He had to leave Russia in order to escape his creditors, and to seek refuge in Germany and Italy. He was further harassed by troubles with his wife, and his work was interrupted by epileptic fits and other physical ailments. It was under such conditions as these that his most enduring works were created. '


message 5: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Kate: Re your thread reorganisation: Could you also ensure that when Christopher posts more chapter headings that the Background Info and Resources stay on the page because I think, as Nemo suggests, that folks find them a useful reference point.


message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

MadgeUK wrote: "Kate: Re your thread reorganisation: Could you also ensure that when Christopher posts more chapter headings that the Background Info and Resources stay on the page because I think, as Nemo sugges..."

Madge, the BK folder will stay at the top of the group page until Chris adds a new folder (or intentionally moves it). And I set the "Resource" thread so it will stay at the top of the folder. As far as which topics show up in the folder and how they're ordered when you open your own group homepage, that's based on when someone last posted to them. It's part of the GR programming logic and I can't do anything about it.


message 7: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) MadgeUK wrote: "Is this the stuff you mean Nemo:-

There is something about the use of the narrative, third person, voice here (SPOILERS):-

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article..."


Yes, more of those please. It would be nice to have all the references in one place so it's easy to look up.

Kate,

Could we set up "Resources" as a sub-folder of "Brothers Karamazov" and have another set of folders under it, such as "Translations", "Author Bio", "Historical and Cultural Background", "Commentaries and Reviews", etc.?


message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

Nemo wrote: "MadgeUK wrote: "Is this the stuff you mean Nemo:-

There is something about the use of the narrative, third person, voice here (SPOILERS):-

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article..."

Yes, more ..."


It would be nice, but GR doesn't have subfolders like that. The only way to do what you're suggesting is to have a separate folder for Karamazov resources (separate from the existing BK folder) and then create the new topics within it. I'd prefer to keep all the BK in one folder, but there are arguments to be made either way.

What does everyone else think about doing this? Feedback please :)


message 9: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 3582 comments Kate wrote: "What does everyone else think about doing this? Feedback please :) "

I think one resources thread is sufficient, and will keep everything in one place.

I suggest that people do what I do -- I have a bookmark folder in my browser (Firefox) for Goodreads discussions, and under that a sub-folder for each discussion, and when I come across a resources I think will be useful I bookmark it into that book's folder. And I can rename them so each one makes sense. So I have all the resources I might want to go back to carefully organized in one folder I can refer to any time.

It only takes moments once I have it set up. I think this is better than cluttering up the board with a bunch of resource folders.


message 10: by MadgeUK (last edited Nov 10, 2010 07:47PM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Kate wrote: "MadgeUK wrote: "Kate: Re your thread reorganisation: Could you also ensure that when Christopher posts more chapter headings that the Background Info and Resources stay on the page because I think..."

The reason I mentioned it Kate was because in Adam Bede the Background folder did not stay at the top but disappeared off the page when the 3rd or 4th book was listed. I did not know how to access it for awhile (until someone told me how) and so spent time looking for information again. Also, new people would not see it and yet may find it useful at the beginning of their reading. As Nemo says, it is useful to have such resources in one place for general reference as we are reading. If, for instance, the subject of the narrative voice crops up again we can refer someone to post such-and-such in the Background/Resources thread.


message 11: by MadgeUK (last edited Nov 10, 2010 07:44PM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Here is something else I posted on the earlier Background thread, which may be of interest to those interested in history/beliefs of the Eastern Orthodox Church:-

http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/...

http://philtar.ucsm.ac.uk/encyclopedia/c...

And my Oxford Dictionary of World Religions says:

Eastern Orthodox Church: Those Christians who belong to the Churches which accepted the Chalcedon definition of two natures in the one person of Christ and did not depart in the 'great schism between E & W. they are consequently dyophysite as opposed to monophysite. thie term covers much more than the Greek Orthodfox Church (for which it is nevertheless sometimes used as a synonym and slightly less than all E. Christians.


message 12: by MadgeUK (last edited Nov 13, 2010 02:32AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments In my Wordsworth edition of TBK Professor A D K Briggs makes an interesting comparison between Dostoevsky and Dickens:-

