Dostoevsky's Poetics of Modern Freedom: Against Bakhtin's "Polyphonic" Moral Truth
Keywords:Dostoevsky, Bakhtin, Aristotle, moral truth, function argument
In an influential treatise, Mikhail Bakhtin (1984) asserts that the aim of Dostoevsky's distinctive poetics is to advance a revolutionary, "polyphonic" model of moral truth. In this paper, I argue that while Bakhtin correctly identifies essential features of Dostoevsky's poetics, these features are better understood as oriented toward meeting the free modern individual's need to test ultimate moral ends and concomitant virtues in order to determine their truth. An Aristotelian poetics intended to educate audiences only in how to be virtuous to achieve moral ends that are given by tradition will have different essential features than will a modern poetics whose purpose is to help individuals determine what the virtues are. It is this latter purpose, I argue, that drives Dostoevsky to create the new stylistic devices that Bakhtin observes in Dostoevsky's work, rather than the purpose of realizing a philosophically problematic "polyphonic" model of moral truth.
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, trans. W.D. Ross and J.O. Urmson, in A New Aristotle Reader, ed. Ackrill, J.L. Princeton: Princeton University Press 1987. [NE]
Aristotle, Poetics, trans. Richard Janko. Indianapolis: Hackett, 1987. [Poetics]
Bakhtin, Mikail, Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics, trans Caryl Emerson. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984.
Dostoevsky, Fyodor. Notes from Underground. Oakland: University of California Press, 2009.
Dostoevsky, Fyodor. The Double and The Gambler. London: Vintage, 2007.
Glassen, Peter. "A Fallacy in Aristotle's Argument about the Good." The Philosophical Quarterly, vol. 7, no. 29, (1957): 319-322.
Kant, Immanuel. Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (1785), trans. Mary Greg-or, ed. Paul Guyer and Allen Wood. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992.
MacIntyre, Alasdair. After virtue, 2d ed. London: Duckworth, 1985.
Nehamas, Alexander. Nietzsche: Life as literature. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Universi-ty Press, 1985.
Nussbaum, Martha C. The fragility of goodness: Luck and ethics in Greek tragedy and philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001.
Tillich, Paul. Dynamics of faith. New York: Perennial, 2001.
Wilkes, Kathleen V. "The Good Man and the Good for Man in Aristotle's Ethics." Mind, vol. 87, no. 348 (1978): 553–571.
How to Cite
Copyright (c) 2021 Labyrinth: An International Journal for Philosophy, Value Theory and Sociocultural Hermeneutics
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
After acceptation of the paper, the author has to sign a Copyright Transfer Agreement granting to Labyrinth and Axia Academic Publishers the exclusive copyrights for the online and printed editions, and to deal with reprint requests from third parties. On special occasions, articles and studies published in Labyrinth may be republished in textbooks or collective works of Axia Academic Publishers as well as translated and published in other languages. By submitting a paper to Labyrinth, you implicitely agree with these conditions.