Crime and Punishment in the Light of Schelling
A defining characteristic of classical German philosophy is its preoccupation with the concept of freedom. One central moment in the post-Kantian debate concerning the metaphysical conditions of human freedom is Schelling’s assertion, in his 1809 essay, that these include the reality of evil. Human freedom is meaningful, Schelling argues, only if it comprises a choice between good and evil. On this basis Schelling rejects as inadequate the conception of autonomous agency found in Kant and Fichte, and restores human freedom to a theological setting. My aim in this chapter is to explore Schelling’s intriguing and provocative idea in the context of Crime and Punishment—in which, I suggest, Dostoevsky tries to show how and why autonomous agency, conceived in familiar late modern “Kantian” terms, discovers itself to have need of, and is forced to retrieve, a conception of evil that modern ethical thought takes itself to have surpassed.
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