'Fyodor Dostoevsky made the human mind his special province. He is a psychologist fascinated by people described by one critic as having 'one foot in the lunatic asylum'. His interest focuses not on the standard behaviour but on unhealthiness, suffering and abnormality. You might say that he takes over where his contemporary, Charles Dickens, leaves off. Dicken's children, for example, suffer a good deal, and the author effectively castigates contemporary institutions and human deficiencies that make this possible. But in the end it all works out for them. Oliver, Nicholas, David, Kit, Martin and others survive the trauma of a cruel childhood....Their personalities come through unscathed, their minds and psyches undistorted. Dostoevsky has no interest in this kind of outcome. He wants to know the opposite; what lies behind the weird behaviour of the monsters that we keep hearing about - the depressives, the suicides, alcoholics, criminals, misers, recluses, molesters and murderers who have such a negative impact on everyone around them. These are the unusual characters who populate his novels and they are subjected to suitable exceptional experiences, strange situations, melodramatic and arbitrary occurrences, coincidences with massive consequences, unpredictable behaviour, terrible anguish and tragedy. Can such people and such events really be true? Is there not an element of exaggeration created by a mind not quite in balance?

A glance at the circumstances of the author's life is enough to dispel the doubt. Nothing in Dostoevsky's fiction is more weird and wonderful than the amazing events that overtook him in real life....He was the second of a family of seven who were terrified of their father, a cruel man who was killed in mysterious circusmtances when Fyodor was 15...After the publication of The Double he fell into a depressive state which may have been associated with the epilepsy which had affected him since childhood and which ruined both his wedding days. He was also mentally unstable and afflicted by a gambling mania which kept him in poverty....When he was sentenced to Death by Shooting after plotting against the state, a sword was broken over his head, he was made to kiss a crucifix and put on a hooded white gown. He was then tied to a post for an hour until told that the Tsar had granted a reprieve, that he must spend four years in a Siberian penal colony and do military service for the rest of his life...

It was life of turmoil, lived almost beyond melodrama, from which four of the world's greatest novels emerged. No events in these books, however shocking, transcend the multiple horrors experienced by their author in real life.'


message 13: by MadgeUK (last edited Nov 15, 2010 06:09AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments There are some interesting observations here about Dostoevsky's epilepsy and Freud's analysis.

'Dostoevsky had a number of clashes with authority figures. On the other hand, each of his novels could be regarded as a rebellion or a need to rebel against an authority figures, whether that figure is the personal father, the state, or God. Thus writing each novel became an act of parricide, and was punished with epileptic seizures. It is noteworthy that only after Dostoevsky had completed The Brothers Karamazov (where he came to terms with his father) did his seizures end. Thus a series of emotional disturbances in his life and in his work - emotional disturbances centering on parricide - engendered the hysterical component of his seizures.'
(Nathan Rosen, University of Rochester.)

POSSIBLE SPOILERS:

http://www.utoronto.ca/tsq/DS/09/107....


message 14: by Adelle (new)

Adelle Patrice wrote: "..We like to go against authority just to prove that we can. ."

Yes! When the teacher would offer suggestions to the class...possible subjects we might want to write on....whatever he mentioned, I immediately would decide not to write on that...even if that had initially been my first choice.

I relate, too.


message 15: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Folks may like to watch this BBC drama production of D's Dream of a Ridiculous Man - very scary!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LBL1Qz...


message 16: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Thanks Patrice - I will order it.


message 17: by MadgeUK (last edited Nov 20, 2010 11:56PM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments As I posted on the Book 4 thread, Dosteovsky has been accused of taking too keen an interest in young girls and youths and several of his books describe inappropriate sexual acts between older men and children. (Though not in TBK.) On balance, it is thought that he studied the subject in order to be able to write well about it but it nevertheless created quite a stir at the time and is still a controversial part of his writing. Here is a brief essay about it:-

http://www.fyodordostoevsky.com/essay...

It was suggested at the time that his father's murder was due to his 'dishonouring' some young girls:-

http://www.dartmouth.edu/~karamazo/bi...

This is a piece about D's 'psychological battles' vis a vis his father:-

http://www.fyodordostoevsky.com/essay...

This online book by Susan Fusso Discovering Sexuality in Dostoevsky details the paedophilia in Dosteovsky's writing but it makes for disturbing and distasteful reading so I don't recommend it.
:(:( I only give the link as proof of Dostoevsky's writing on the subject should anyone want to delve further:-

http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=cN...


message 18: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Bet this isn't something your Prof told you about Patrice!


message 19: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments As requested, I copying my link to this excellent analysis of 'Ivan Karamazov's Mistake' by a Professor of Theology here:-

http://payingattentiontothesky.com/20...


message 20: by Adelle (new)

Adelle What great timing on the link, as just this morning under the Christmas tree and piano I finished reading the Grand Inquistor section.

