Problem of God's Existence in The Brothers Karamazov

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There are a number of problems of God that pose difficult philosophical and theological questions. It is evident that His nature cannot be grasped by traditional methods used in natural sciences. At the same time, it does not mean that any elaborations on God are unjustified or impossible. The present paper evaluates the approaches used by Classical Thinkers, Modern Skeptics, Non-Religious Phenomenologists, and Christian Phenomenologists in this regard. It will allow making the better supported implications for leaving the moral life in the context of ideas formulated by David Foster Wallace. Although the analyzed approaches are different, there are still some common ideas and principles. The reason is that all these thinkers try to specify the essence of God (or criticize His existence) and present their ideas in the most relevant way for their historical epochs. It appears that one of the most important issues is comprehending that the idea of God is not some abstraction but rather a general rationale for organizing one’s behavior on a daily basis.

Classical Western Christian Thought The Classical Western Christian

Though has established the foundation for examining the main Christian ideas and their applications. Plato consistently questions the reality of the material world. He stresses the higher significance of hidden spiritual forces that may contribute to the better comprehension of the nature of God. St. Augustine in his Confessions provides a critical account of his life and the gradual ability to comprehend the nature of Christ and distinguish between good and evil. He suggests that confessions and prayer are critical for establishing one’s connections with Christ. His personal experience also confirms the existence of God and soul. In The Proslogion, Anselm reflects on the attributes of God at least to the degree that they can be revealed. The cleric also uses his meditation for providing the ontological argument for the existence of God. Elaborating on His qualities of the greatest Being, Anselm concludes on the objective necessity of His existence in reality. In Summa Theologica, Thomas Aquinas explains Christian faith to the broader audience. The author states that theology is the most reliable science as its source is divine knowledge. It can be proved that God created the universe with the corresponding implications for natural law. In Summa contra Gentiles, Thomas Aquinas elaborates on the essence of monotheism for explaining the nature of human condition, good and evil, fate, and people’s relation to God. Rene Descartes has made considerable contributions in philosophy and theology by establishing the logical connections between one’s existence and thinking. In Discourse on the Method, the author adopts the skeptical position for questioning one’s own existence. However, one’s thinking proves not only one’s existence but also the existence of God and soul. Leibnitz has made the claim about the optimal world being created by God. He demonstrates the logical contradiction between all-knowing God on the one hand and world’s imperfections on the other hand. Theodicy has been developed by Leibnitz in his works.

Modern Skeptics

Modern Skeptics have questioned the largely positive representation of God and His impact on the world by demonstrating numerous socio-economic problems. They have formulated a number of new problems in this field including questioning God’s existence. In Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, David Hume outlines the debate on the nature of God’s existence. The arguments of anthropomorphism, cosmology, and scholarly perspectives are provided in a way of interactions with one another. In The Essence of Christianity, Ludwig Feuerbach questions the traditional understanding and even existence of God. He states that the idea of God is the human inward projection of his/her nature. A man may become divine by his/her mental faculties rather than religion. Marx further develops Feuerbach’s views in his work The German Ideology. The author provides the materialist account of history that develops according to the development of means of subsistence.

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The concepts of base and superstructure can properly describe the labor relations in society while religion does not provide any helpful information but may only be used for ideological purposes. In the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, Marx states that Hegel’s theory is abstract and incorrect. As an alternative, he offers an alienation theory that rejects the existence of God. Finally, in his Theses on Feuerbach, Marx criticizes Feuerbach for evaluating the human nature from an abstract perspective without considering the prevailing social and economic conditions. However, Marx also rejects the existence of God in a way similar to Feuerbach. Friedrich Nietzsche has also supported the reliance only on objective knowledge and even proclaimed the “death of God”. Sigmund Freud in his work Future of an Illusion has provided his understanding of religion’s origin. He has represented it as a psychological reaction leading to the development of false belief systems with no relation to objective reality. In Civilization and Its Discontents, the author states that most moral rules are just the results of social self-control mechanisms for preventing anti-social tendencies. Fyodor Dostoevsky also presents a similar position in his novel The Brothers Karamazov. In the Chapter “Rebellion”, Ivan questions God’s existence from the perspective of sufferings’ existence in the world. The logical development of these ideas leads to the following dilemma: either free will does not exist, and everything is predetermined; or humans can make free choices, but all of them lead to sufferings.

