Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Notes towards a reading of 'Brothers Karamazov' 11.9

11. “My dear fellow, upon my word I don't know”
The devil appears to man, and man asks him whether God exists, and the devil replies that he doesn’t know. This is the essence of the whole chapter.
Can sarcasm get any more corrosive than this? Can irony get any more bitter than this? If the devil doesn’t know, who does? The ramifications of this little snippet of dialogue are endless and spinning.

Is the devil an atheist or an agnostic?
Is the existence of the devil necessary for the existence of God?
If I believe in the devil, do I believe in God?
What if the devil is lying?
Does the devil exist, or is he a projection of man’s?
Is it easier for an atheist to believe in the devil than in god?
If an atheist becomes convinced of the independent existence of the devil, does it then follow that an atheist might eventually come to believe in god?

In asking these questions, we operate on at least three levels: theological level, belief level, and literary level. What is the theological, doctrinal  point of view? What do I believe about this? What is the ideational, symbolic position of the character in the scene?

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