Thanks.


message 21: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) MadgeUK wrote: "As requested, I copying my link to this excellent analysis of 'Ivan Karamazov's Mistake' by a Professor of Theology here:-

http://payingattentiontothesky.com/20......"


I wonder what "paying attention to the sky" means. Is the Professor an astrologer / astronomer?


message 22: by [deleted user] (new)

Nemo wrote: "MadgeUK wrote: "As requested, I copying my link to this excellent analysis of 'Ivan Karamazov's Mistake' by a Professor of Theology here:-

http://payingattentiontothesky.com/20......"


The analysis was written by a theology professor at Baylor, but it's just one of many articles that are posted there.

The "owner" of the website says the following about himself: "Mr Jeter is dedicated to paying attention to the sky and other metaphors that echo the words of the apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:2 when he recalls Jesus’ warning to his followers to be on the watch — a warning about expectation of the end-time, which will come upon sleeping humans like “a thief in the night” (Matthew 24:43)."


message 23: by MadgeUK (last edited Dec 05, 2010 01:06AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments As Adelle wanted some more info, I have also copied these over from the Background & Schedule thread in case they do not appear above:-

About Dostoevsky himself:-

http://www.tameri.com/csw/exist/dostoevs...

http://www.russian-st-petersburg.com/4-t...

http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/3...

Dostoevsky's TBK was very much influenced by the philosophy of Nikolai Fyodorovich Fyodorov:-

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikolai_Fyo...

And here is something about Fyodorov's advanced ideas about populating space, which some think inspired men to reach for the moon:-

http://www.vbs.tv/en-gb/blog/nikolai-fyo...

This is a link to the famous but very lengthy biography of Dostoevsky by Joseph Frank, referred to by John.

http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=lp...


message 24: by Adelle (new)

Adelle Thank you Madge! I'll start browsing some of those. Bound to run across interesting bits.


message 25: by MadgeUK (last edited Dec 08, 2010 02:30PM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments These notes from the Norton study guide to Notes from the Underground may be pertinent to our reading of Book 6 and Dostoevsky's thoughts about attaining paradise:-

'Nikolai Chernyshevsky's novel What is to be done? was written in 1863. Chernyshevksy was an atheist, a socialist, and a feminist. The book, has a tone of utilitarianism and utopianism. In it Chernyshevsky developed Vara Pvalovna's 4th dream in which she saw the Crystal Palace at Sydenham. She marvelled at the graceful architecture. The people in it were singing a song that contained a verse, "live like kings." She couldn't stop exclaiming how elegant it was. Dostoevsky hated this book because of all the progressive ideas it contains. He wrote Notes from the Underground in reaction to it. What is to be done? appeals to rationalism, reason, Darwinism, and all the modern ideas which Dostoevsky vehemently hated.'

I had not thought of the Crystal Palace as being part of a Utopian Dream but I suppose it was to the Victorians. Goodness knows what Dosteovsky would have thought of American skyscrapers!

Adelle was asking about Dostoevsky's 'bitterness' and the Norton notes also comment on this and on the subject of attaining perfection, or paradise on earth:-

'To some extent, the bitterness of the novel is traceable to the many personal misfortunes Dostoevsky suffered while the novel was being written. Much more important, however, was the influence of his maturing world-view with its ever colder and more distant attitude toward the European liberalism, materialism and utopianism of his younger years. Dostoevsky had begun his writing career in the 1840's as a romantic idealist, even as a dreamer. At that time he had devoted a great deal of attention to utopian socialism and its vision of a perfectly satisfying, perfectly regulated life for humankind. This perfection of life was thought to be achievable solely through the application of the principles of reason and enlightened self-interest. In fact, it was maintained that given the dominance of the rational and the spread of enlightenment, perfection of life must necessarily follow.

While Dostoevsky was in prison and exile, these ideas of utopian socialism were becoming stronger in Russia. They passed from the dreams of the 1840s to the basic revolutionary program of the late 1850's and 1860s. Dostoevsky however, had concluded from his observations while in exile, that there was more to man than reason and enlightenment. He became convinced that men were capable of the irrational as well as the rational, and that, in fact, the irrational was in many ways man's essential element and the rational was often only a flimsy construction built upon it.'

