Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Fyodor Dostoyevsky: Genius or Not Essay

What makes a person a genius? Is it thru the lessons that are taught by teachers or is it a natural phenomenon that we are born with? Some believe that Fyodor Dostoyevsky was a genius because of his epileptic medical condition. We will explore different opinions on the matter and debate if epilepsy could have contributed to his creative mind. Dostoyevsky was a Russian novelist who used his psychological interpretations to create dramatic and dark overtones to his stories. It is argued that the dramatic events in his life, which included his mock execution, imprisonment in a Siberian jail, and his epileptic seizures, put him in a state of mind that helped him to create his greatest characters. He began to have his epileptic episodes while in prison is Siberia. It has been argued that this experience contributed to his new way of thinking about his personal beliefs and how he viewed the world. Could the epileptic episodes have touched on part of the brain that he had never used before? Could it have produced new signals in the brain that created a deeper and more philosophical interpretation of the world he was in? People with epilepsy have an increased risk of poor self-esteem, depression, and suicide. It is not uncommon for people to develop emotional and behavioral problems related to this disease. In his era, epilepsy was not well known about and its characteristics. Many argued about what type of epilepsy that he had. His wife Anna witnessed some of these fits and wrote about it in her biographies. Dostoyevsky used his illness and suffering as a theme to his some of his stories. It influenced many aspects of his work and enabled him to understand and feel things in such depths which would not have been possible had he not suffered from the disease. Dostoyevsky had an intense connection into the human psyche. He was more than a writer. He was a psychologist and a philosopher. He did not have any interest in math, science or any type of engineering degree but he did enjoy architecture and drawing. Art was the main driving force that he tapped into. Could art be a foundation of someone being a genius? Two particular terms are relative to y analysis of Dostoyevsky; genius and epilepsy. What is the definition of genius? â€Å"Genius is a ‘natural talent’, a ‘natural endowment’, which cannot be learnt by anyone precisely because it ‘requires to be bestowed directly from the hand of nature upon each individual. † (Aiello 663) Two meanings of the term are as follows: â€Å"Extraordinary intellectual power especially as manifested in creative activity and/or a person endowed with transcendent mental superiority; specifically: a person with a very high IQ. † (Webster, Genius) What is the definition of Epilepsy? Epilepsy is a â€Å"neurological disorder caused by paroxysmal malfunction of neurons in the brain (seizures). It is characterized by strange movements or sensations in parts of the body, odd behaviors, emotional disturbances, and sometimes convulsions and momentary lapses of consciousness. Seizures may result from abnormal electrical activity in most or all of the brain (generalized), or they may originate in a specific brain area (partial). † (Webster, Epilepsy) Epileptic people have different parts of the brain that can be affected. There are three main types of seizures: petit mal, grand mal, and focal. Petit mal seizures are typically called an â€Å"absence seizure. † They usually are brief lasting around 15 seconds or less. Grand mal seizures usually involve the whole body. People with these types of seizures have vision, smell, taste, hallucinations, sensory changes and dizziness. Focal seizures are considered partial. They can be characterized as simple or complex. Simple ones do not affect awareness or one’s memory. Complex seizures affect awareness or memory. They can interfere with the events before, during or immediately after the seizure. They can also affect behavior. He had a rare form of temporal lobe epilepsy named â€Å"Ecstatic Epilepsy†. Seizures which occurred in the daytime were often preceded by an ecstatic aura, which has led neurologists to theorize that he had temporal lobe epilepsy with secondary grand mal epilepsy. In the four following novels, his characters had epilepsy: The Possessed, The Brothers Karamazov, Insulted and Injured and The Idiot. Sigmund Freud, who was a trained neurologist, described Dostoyevsky’s state as â€Å"an organic brain disease independent of the psychic constitution. † Is an epileptic brain wired differently? Did this attribute to Dostoyevsky’s dark world? Was this the source of his â€Å"genius? † â€Å"Dostoevskii was generally presented as a ‘genius’, whose talent, however, resided in something other than his artistic accomplishments. † (Aiello 660) His unusual type of thinking was attributed to his seizures. Aiello believed that his epilepsy was the main cause of his creative works and not a genuine stance of genius that he was born with. Dostoyevsky’s characters displayed atheist behaviors. The worlds of heaven and hell are all around him and he described seeing the universe imitate the unnatural forces of the universe. He shows how the devil can erase his identity from the human conciseness. â€Å"When translated into abstractions, Dostoevsky’s psychology is as unimpressive as his political theory. It is merely a derivative of theories propounded by German writers about the unconscious, the role of dreams, the ambivalence of human feelings. What makes it electric in the novels is his ability to dramatize it in scenes of sudden revelation; in characters who in today’s terminology would be called split personalities, in people twisted by isolation, lust, humiliation, and resentment. † (Dostoevsky 544) â€Å"Dostoevsky further held that the spiritual world of the modern individual, now