Notes from Underground


Fyodor Dostoevsky

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Notes from Underground: Part 1, Chapter 9 Summary & Analysis

The underground man says that his readers probably think they can “cure man of his old habits” with science. But the underground man questions whether this kind of improvement would really be good for mankind. He claims that man likes “destruction and chaos” as much as creation.
The underground man continues his tirade against scientific reason and logic. He has previously argued that man could not become purely rational, and here argues that such a development wouldn’t be desirable even if possible.
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The underground man describes how mankind “loves only the process of achieving his goal and not the goal itself,” which is “none other than two times two makes four, that is, a formula.” He says that “two times two makes four is no longer life,” and says that “two times two makes five” can be a valuable thing.
“Two times two makes four” again symbolizes the oppressive rationality the underground man despises. This equation is “no longer life,” because it robs man of free will, which can be exercised by believing irrationally in “two times two makes five.”
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Continuing to dispute the idea that mankind only acts in his own best interest, the underground man says that suffering can be just as advantageous as pleasure. He claims, “man sometimes loves suffering terribly,” and says that suffering is the foundation of consciousness, which mankind loves even though it is his “greatest misfortune.”
The underground man again treats consciousness as a kind of malady. Part of the reason he earlier argued that there is some pleasure in pain and suffering (with the example of the toothache) is because this perverse love of suffering proves man to be more than just rational.
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