Conrad and Dostoevsky

I have to admit that my interest in philosophy has been limited to being in love with two philosophy majors, Husband, and a youthful indiscretion whilst an undergraduate.

Their interests in literature, their curiosity about ideas, was entrancing. I must admit, however, that I almost never understood what they were, and are, talking about when they were talking shop.

The other day Husband was excited to tell me about an article he had read in the Journal of Conradian Studies, about Conrad ‘s dislike of Dostoevsky. I have never read anything by Conrad. I read “Notes From Underground” for an Existential Philosophy class. It was depressing, as I recall.

Husband has read a few things by both writers. I could be happy for the rest of my life if I never read anything by either of them. I have become more practical as I get older. I am just happy Husband is still excited to keep reading and learning.

Did you ever study philosophy? Ever read Conrad or Dostoevsky? Tell about an author or idea you want to read or learn more about?

83 thoughts on “Conrad and Dostoevsky”

  1. Conrad
    An Outcast of the Islands
    The N______________ of the ‘Narcissus’
    Heart of Darkness
    Lord Jim
    Typhoon
    Dostoevsky
    Crime and Punishment (three times)
    The Idiot
    Brothers Karamazov

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  2. Rise and Shine, Baboons,

    I generally do not do philosophy. I live in the practical world. I am sure philosophy has its place,maybe in a song. Just not in my world.

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  3. I’m afraid I have read little of both – I was engrossed by Crime and Punishment, should read that again. Maybe Lord Jim, but it apparently didn’t make an impact.

    I had an Intro to Philosophy class in college, but didn’t retain much. Most meaning philosophy happens, I believe, with kindred spirits around an after-dinner table, with a good bottle of wine.

    However, I am now taking a Philosophy of Religion class through our WSU Senior University. I don’t know what I was expecting, but so far it’s a lot of mind and word games, different styles of “proofs” of why God does or does not exist. What I’m enjoying is the teacher – a dynamic and flexible 40-something guy who’s interesting and interested in our older perspective – spending most of his days with 20-year-olds. Also enjoy some other participants in the discussions. Today’s class will be about the “problem of evil” – I’ll check back in later.

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    1. “Bottle of wine”, yes. I told people that Neil was learning how to talk rubbish without the expense of drinking. He said, “it’s teaching me to keep my mouth shut.” The effect wore off the minute he walked out of the University gates, and he’s never really stopped drinking either.

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  4. I read Crime and Punishment back in my immediate post-college years. I remember bits and pieces of it but have no desire to re-read it. I’m pretty sure I read Heart of Darkness and maybe Lord Jim but neither made much of an impression on me. I have never taken a philosophy class – no interest and probably too practical as well.

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  5. I’m pleading practical. My brother Neil is practical AND a thinker, and studied philosophy for nearly six years. Thinking back, I took him up to Lampeter University on my Bonneville in autumn 1977,he was 25 then. Well on the road to the alcoholism he’s occasionally tried to face up to. I have no idea what a philosophy student does, but he did it with enthusiasm. I’d forgotten, but, it was spring or summer 1983 he had to drop out, with serious personal problems. I suppose he just couldn’t muster what it took to get through his finals. He lost his wife and his friend Pete, yes, two and two did make four, as Mum had already spotted. I think Pete and Shelley are still together.
    Some years later, Neil told me he was being headhunted by some notable person who’d come across his work, and considered Neil to be far in advance of just about anyone he’d ever come across. Just wanted to meet him, maybe, and bathe in his blinding light. But like others of Neil’s projects, I never heard any more about that.
    To be fair, he’s not always like that.

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  6. History and Philosophy of Education at the U: history half was good. Philosophy half was brilliant. Taught me basics of philosophy, clear and simple. Both halves asks us questions about how we were going to approach teaching. Most of the students thought it was stupid. But what could be more fundamental to teaching? Framed my whole point of view, which later framed almost everything I did in the classroom, which took awhile. I was a pragmatist, an odd point of view for an English teacher, which Is why I wrote my own text books.

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  7. As an undergrad my minor was in Philosophy, with a concentration in Ethics–at St. Kate’s we had to take 4 classes distributed between Philosophy and Religion, so just a handful of additional classes would give you a minor. I don’t remember much from that degree, except that I hated Aquinas, or maybe it was Augustine, or maybe it was both. I do have a small collection of Ancient Greek philosophy–Stoics and Neo-Platonists–waiting for when I’m experienced enough in discursive meditation to do them justice.

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  8. There is a new scoring system for the Rorschach Inkblot Test I am interested learning, and I hear through the Psychology grapevine that the new version of the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Test is going to be ready sometime in the next year or so. It will be the fourth version of that test I will have used.