deprived of the reference points of reason and torn by antipodal strivings, collides not only with the chaos of the social unit but also with the general natural order of the words, the ontological abysses. (Gurvich-Lishchiner 22) Could this phrase be an accurate measurement of how his mind works? The synapsis of his brain not colliding in perfect harmony, reflect them in different directions which create an alternate reality in which he thrives off of? According to Freud, â€Å"what is generally believed to be epilepsy in men of genius are always straight cases of hysteria. † The reality that he delved into, between God and Satan, exists in a lot of his work. â€Å"This brought the writer back to the globally creative task of confirming that God exists, even in a chaotic and wicked world. (Gurvich-Lishchiner 23). Satan is an abstract basically hiding in plain sight. His perception of how Satan works in the earthly realm seems to be twisted and unjust. According to Hooten, â€Å"Dostoevsky propose a dualistic rivalry between God and Satan, but they both acknowledge Satan as a reality manifested by human pride. † (Hooten 118) He creates these characterizations of the devil as a symbolic way in which he believes a human being thinks and feels. The darkness that empowers him is a fascination that we all explore in our own selves. We fight the good and the bad in our daily lives and with his personal experiences he does the same. â€Å"It is indubitable that Dostoevsky, like all figures in science and the arts, was engaged in a search for his faith, and that this process was the basis of his creative development as a philosopher and man of letters. † (Barsht 37). He uses metaphors of the devil to confirm that God really does exist in our chaotic world. He creates this metaphor by having the devil compel us in unthinkable ways and by not allowing us to see or identify the devil but allowing us to hear him and his suggestions. Science and religion are viewed in two entirely different ways thru Dostoevsky’s eyes. Science needs evidence to determine if something is true or not. Religion is having a greater sense of self and feeling in what you believe. The mind is a complex thing and we need to understand it better. When someone is born are they instantly a genius or does the brain develop over time and introduce things that help to establish the physical description of it when they become of age to identify it? Science demands that the personal life position of the individual be integrated into the known set of hypotheses concerning the structure of the world, which form a sort of dynamic paradigm (â€Å"scientific tradition†). † (Barsht 40) It is documented that he attended seances to investigate in the spiritual world and to see if it really does exist. â€Å"It seems that Dostoevsky went to the February seance in order to verify his conjectures through personal experience. † (V initsky 103). I believe this is what began his quest in determining how to fit the devil into his own world and how he could relate to the spiritual side. Dostoevsky believed if a devil doesn’t exist, that we then create him in our own image. He was a very spiritual person and it seems that when he used the Devil, he brought out the good and contrasted it with the bad in his writings. As stated earlier, Dostoevsky thinks that the devil can be created from man’s pride. Pride is a state of being that we all have dealt with and can relate to. Pride can create a downward spiral of someone’s character and produce tragic results. He created these types of works that entered into the human psyche and pulled out these characteristic traits. But can someone’s pride be altered? Did his health affect this part of his personality? So to help understand him better, we look at his epileptic nature and wonder if it affected his thinking or how he perceived things. The mind works in mysterious ways. It is documented that when a person has problems with the brain it could alter their state of mind in which they annot relate to people or things on a â€Å"normal† basis. We can define â€Å"normal† as someone viewing the world the same way that we do or who identifies with our own religion and doesn’t question it or its intentions. But when someone does seem abnormal we instantly criticize that person and wonder what that person is about. What pushes them into the things they do, see, or hear? All these questions are still being asked of Dostoevsky today. He is criticized for his works and sometimes has been labeled as a gothic writer and others have called him a true genius in which other famous writers are compared to him. Art differs from science in its mediated formation of a vision of the world not out of the sensually perceived material of immediately accessible reality, as in the natural sciences. † (Barsht 43) Instead of being seen as â€Å"abnormal† the term â€Å"art† comes into play. We use the term so loosely that we can make it fit into any category that we choose. So, if Dostoevsky had seizures could his art of writing be contributed to this part of his talent? If he didn’t experience seizures in his life, would he still possess the same thought provoking ideas and creations in his work? There is a great debate in whether Dostoevskii’s epilepsy was considered a form of mental illness in which he fostered his ideas from or was his genius a true part of his nature in which he used and pulled from and was the basis for his writing skills. â€Å"Science demands that the personal life position of the individual be integrated into the known set of hypotheses concerning the structure of the world, which form a sort of dynamic paradigm (â€Å"scientific tradition†). † (Barsht 40) Authors are debating and establishing guidelines when authenticating an author. This debate will go on when deciding the true meaning of genius.

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