The Brothers Karamazov

The Inquisition and the Quadrillion Miles

"You see, like you, I suffer from the fantastic and so I love the realism of earth. Here, with you, everything is circumscribed, here all is formulated and geometrical, while we have nothing but indeterminate questions!"(said to Ivan by "The Devil", 776)

Through Ivan, Dostoevsky sets up an impossible question that aims at the mystery of faith, the mystery of being able, paradoxically, to accept something that defies logic. Ivan desperately wants to believe; he has a strong mystical element to his character, but is tormented simultaneously by a bitterly imperative sense of rationality. This duality is his torment, his own personal paradoxical hell; his rational mind renders him unable to accept the God he so wants to believe in. The complex nature of his character is such that this emptiness is, for him, a torture. In his simplest sentiments, Ivan wants to believe in God with the same full-hearted faith as Alyosha. But in his fatal proclivity to measure his mysticism against his rationality, he stamps out the space for anything so enigmatic and incomprehensible, so "indeterminate" as faith.

Ivan's difficulty is not that he doesn't believe in God, (on the contrary, it is his belief in God that...

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