Immortality and Love

‘-Yes, but this is a subject which I again ask your permission to leave aside, – Petr Aleksandrovic repeated. – And I shall instead tell you, gentlemen, another anecdote, about Ivan Fedorovic in person, extremely interesting and characteristic. No longer than five days ago, during a meeting of our elegant society, the greatest part being constituted by ladies, as discussing, he solemnly declared that in this world there is absolutely nothing able to force men to love their fellow-beings; that a law of nature such as the one by which man should love mankind does not exist at all; and that if there is, and there has until now been, some love on earth, it did not depend on a law of nature, but exclusively on the fact that men have believed in their immortality. Ivan Fedorovic then added, in parenthesis, that the whole law of nature reduces to this, so that, destroy in men the faith in their immortality, and in them it will immediately dissolve not only love, but also every vital energy, aimed at prolonging the life of the world. Not only that: in such case, nothing would be immoral anymore, everything would be permitted, even anthropophagy. And not enough, yet: he concluded by stating that for each particular individual (as we are here), who does not believe  neither in God, nor in the immortality of his own soul, the natural moral law must without delay transform itself in something totally opposite to the previous religious state, and egoism, perhaps pushed as far as murder, not only must be permitted to man, but even recognized as indispensable, as the most rational and almost the most noble solution to the situation in which he finds himself. From such a paradox you can gather your conclusions, my gentlemen, on all the rest which preaches (and perhaps has still the intention of preaching) our dearest eccentric and paradoxical Ivan Fedorovic.’

F. Dostoevskij, The Brothers Karamazov

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