Raskolnikov's Confession: A Dostoevskian Model of Moral Psychology Restricted; Files Only

Beal, Bree (Spring 2018)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/6969z078d?locale=en
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Abstract

In this work, I show that Dostoevsky’s portrayal of the complex, or “polyphonic,” dynamics of moral cognition issues a stark challenge to current theory in the field of moral psychology. While my thesis is informed by Dostoevsky’s work taken broadly, I focus in on a fifteen-page passage in Crime and Punishment. In this passage, the murderer Raskolnikov confesses his crime to Sonya, a young woman who had been a close friend of one his victims. Raskolnikov offers seven distinct explanations for the double murder, each of which Sonya rejects. I argue that each of Raskolnikov’s seven accounts is true but incomplete, and that the real moral-cognitive dynamics of Dostoevsky’s account only emerge when all seven are taken together in all their inconsistency. I show that the confession—both the sundry explanations of the crime and the interpersonal dynamics of the conversation itself—expresses all the major features of an original model of moral psychology. Then I place this model in critical conversation with existing moral psychological research and theory. The major innovation of this model is that I explain the dynamics of moral cognition in terms of more basic ontological dynamics that give rise to morality: our relationships with valued people, places, creatures, objects, and ideas. I show that the moral domain is framed and reframed at each moment by our evolving ontologies. For instance, one assumes moral responsibilities simply by being a sister, daughter, soldier, student, citizen, and so on. One assumes certain moral responsibilities towards friends, pets, fellow humans, homeland, ideals, hopes and dreams, sacred objects, and so on. One’s moral responsibilities fluctuate with memory, attention, mood, and situational features. I call the normative-ontological understanding that shapes moral judgment “existential framing,” and I show that existential framing is the primary source of the polyphonic dynamics on display in Raskolnikov’s confession and operative in everyday moral cognition. 

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

 

Chapter I. Raskolnikov’s Confession……………………….…………………..1

 

Chapter II. The Evolution of Morality……………………..………………..…33

 

Chapter III. Moral Cognition & Being……………..….................................….64

 

Chapter IV. Moral Development: A Critique of the Idea of Moral Progress ...135

 

Chapter V. Morality & The Situation………………...……………………….163

 

Bibliography…………………………………………………………………...193

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