Non-Religious Phenomenologists

Non-Religious Phenomenologists have evaluated human experiences and consciousness without applying to religious explanations. Friedrich Nietzsche has developed the revolutionary approach while being critical on people’s ability to formulating any objective and coherent perspective on the external world after weakening the positions of religion. Peer Berger has developed the theory that explains human interactions as an attempt to establish a shared social reality. His construction enables them to share the information relevant for their lives and interpersonal interactions. As it represents their personal interests, there is no objective need in God or religion. People create various schemes of reality that may be subject to change in case a new one appears to be more useful. Martin Heidegger stresses that human thinking is always directed to solving specific questions related to his/her practical life. The impact of temporality is also significant as individuals have to organize their actions and activities in a particular order. Correspondingly, religious ideas are not relevant for solving people’s daily and concrete problems. Jacques Derrida has advocated for the method of reflective attentiveness that enables elaborating on people’s daily experiences and concerns regarding various practical issues. According to him, it is reasonable to avoid the rationalist bias and become more flexible in evaluating concrete conditions of human lives. It has contributed to the development of problems of secularization and polarization.

Ideas of Christian Phenomenologists

It is necessary to elaborate on the main ideas expressed by the prominent Christian Phenomenologists in relation to different problems of God. Emmanuel Levinas has developed a revolutionary approach in philosophy by shifting the main focus of research on other people. In fact, all available instruments and tools do not allow properly grasping the nature of another person. Thus, the only appropriate strategy is demonstrating maximum love to other people and feeling infinite responsibility to them. The philosopher explicitly states that the comprehension of God and one’s moral development should be primarily achieved by improving one’s interactions with other people on a daily basis. Levinas states that people’s constitution presupposes the close consideration of others’ needs and acting according to their interests. This analysis also indicates that the supposed conflicts between people mostly follow from their misunderstanding of their nature and ethical duties. Paul Ricœur also stresses in his works on hermeneutic phenomenology that the relationships to others and the external world are crucial for the dialectical engagement between individuals. Thus, he also supports the idea of the higher individuals’ responsibility for interactions with others. Jean-Luc Marion analyzes the importance of givenness and love for revealing the moral nature of individuals. Givenness is critical for comprehending the nature of phenomena and establishing the relevant philosophical connections. Although there are difficulties in defining human love, it is critical for comprehending the direction of moral development. Michel Henry has examined different manifestations of one’s beliefs and ideas including internal ones. However, the broader ethical context typically allows making the well-supported conclusions.

Fyodor Dostoevsky is one of the most influential Christian Phenomenologists. He is known for raising many important theological questions in The Brothers Karamazov. 'The Grand Inquisitor' demonstrates the preoccupation of the Church with formalism and unwillingness to reconsider its strategy even when facing Christ coming back in Seville. The Inquisitor criticizes Christ for the latter’s rejection of all Satan’s temptations and asks Him to leave. Christ only kisses the Inquisitor demonstrating that love can ultimate improve the existing situation in the world. However, the moral degradation continues. In this way, Dostoevsky tries to reinstate the original ideas of Christianity due to the significant deviations that are currently observed. People’s internal consciousness and responsibility should prevail over dogmas to reverse the current negative trend. Conclusion and Personal Stand In conclusion, the provided analysis has indicated significant disagreements among different schools of thought regarding the main religious and theological issues. The difficulties with proving God’s existence have been outlined by Modern Skeptics. As a result, most of them rejected God’s existence. The anthropomorphic God vs the unknowable God have been discussed by Classical Thinkers offerings different potential explanations and encouraging the further debates among experts. The ideas of Theodicy have been developed by Leibnitz. The potential of God serving as legitimation for suffering has been presented by Dostoevsky through the position of Ivan in The Brothers Karamazov. The impossibility of God to provide absolute “consolation” has been discussed by St. Augustine.

The issues of Secularization and Pluralization have been examined by non-religious phenomenologists. The tensions between Science and Religion have been reinforced by Modern Skeptics. The Belief in God as an excuse to indulge in resentment and revenge has been outlined by Sigmund Freud and other thinkers who elaborated on people’s psychological reactions. Ultimately, God as Being has been recognized by both Classical Thinkers and Christian Phenomenologists. My personal stand is close to the views expressed by Christian Phenomenologists as individuals should demonstrate their religious beliefs through daily interactions with their close people and other individuals. It is necessary to show the maximum empathy to others and comprehend that the interests of all people are complementary in relation to each other. It is also applicable to the ethical challenges outlined by David Foster Wallace in his book This Is Water (2009). The above principles appear to be effective in reducing lonesomeness of adult life as demonstrated by the author. In any case, all of the analyzed schools of thought should be respected, and their views should be critically examined. As stressed by Christina Gschwandtner (2012), there is a high diversity of arguments for God that exist in modern philosophy. They can be effectively integrated while elaborating on the most challenging problems of God.

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