My random thoughts on all this: I wonder if we are doomed to be forever irrational or whether evolution will eventually create a gene which will perfect us? I do not think that political systems (not even socialism!:)) can do it but maybe evolution might? Putting the religious ideal of attaining paradise through submission/obedience aside, do others think that we might evolve into better beings? Or, as scientists learn to replace more and more body parts, will they eventually create a rational brain? And if this is a Frankenstein-like thought, why do we think that replacing a hip is OK but replacing a brain isn't? Dosteovsky's generation was afraid of electricity, which we accept as commonplace. Will the next generation easily accept the inventions/developments of our time of which we are now afraid? Was Dostoevsky, and are we, just afraid of what the future holds and of things we ourselves do not understand? Is this perhaps why we need gods?


message 26: by Nemo (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) MadgeUK wrote: "My random thoughts on all this: I wonder if we are doomed to be forever irrational or whether evolution will eventually create a gene which will perfect us? I do not think that political systems (not even socialism!:)) can do it but maybe evolution might? ..."

Wow, this brought back memories. Almost twenty years ago, when I was a socialist and atheist, I had some of the exact same thoughts, even eugenics and social evolution (whatever that means!). I remember this because I had a conversation about beliefs with a Lutheran pastor, as I considered Christianity a superstition but was curious to find out why so many people believed it.


message 27: by Adelle (new)

Adelle MadgeUK wrote: My random thoughts on all this"

Good evening, Madge, Nemo.

I wonder if we are doomed to be forever irrational or whether evolution will eventually create a gene which will perfect us?

Oh, I don't see the irrational as dooming us. I would see the irrational as a blessing. I certainly wouldn't want us all to be "perfected"...whatever that might mean. And, I suppose it would mean different things to different people.

The inherent duality. Different perspectives. For instance, Downs children. The rational part of us would most probably not long for a Downs child. I would suspect that a number of people whose babies were diagnosed as Downs probably had abortions. Yet I read repeatedly that people who have a Downs child in their lives speak of how loving that child is and how much they learned from that child. I've a friend whose daughter works with adult Downs patients. She absolutely loves her job and working with them. But on a strictly rational level..."Those aren't the people we are looking for." How far might that reasoning, on a rational level, extend, "Those aren't the people we want." Perhaps it's not even rational to have people with bad eyesight. ]
]
lol. btw, I have bad eyesight. We're here as humans with obstacles. It might be said that obstacles are there for us to challenge...and that a life without obstacles --- a very rational life --- might not be a life worth having as a human being.

mmm, I should label my remarks, too, "My random thoughts on all this"

Interesting that Nemo brought up eugenics. Who is going to decide what is and what is not acceptable.

Again, I think we need the "irrational" aspects in our lives. Is love rational? More rational, perhaps, to have a computer run the numbers and analyze our personalities, likes, dislikes, and assign us a mate. But isn't it pleasant, usually, to date, and buy a fancy outfit and look all nice while the young man takes you out for dinner?

(lol. It always seemed to cost me as much for the new outfit as it cost him for the dinner. And the shoes! I could only make it from the car to the table and then I had to slip those shoes off! Hardly a rational footwear choice. But they were
FABULOUS shoes...and weren't available in my size.)


message 28: by [deleted user] (new)

Adelle wrote: "And the shoes! I could only make it from the car to the table and then I had to slip those shoes off! Hardly a rational footwear choice. But they were
FABULOUS shoes...and weren't available in my size.) "


Those shoes sound perfectly rational to me! ;)

Chaos, irrationality, randomness. Without them life would be pretty dull. To me rationality gives structure while irrationality provides creativity and new ideas. They need to balance each other. On top of that, randomness keeps things unpredictable and requires us to remain adaptable.

The perfect world or the perfect human is so difficult to define. Who gets to do it?


message 29: by Adelle (new)

Adelle Moreover, isn't that famous British eccentricity ... often quite charming... always rather distinctive...isn't that, in way, a thin layer of irrationality which rides atop solid rationalism?


message 30: by Adelle (new)

Adelle do others think that we might evolve into better beings?


Ah...nope. Not from a moral perspective. I would lean towards humans mostly learning their morality from their social groups or aquiring it on an individual level through struggle.

mmm, unless you mean that individuals can evoke/can transform into better humans beings as a result of the struggles they undergo in their lives here on earth. In that case, yes, there is the possibility that humans can evolve into better beings.

