Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Everything old continues to be new again

Another post in my who-knows-how-many-part series on bad ideas that keep getting recycled.

This time, a quote from Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment ca. 1866 (trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky).

"But it is my personal view, if you like, that something has been done: useful new ideas have been spread, and some useful new books, instead of the former dreamy and romantic ones; literature is acquiring a shade of greater maturity; many harmful prejudices have been eradicated and derided . . . In short, we have cut ourselves off irrevocably from the past. . .

"If up to now, for example, I have been told to 'love my neighbour,' and I did love him, what came of it?" Pyotr Petrovich continued, perhaps with unnecessary haste. "What came of it was that I tore my caftan in two, shared it with my neighbour, and we were both left half naked. . . But science says: Love yourself before all, because everything in the world is based on self-interest. If you love only yourself, you will set up your affairs properly, and your caftan will also remain in one piece. And economic truth adds that the more properly arranged personal and, so to speak, whole caftans there are in society, the firmer its foundations are and the better arranged its common cause. It follows that by acquiring solely and exclusively for myself, I am thereby precisely acquiring for everyone. . . A simple thought, which unfortunately has been too long in coming, overshadowed by rapturousness and dreaminess. . ."

"Get to the consequences of what you've just been preaching, and it will turn out that one can go around putting a knife in people." . . . Raskolnikov was lying pale on the sofa, his upper lip trembling; he was breathing heavily.

Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

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