ABC’s sabbatical topic: Dostoevsky

During his summer sabbatical at Georgetown the Archbishop of Canterbury will be studying Dostoevsky.

The sabbatical topic was revealed in the Spy column of today’s Telegraph under the heading “Glutton for Punishment.” An excerpt:

During his two-month sabbatical in June and July, I learn that Dr Rowan Williams will be writing a book on Dostoevsky. The archbishop is known to be a devotee of the dark Russian soul, and tells Prospect magazine’s website of his fascination with the Crime and Punishment author. “Dostoevsky would say ethics is not about good and evil, it’s about truth and falsehood, reality and illusion,” he says.

The Prospect interview is here. For selected quotes click read more.

Rowan Williams in the Prospect interview:

Dostoevsky and some of his followers would say ethics is not about good and evil, it’s about truth and falsehood, reality and illusion. The right way to live doesn’t amount to a series of approved actions. It’s about living in recognition of reality or not.

Are we content to rest with the idea that, say, what is good for Africa and what is good for the West are different? Do we want to say their needs are not convergent, not interdependent? Surely most people would be outraged to think of them as different. Interdependence opens up something. It’s a way through to reality.

Dostoevsky famously said : ‘If there’s no God then everything is permitted.’ It’s a view the West might reconsider more often. Dostoevsky’s not saying that if there’s no God then no one’s watching us and we can do what we like. He’s really asking: what’s the rationale for living this way and not otherwise? If there’s no God then there’s no shape to our lives. Our behaviour needs to be in tune with something.

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