And not from a physical perspective. I used to wonder when I was in Junior High School....Look at all these young men and women who have had their teeth straightened through years of wearing braces, and have had their vision corrected through contact lenses (now, thru lasor eye surgery), ... what happens when they grow up and fall in love and have children...and the children, with each succeeding generation, are born with increasingly crooked teeth and worse and worse eyesight?


message 31: by Adelle (new)

Adelle Kate Mc. wrote: ".To me rationality gives structure while irrationality provides creativity and new ideas. They need to balance each other. On top of that, randomness keeps things unpredictable and requires us to remain adaptable.

.."


I quite like that!

requires us to remain adaptable

That's a very good point, also. The not knowing exactly what might happen, the very randomness of life, keeps us sharper.


message 32: by Adelle (new)

Adelle And if this is a Frankenstein-like thought, why do we think that replacing a hip is OK but replacing a brain isn't?

It is a rather Frankenstein-like thought. I would say that replacin the brain seems abhorent because it seems as though the brain is the source and the repository of one's thoughts and feelings....one's very personality....

I could have my leg or arm or hip replaced and still be "me." I could even have my heart replaced (now that we know that emotions don't actually originate in the heart) and still be "me."

But replace my brain with that of someone else...and I'm no longer here. And I want so desperately to be here.

"I've got to be me."

Sing it Sammy!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rbLlCx...


message 33: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Nemo wrote: "MadgeUK wrote: "My random thoughts on all this: I wonder if we are doomed to be forever irrational or whether evolution will eventually create a gene which will perfect us? I do not think that poli..."

These are thoughts Nemo, not conclusions which I have reached as a socialist and atheist! They are the thoughts which Dostoevsky had too. Because I do not believe in a Creator does not make me a Hitlerike monster or someone who does not believe in the snctity of life etc, or who does not have morals. These are often unjustified claims levelled at atheists but believers have also behaved as monsters throughout history. Hitler was brought up as a catholic and spoke of 'Kinder, Küche, Kirche' (children, kitchen, church). Himmler, the actual architect of The Final Solution, was a practising catholic throughout WWII. This does not make the catholic church responsible for the Final solution.


message 34: by MadgeUK (last edited Dec 09, 2010 12:27AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Nemo wrote: "Wow, this brought back memories. Almost twenty years ago, when I was a socialist and atheist, I had some of the exact same thoughts, even eugenics and social evolution (whatever that means!)...."

These are thoughts Nemo, not conclusions which I have reached as a socialist and atheist! They are the thoughts which Dostoevsky had too. Because I do not believe in a Creator does not make me a Hitlerike monster or one who does not have morals. These are often unjustified claims levelled at atheists but believers have also behaved as monsters throughout history. Hitler was brought up as a catholic and spoke of 'Kinder, Küche, Kirche' (children, kitchen, church). Himmler, the actual architect of The Final Solution, was a practising catholic throughout WWII. This does not make the catholic church responsible for the Final solution.


message 35: by MadgeUK (last edited Dec 09, 2010 01:20AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments ...unless you mean that individuals can evoke/can transform into better humans beings as a result of the struggles they undergo in their lives here on earth. In that case, yes, there is the possibility that humans can evolve into better beings.

Yes, I was thinking that we might evolve further, just as we have developed smaller but more efficient brains since Neanderthal man, it seems possible that we could. The consensus of scientific opinion, creationists apart, is that we are constantly evolving, just as other species are, not as a result of 'struggle' per se but because it aids our survival. Since my eyesight has deteriorated I have wondered whether our dependence on the use of screens will eventually strengthen or change human eyesight in some way. Some animals have evolved to see in the dark, maybe we will evolve to use computer and other such media better.

It may be that future scientists will be able to link our actual brains to a more robotic one, if we have a brain disease for instance. They already operate on the brain to change certain functions - like lobotomies to cure some mental illnesses. I wasn't thinking of actual brains being replaced in the way that human hearts are. More of the experiments already being done to change parts of the brain so as to cure (or prevent) Alzheimer's disease, for instance, and surely we should welcome that?

Nor was I thinking that irrationality could be replaced by rationality, just that irrationality could be tempered so that we were less likely to fly into a rage for instance. Again, this is already done with the mentally ill so it could be developed further. Just as scientists are able to get rid of certain genes which carry diseases, they might be able to get rid of those which carry bad temper. I think it is possible that some of the drugs now used by psychiatrists to change behaviour will be replaced by medical procedures, on a voluntary basis of course. This could be of help in curing paranoid schizophrenics who often rebel against taking their drugs and become quite dangerous.