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      1. Hey, our harvest us all in now. All tomatoes are canned and preserved, as are the peppers. The squash are in the basement, and the beans are all blanched and frozen.

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  9. I’ve not read either Conrad or Dostoyevsky and, in truth, there’s a lot of classic literature I’ve never been assigned and never gotten around to. We have a few philosophy books on our shelves, notably Kierkegaard and several of the religious philosophers—Robin’s books and a hold over from her father, who was a professor of religion. I haven’t read them and haven’t been tempted.

    What little I’ve read in the area of philosophy has come from passages and references inserted into other sorts of narratives—things like lengthy expositions on transcendentalism. Reading philosophy makes me impatient, in that there’s no opportunity to point out the holes and insubstantiality of the philosophical assumptions.

    If philosophy is speculation on the nature of existence, and I’m just offering that as my definition, then it is necessarily personal and arbitrary, since it is built ultimately on assumptions without objective substance. Honestly, we don’t know why we’re here, how we got here and what it means, if anything and I’m OK with that. I don’t feel a need to solve the mystery.

    I signed up for Philosophy 101 in college but it struck me as so sophomoric that I lost patience and dropped the course.

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    1. Having paraded my lists of Russian writers, let me say I think how much great/classic lit you have read, whatever that is, is a poor measure of a person. I read some of the Russians before I married Sandy, but much more after that. She has tried and could not plow through it. Her high born Russian grandfather who never even saw Moscow or St. Petersburg insisted, she said, those writing are pure fiction. The tsars and the aristocracy were not that bad. The most upsetting movie Sandra ever saw, only once, was Zhivago. She does not know why.
      I don’t think how much popular lit you have read is a measure either.

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      1. I read Dr. Zhivago in 1958, the year Boris Pasternak was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature. It was a huge controversy, and he was forced to decline the prize. He died just a couple of years later.

        At the time I worked in Moscow six years later, the book was still banned in the Soviet Union, but despite this, several young Russians that I met while there had read it. The literary underground seemed well connected and very aware of censorship issues and the dangers of expressing opinions that ran counter to official policies. As is often the case with films based on novels, though it was an extremely beautiful movie that followed the book pretty accurately, I liked the book better.

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  10. Back when I took Philosophy 101 during my freshman year in college, I thought it was a huge waste of time. As I have grown older (old!) I am lot more interested in contemplating life’s persistent questions.

    I’ve read some Conrad: Lord Jim, Typhoon, and Heart of Darkness. Fascinating writer, but not one that inspired me to read anything other than what was required for an English lit class. I should probably read Heart of Darkness again.

    For some odd reason, Russian writers intrigued me when I was a teen. I had read Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, and Sholokov before I ever set foot in what was then called the Soviet Union. Crime and Punishment, The Idiot, The Brothers Karamazov are all masterpieces. Oddly, I think Chekov is the only Russian writer I studied in college. I wonder why that is?

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  11. <!– /* Font Definitions / @font-face {font-family:”Cambria Math”; panose-1:2 4 5 3 5 4 6 3 2 4;} @font-face {font-family:Calibri; panose-1:2 15 5 2 2 2 4 3 2 4;} / Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {margin:0in; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:”Calibri”,sans-serif;} h1 {mso-style-priority:9; mso-style-link:”Heading 1 Char”; mso-margin-top-alt:auto; margin-right:0in; mso-margin-bottom-alt:auto; margin-left:0in; font-size:24.0pt; font-family:”Calibri”,sans-serif; font-weight:bold;} a:link, span.MsoHyperlink {mso-style-priority:99; color:blue; text-decoration:underline;} span.Heading1Char {mso-style-name:”Heading 1 Char”; mso-style-priority:9; mso-style-link:”Heading 1″; font-family:”Calibri”,sans-serif; font-weight:bold;} span.header-title {mso-style-name:header-title;} p.name, li.name, div.name {mso-style-name:name; mso-margin-top-alt:auto; margin-right:0in; mso-margin-bottom-alt:auto; margin-left:0in; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:”Calibri”,sans-serif;} p.meta, li.meta, div.meta {mso-style-name:meta; mso-margin-top-alt:auto; margin-right:0in; mso-margin-bottom-alt:auto; margin-left:0in; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:”Calibri”,sans-serif;} span.title {mso-style-name:title;} MsoChpDefault {mso-style-type:export-only;} @page WordSection1 {size:8.5in 11.0in; margin:1.0in 1.0in 1.0in 1.0in;} div.WordSection1 {page:WordSection1;}

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  12. A couple years ago I took a class called ‘Philosophy and World Religion’ Thankfully, it was mostly religion and only one chapter on philosophy. Mostly that chapter was Nietzsche and I had trouble with it. I liked the religion part!

