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Posted on May 5th, 2014, by

In the novel The Brothers Karamazov written by the famous Russian writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Grand Inquisitor is a parable included in the plot of the book. This parable is told by Ivan Karamazov, one of the main characters of the novel, to his brother Alyosha Karamazov who is a young monk. The main character in this story is a Cardinal Grand Inquisitor who arrests Jesus Christ. In The Grand Inquisitor, Fyodor Dostoyevsky as an excellent thinker discusses the conflict between God represented by Jesus Christ on the earth, and religion that is represented by the Roman Catholic Church. According to ideas of the Cardinal Grand Inquisitor, the two, God and Church, will never coexist in the contemporary world. He is sure that one of them should give way because Jesus and Church are different as they require absolutely different things from their followers (Dostoyevsky 285). Dostoyevsky is a great philosopher, and some of his ideas are worth discussing and analyzing. In this story, the powerful Cardinal Grand Inquisitor argues that freedom is too great a burden for the majority of human beings and that happiness is only gained when freedom is surrendered to a greater, earthly authority. Human freedom cannot be regarded a burden for the humanity because it has enormous impact on the life and personal development of all human beings, and leads to happiness.

It is found that all his life the Cardinal Great Inquisitor loved human beings, but suddenly he realized that he is wrong in relation to humanity, as he saw that there was no “great moral blessedness to attain perfection and freedom, if at the same time one gains the conviction that millions of God’s creatures have been created as a mockery”¯ (Dostoyevsky 286). He realized that human beings would never have an opportunity to use their freedom because they were incapable of using freedom. It means that the Cardinal does not believe in God. In other words he acts as an atheist. Moreover, the old Cardinal realized that “nothing but the advice of the great dread spirit could built upon any tolerable sort of life for the feeble unruly, incomplete, empirical creatures created in jest”¯ (Dostoyevsky 287).Ā  It means that the Cardinal decided to follow the dread spirit of death, and he accepted deception and lying and used them in his life. He simply deceived people in order to make them happy in this life. He has reached the conclusion that freedom is too great a burden for the majority of human beings in this world and that happiness can be gained when freedom is surrendered to a greater, earthly authority.

The issue concerning human freedom has been discussed by a number of thinkers whose opinions differ from the opinion of the Cardinal in The Great Inquisitor by Dostoyevsky. For example, the well-known thinker, Latin philosopher and theologian Augustine considered that the grace of Jesus Christ was simply indispensable to human freedom (Bonner 79). What is more important in Augustine’s discussion on freedom is the use of the idea of original sin of human beings. It means that the individuals do not have freedom to change their future, but they have freedom to accept responsibility for their actions. Augustine’s thought on human freedom is different from the Cardinal’s position. The main difference is concluded in the fact that God can be the cause of any human activity and that human beings have their freedom of choice. Gerald Bonner states in his book that Augustine maintained “freedom of choice by the elect, despite the vital necessity of grace to enable them to exercise that freedom, and provided an argument to explain it”¯ (Bonner 81).

My position regarding the Cardinal’s thought on human freedom and the supposed burden of human freedom is based on my personal experience and my own world outlook. I consider that each individual in this world should have freedom to choose how to live. Everybody in this world should use his freedom with good purposes. I cannot agree with the position of the Cardinal Great Inquisitor from Dostoyevsky’s novel The Brothers Karamazov because he states that human freedom is too great a burden for the majority of human beings. Human freedom cannot be a burden for humanity. Human freedom is the basis of human nature. I also cannot agree that happiness is only gained if freedom is surrendered to a greater, earthly authority. Only free people can be happy in their lives. Of course, human freedom is closely connected with ethics, morality and such positive traits as kindness, generosity and tolerance. It is wrong to use freedom in sordid motives because it is immoral.

To sum up, human freedom is an essential component of human life which cannot be regarded a burden, quite the opposite, human freedom leads to happiness.

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