It is all very well to think of Down's children as being good humoured etc, which they are as a result of their genetic disposition but when such children grow older and there is no-one in their family to care for them they generally end up in care homes. Many severely disabled children are superbly cared for by their loving parents but as they grow into adulthood and the parents weaken and grow old, many end up being poorly cared for in institutions. Such institutions are expensive to run and the care can often be dependent upon how much money is available. Do any of you remember those awful pictures from Romania of disabled children and adults in institutions?

I agree that these are problematic areas for use but we have been constantly evolving medical and medicinal techniques to improve the quality of life and have so far avoided becoming monsters in the process (Hitler and his Final Solution apart). We have ethics committees in every government and at the UN scrutinising these matters and there seems little likelihood that another Hitler will occur - perhaps scientific advance could find even find a way of isolating the gene which creates such monsters, such out and out racism (which is what is was).

Not from a moral perspective. I would lean towards humans mostly learning their morality from their social groups or aquiring it on an individual level through struggle.


Scientists are also beginning to think that morality is 'hard wired' and that we inherently know what is right or wrong, just as animals do:-

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/wild...

http://www.familyanatomy.com/2009/05/...

Dostoevsky and his contemporaries had fears about future scientific advances too but most of them proved groundless. And instead of creating Mary Shelley type electrically generated Frankensteins we have created total robots which can build cars or perform delicate operations. He also had fears that atheists would be in charge of scientific advances but this has proved groundless too as there is absolutely no evidence that the majority of doctors and scientists are atheists, without a belief in the same sort of ethics as religious people of all denominations.

I just think we are like Dostoevsky in that we fear the future and we fear what we do not understand. This is probably a good thing, something we are hard wired for, so that we do not accept change willy-nilly but investigate its advantages and disadvantages rationally.


message 36: by Nemo (last edited Dec 09, 2010 03:18AM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) MadgeUK wrote: "Because I do not believe in a Creator does not make me a Hitlerike monster or one who does not have morals...."

I never said or implied anything of the sort, MadgeUK. I was just reminiscing on how my own thinking on eugenics and social evolution has changed over the years.

I used to believe that through advances in genetic engineering, we could not only prevent/cure diseases but also facilitate the evolution of mankind. Like you said, "perhaps scientific advance could even find a way of isolating the gene which creates such monsters,". IOW, if we can find and remove the evil gene, we can eliminate evil.

Now I look at the problem differently. In fact, to me, that kind of thinking has exactly the same root as racism. What is racism but the belief that a certain genetic makeup is superior to others, that people are good or evil not because of their free choice but because of their genes?

If we use gene therapy (or abortion) to prevent people from being born with Down's syndrome, are we not implying that people with Down's don't have the right to live, that their lives are inferior to others' and not worth living? Who are we to judge?


message 37: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Look at all these young men and women who have had their teeth straightened through years of wearing braces, and have had their vision corrected through contact lenses (now, thru lasor eye surgery), ... what happens when they grow up and fall in love and have children...and the children, with each succeeding generation, are born with increasingly crooked teeth and worse and worse eyesight?

I do not understand what you are getting at here Adelle. Why would their children be born with increasingly crooked teeth and worse and worse eyesight? Are you presuming some sort of inbreeding?


message 38: by [deleted user] (new)

MadgeUK wrote: "Look at all these young men and women who have had their teeth straightened through years of wearing braces, and have had their vision corrected through contact lenses (now, thru lasor eye surgery)..."

Because the underlying genes that cause debilitating problems can become a larger percentage of the gene pool. We can medically treat chronic conditions that might have caused early death (asthma attacks for instance) so those factors that cause it aren't minimized through the reproductive process. Poor teeth often resulted in gum disease and early death, so possibly less reproduction. That kind of thing.


message 39: by Adelle (new)

Adelle Kate Mc. wrote: "MadgeUK wrote: "Look at all these young men and women who have had their teeth straightened through years of wearing braces, and have had their vision corrected through contact lenses (now, thru la..."

Thank you, Kate. And although it's implied in your explanation, ("larger percentage of the gene pool"), I'll just spell it out for the sake of claritiy.

