Sunday, January 23, 2011

Notes towards a reading of 'Brothers Karamazov' 12.12

"Now, thank God! we've come to the real point: he was in the garden, therefore he murdered him.' In those few words: ‘he was’, and ‘therefore’ lies the whole case for the prosecution. ‘He was, therefore’. And what if there is no ‘therefore’ about it, even if he was there?”

Now the defence isolates the logical non sequitor in the prosecution’s case, in the fallacy of hindsight, in the faulty logic of the argument –and the method of arguing-  employed by the prosecution.

He invites us again to consider the relationship between the parts and the whole.
Oh, I admit that the chain of evidence -- the coincidences -- are really suggestive. But examine all these facts separately, regardless of their connection.

It seems to me that this carries further the dialectic between faith and reason which is the underlying structural dialectic and main thematic content of the novel: the struggle between reason and faith.

Compare these two syllogisms:

a)  He was there, b) therefore he committed the murder.  The matter from the trial,
a) I believe in God, b) therefore he exists. The matter from the reason/belief dialectic throughout the book

Both syllogisms represent the prosecutor’s method of arguing (pointed out here by the defence): b) follows a) as a logical step; given a), b) follows.

The defence attacks this method, beginning with a):

a)     The prosecution uses/represents ‘faith’: pictures, sideshadowing narratives, fallacies,  received opinion, false dichotomies, evidence from witnesses who have been the victims of false interpretations, references and use of spurious science (psychology) as its method of establishing a position for the murder. In both syllogisms, a) is a sideshadowing narrative, a received idea, a fallacy.

He then goes on to b):

b)    Even if we ignore the problems with a), or accept them, b) still does not follow as a logical step, a step in cause and affect. In both syllogisms, in the gap between a) and b) there is a logical non-sequitor.

The defence, uses/represents ‘reason’ and the double edged sword of interpretation to unpick all the prosecution’s arguments  and to show how wrong and unfounded they are, arguing logically against the murder. Moreover, the defence shows the faults in the reasoning of the prosecution by honing in on the logical non-sequitor which underlies the ‘faith’ based method. ‘Reason’ attacks both the method and the content of ‘faith’.

Dostoevsky is pointing obliquely here, artistically, to his view that reason, although correct, is unable to defeat faith.

Because a mistrial is about to occur, in which the peasants choose the ‘faith’ argument and wrongly convict Dimitry, when of course it is the ‘reason’ argument which is the truth of what really happened – in the fullest sense-  on the night of the murder.

By winning the case ‘faith’ loses the argument; while ‘reason’ wins the argument by losing the case.

Faith and mathematical proof are two irreconcilable things. There’s no stopping someone who has made up his mind to believe.
A Writer’s Diary 1876. Mar.2.3

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