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      1. Yes, we hit 7 or 8 religions. It was really interesting.

        Buddism, Hindu, Christian, Zoroastrianism, … can’t remember the rest of the top of my head.

        I wrote a paper on the Bhagavad gita, and we talked about yin/yang and the Dao. And a great teacher, so it was fun.

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  13. I read much of the pre-revolution literature. Gogol was a century earlier but grotesque, no he was, that was his style. Gorky was so political but took us to dark places. Excellent at short story form. Oh, cannot come up with his name referenced in Uwe . Another who takes us into flights of the unreal. Enjoy Tolstoi’s short works, folk takes. War and Peace was too long.
    But I think the genius was the restraint of Chekhov.

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  14. I understand that much of philosophy is about reasoning and I am in favor of that, especially where it helps you recognize flawed or deceptive reasoning. It just seems to me that a lot of the philosophers and particularly the religious philosophers reach the conclusion they wanted in the first place, and that’s not reasoning.

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  15. I went to stay with Neil and Shelley one time, and they had a party coming up. A philosophy students’party. Shelley said, they’ve got to meet you, they’ll love your different take on things. Your – witty whatever, I don’t remember what she said. I actually believed her.
    There was no kitchen at this party. I just stood there, awkward and silent, listening to a bunch of pretensious dxxxheads.

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  16. How odd it is that I am the only apologist for philosophy among us, semi-apologist. The branch of philosophy that attracts me is a branch few realize exists: epistemology, consideration of knowledge, such as how we know what we know and can we trust what we know, so applicable to the moment. Cynicism as a part of knowledge is prime for me. One of the greatest writers on epistemology of the last century was Stephen Jay Gould. If you read a compilation of his essays, I think for Science magazine, and I read them all, you will see he has a deep distrust for much of scientific reasoning, based much on errors of the past. But to think how ignorance has been enshrined over education, thought, reasoning, true cynicism not just rejection, discourse, considering all forms of knowing and thinking.
    But I could be wrong and so will be silent

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    1. I’m not sure that I’d call myself an apologist for philosophy, but I certainly have no problem with people who ponder life’s persistent questions from various perspectives. Thinking is one of my favorite pastimes.

      I would like to suggest, though, that it’s downright un-American, these days, to shut up just because you might be wrong about something.

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    2. Cynicism or skepticism? Both carry distrust, but skepticism seems to me purer and more scientific, seeking more and better proof against current consensus. I can certainly concur with that. Cynicism suggests baggage—betrayal or disappointment— from previous experience, don’t you think?

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  17. OT:The film 1984 used Vincent Black Knight motorcycles. They were fully enclosed, hiding that beautiful engine, and presumably looked sinister. This was before the Bond producers had the cheek to ask a maker for a free vehicle, and so the Vincent company was able to sell, I think six machines. They were bankrupt and the money would have helped. Now, as usual, I don’t trust my memory. They could have been Black Princes, looked just the same but were the covered up version of the top of the range Black Shadow. But I don’t see the point, as they’d have been more expensive.

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  18. In the last hour or so, I’ve realised that Jane and I have possibly just moved a notch further apart. We haven’t really been a couple since around the time Isaac was born, though we maintain a front. I truly DON’T believe that Isaac knows.
    I wouldn’t tell this to just anybody.

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      1. I don’t suppose any of us thinks it will turn out like this, Renée. I never imagined I’d be so undecided as to what to do. I’ve got nowhere else to go in a strange country, and we can’t support two households. I could quite happily live in my van, but have nowhere to park, and to have a workshop. And Isaac wouldn’t be too interested in visiting me there. And the red tape in this country is totally beyond me.
        Since my first post, I realised that Jane had developed a migraine, this around midnight. So petty squabbles have to be set aside, I have to get her another Migraleve hat out of the freezer, every 45 minutes or so, until she can drift off to sleep sometime in the night. The tenderness I feel at times like this, and the thought of her trying to run the house, take care of Isaac, and do a full time, underpaid job, and falling sick as well, is unbearable. So I can’t go. But if I tell her that, I’ll be on my neck in the street before I know what hit me!
        “You think I need you?”

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  19. I have read a lot of Dostoyevsky over the years but finally buckled down n bought a complete collection. I view him as the Russian version of Duckens, who I also love.
    Russian melancholy doesn’t depress me but I can understand why many others find it so.

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