In olden times, people with bad teeth or poor eyesight might very well have been rejected as potential mates. (Oh, I'm not marrying him/her. Just look at his teeth. OMG, he's ugly.) Now, however, the teeth/the eyes have been "corrected." But they haven't been corrected on a genetic level (as Kate noted). Therefore, the man, the woman, look attractive and healthy. They marry. They have children. The children inherit the bad teeth and poor eyesight, very probably from BOTH the mother and the father. The child's genes are really bad. But they get the teeth and eyes "fixed" and then have children who inherit even worse genes. Etc.


message 40: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Thanks both of you! I could see the intermarrying argument but had not thought about the rejection in earlier generations. This may have been true at a very early stage of survival but records show that the majority of people did marry, even those with such defects and many worse. I am not very good with biiology or medicine but I think the argument goes that such defects get 'bred out' eventually because they inhibit survival. But this will depend on the size of the population. Obviously in small communities the likelihood is that such defects will perpetuate much longer. This is exemplified in the interbred royal families of Europe who have had big noses and ears for generations and where the quite rare illness of haemophilia was quite common. As recent generations have 'married out', these defects have almost disappeared. Photographs of village communities in the 19C show a high degree of physical defects and there were probably mental ones too but photographs today show very few because of travel, immigration etc.


message 41: by MadgeUK (last edited Dec 10, 2010 12:09AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Nemo wrote: I used to believe that through advances in genetic engineering, we could not only prevent/cure diseases but also facilitate the evolution of mankind.

I have never believed in the 'perfectability of man' via Eugenics, just via education ('enlightenment') and improved life chances. No-one in either my socialist or atheist 'circle' believes in Eugenics as a way forward and gene therapy is not Eugenics. It was part of the thinking of many people, including believers and capitalists, in the 19th/20thC, who believed in compulsory ways of social engineering, like mass sterilisation of the 'feebleminded', negroes and the poor:-

http://hnn.us/articles/1551.html

IOW, if we can find and remove the evil gene, we can eliminate evil.

I do not know what an evil gene is and I don't think scientists concern themselves with such philosophical problems. Our fight against racism has not been a scientific one, it has been about education and travel and learning to live with and understand other races. It is likely, in any case, that the 'melting pot' of society will interbreed so much as travel increases that we will all become one race. This is already happening in Brazil where a very high proportion of the population are of mixed race. Nature is doing its own gene therapy:-

http://www.channel4.com/programmes/is...

If we use gene therapy (or abortion) to prevent people from being born with Down's syndrome, are we not implying that people with Down's don't have the right to live, that their lives are inferior to others' and not worth living? Who are we to judge?

I find this a very faulty argument against gene therapy or abortion because it implies that those concerned are likely to be happier than non-disabled people and would themselves rather be disabled. Talking to them soon disproves this theory. Are you seriously suggesting that someone like Stephen Hawking really WANTS the many disabilities he has and that he WANTS his life to be shortened by them? By seeking to prevent the birth or continuance of such disabilities, we are trying to see that certain people do not have unhappy or difficult lives in the first place. I was once in a mental hospital which also dealt with physical handicaps and I saw at close hand the enormous difficulties which parents and nurses had and also the profound unhappiness of many of the patients, particularly as they got older and their parents were too distressed, too ill or too old to visit them. A lot of romantic nonsense is talked about the 'right to live'. I think of it more as giving the unborn the right NOT to live with extreme disabilities and the lifetime problems and heartache which will undoubtedly ensue. I also think of the right of the parents, particularly the mother, NOT to be so burdened for the rest of their lives. It is also likely that many such babies would not have been born in times gone by and that it is only improved health and pre-natal medical care which has stopped natural abortion by miscarriage, of which there used to be a great many. We just carry out more 'miscarriages' in hospital now and are therefore able to prevent much of the unhappiness that former generations had to suffer.

However, I do not think we should continue the extremely controversial 'right to life' argument on these thread.


message 42: by Nemo (last edited Dec 10, 2010 01:40AM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) The goal of eugenics is to "improve" the genetic composition of a population, which is what gene therapy would achieve if applied on a large scale. Who gets to live and who doesn't can be decided preemptively based on the individual's genetic makeup.

Fortunately, the structure of DNA was not discovered until after WWII and gene therapy developed two decades later. Otherwise, I can't imagine what type of horrific genetic experiments the Nazis would have conducted to serve their racist agenda.

Many people with disabilities live fulfilled and happy lives, including Stephen Hawking. Given the choice to live with a disability or not to live at all, most people would choose the former. The right to live is a fundamental human right.


message 43: by MadgeUK (last edited Dec 10, 2010 01:54AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments The goal of eugenics is to "improve" the genetic composition of a population, which is what gene therapy would achieve if applied on a large scale. Who gets to live and who doesn't can be decided preemptively based on the individual's genetic makeup.

