Notes from Underground

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Notes from Underground Part 1, Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The underground man imagines that his readers think science can explain man’s desires and free will. But he insists that without desire and will, man is only “a stop in an organ pipe.” He returns to his earlier assertion that there is one thing mankind desires more than any advantage: the right to desire something stupid “and not be bound by an obligation to desire only what’s smart.” Through this, he claims, people assert their individuality. He says that desire can coincide with reason, but doesn’t necessarily do so.
If all of life is dictated by scientific fact and logic, then there is no room for free will. Mankind’s irrationality is thus his only defense against a life without free will. This argument accounts for the underground man’s illogical, irrational behavior. He argues, though, that his irrationality is simply an extreme version of what is in every human being.
Themes
Human Nature Theme Icon
Reason and Rationality Theme Icon
The underground man defines man as “a creature who walks on two legs and is ungrateful.” He says that human history has been violent and irrational and claims that people will “commit some repulsive act” only to rebel against the rationality of the world. According to the underground man, “the whole of man’s work seems to consist only in proving to himself constantly that he’s a man and not an organ stop,” in fighting against the rationality of “two times two makes four.”
The underground man does not have a high opinion of humans, seeing them as simple creatures. He claims that the violence of human history bears out his theory of mankind’s essential irrationality. He believes that he is not the only one who struggles against reason by committing repulsive acts, but rather that he is representative of a general human tendency to do so.
Themes
Human Nature Theme Icon
Reason and Rationality Theme Icon
Spite, Pain, and Suffering Theme Icon