I'm afraid this might not exactly be a question about philosophy, but the more appropriate site, Literature.SE, shut down in its beta, so I felt this site would have the largest audience familiar with Crime and Punishment. I understand and won't protest if the question must be closed.

The epilogue of C&P is quite dense with ideas and metaphors, and I'm having some trouble understanding a part. Emphasis added:

And he suffered from another thought: why had he not killed himself then? Why, when he was standing over the river then, had he preferred to go and confess? Was there really such force in this desire to live, and was it so difficult to overcome it? Had not Svidrigailov, who was afraid of death, overcome it?

In torment he asked himself this question, and could not understand that even then, when he was standing over the river, he may have sensed a profound lie in himself and in his convictions. He did not understand that this sense might herald a future break in his life, his future resurrection, his future new vision of life.

Dostoevsky, Fydor. Crime and Punishment. Translated by Pevear, R. and Volokhonsky, L. Vintage Classic. 1993. Page 544.

What is this profound lie? What's being hinted at here, that it might herald a future break in his life?

At first I thought it had to be Raskolnikov's nihilistic views (in particular, the right to "step over" morality) that were the "profound lies," but then, that seemed self-contradicting. For example, it didn't seem, at least to me, that Raskolnikov chose, willfully, to be blind to any truth about the outsiders' moralities. So by calling Raskolnikov's earnest, rational process, "lies," it seems Dostoevsky condemns the man who regards himself as "God." But if man is not "God," i.e. man is simply the way he is, a "product of his environment," then it seems inconsistent to condemn a man who, by nature, is given to such rationalistic undertakings. So is this "profound lie" something more subtle, or entirely different, which I've missed?

2 Answers 2


Svidrigailov committed suicide when he realized he couldn't have the love of Dunya, he, whose entire life consisted in the pursuit of his own desires and pleasures, in the end, needed he someone else, he was not all powerful. Raskolnikov was confused, he didn't understand what had made him have the urge to confess, he was thinking about himself and what happened to him, unconsciously he didn't yet understood how the profound change ocurred in his convictions had in fact altered his all life.


It seems that Raskolnikov's immature rationalisations are breaking on the reality of his own deeper and, up to then, unconscious convictions.

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