The big difference is that one is compulsory and the other is voluntary. No-one, so far as I know, is suggesting genetic changes to those who do not want them. Therefore, if I get the chance for improved eyesight or avoiding Alzheimer's disease I have a right to darn well take it.

We could all dream up science fiction scenarios post-Hitler but I prefer to deal with what is actually happening instead of thinking up scary fairytales. There has always been inhumanity to man, long before eugenics, DNA and genomes. Genocide occurred long before Hitler, as a way of getting rid of other tribes and furthering your own.

Yes, Stephen Hawking is darned lucky but he still has the good sense to believe in abortion. And yes of course disabled people believe in life now that they have it. Whether they would have agreed to being born had they known of the difficulties they would encounter is another matter and one which we cannot pronounce upon. The right not to live in pain and discomfort is also a fundamental human right, which is why we developed medicine in the first place.


message 44: by Nemo (last edited Dec 10, 2010 02:20AM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) MadgeUK wrote: " And yes of course disabled people believe in life now that they have it. Whether they would have agreed to being born had they known of the difficulties they would encounter is another matter and one which we cannot pronounce upon. ...."

The disabled people have a choice whether or not to live with disability, and most of them choose to live instead of ending their own life. The unborn are not even given that choice or a chance to make a choice. That is compulsory, not voluntary. It denies their right to live and the right to choose whether to live in pain or not.


message 45: by MadgeUK (last edited Dec 10, 2010 06:27AM) (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments As I posted previously this is an argument best not pursued here. Of course people do not generally choose to end their own lives, whether they are disabled or not, although quite a few people in pain opt for euthanasia and more would if it were not for religious people giving them so much grief and objecting to laws allowing it.

The unborn are not able to make choices because they are not cognisant. Their brains are not capable of making such a choice therefore they have no sense of voluntary/involuntary, that is an emotion religious people give to them. Were they able to make a signal from the womb that this wasn't their choice then that argument might stand but it is the argument of interfering religious people outside of the womb, and generally outside of the woman who is choosing to have an abortion. I would instead like to make it compulsory for them to mind their own business, especially as so many murders, attempted murders and injuries have been committed in the name of the 'right to life'!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-abo...

This is my last post on this subject - I do not want us to injure one another and it has no relevance to TBK or Dostoevsky.


message 46: by Nemo (last edited Dec 10, 2010 02:22PM) (new)

Nemo (nemoslibrary) MadgeUK,

This is relevant to TBK and Dostoevsky, because it touches upon the problem of pain and suffering.

The main issue is not about abortion or whether the unborn is cognisant, but whether a life with disability and disease is worth living, whether people with disability and disease should be allowed to live. Using gene therapy (or abortion) to prevent people with disability from being born implies that their lives are not worthwhile, i.e., it is better not to live than to live with disability and pain. I strongly disagree with that view.

Most people are living with disabilities and diseases to varying degrees. Very few, if any, have perfect health. If we apply gene therapy to the extreme and remove all abnormal genes that might cause disease and disability, the surviving population would be homogeneous, lacking variety and gradation.

The fact that many people living with disability and diseases have fulfilled and happy lives, and that they choose to live with pain instead of ending their own lives show that their lives are worthwhile.

Some, because of their struggle with disability and disease, gain perseverance, character and hope, and become victors in life. Others, inspire compassion in the people around them, and give them the chance to help and accept help from each other.

I watched the 2008 and 2010 Paralympics games, and was amazed at the wide variety of sports people with disability can engage in. Those athletes endured more pain and suffering in training than the able-bodied ones. When they compete in the Games, their joy and pride are insuppressible.

It is arrogance to the extreme to preemptively deny the right of those who have disabilities and diseases to live, to judge the value of a life based on the genetic makeup rather than the characters and choices of the individuals themselves.


message 47: by [deleted user] (new)

Personal discussions of whether or not abortion is okay don't belong here either, folks. Sorry to butt in, but this falls under the umbrella of the kinds of polarizing issues that are off the table. It certainly doesn't belong in a thread on Karamazov resources which has diverged a long way off topic.


message 48: by [deleted user] (new)

A catalog of differences between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic theology. It appears to have been compiled by an Orthodox priest who is fairly critical of the intellectualism he perceives in Catholicism.

http://www.ocf.org/OrthodoxPage/readi...


message 49: by MadgeUK (new)

MadgeUK | 5214 comments Thanks Kate, very useful. There is a similar exposition by a theology professor but relating it specifically to Ivan's dilemma in my post No 23.


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