Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Notes from Underground: I.viii–xi

Yesterday I read from I.viii–xi, finishing Part I.

The u.m. makes critical to man his “desires,” “will,” and “wantings.” Without these, he is just a “sprig in an organ barrel.”

You see: reason, gentlemen, is a fine thing, that is unquestionable, but reason is only reason and satisfies only man’s reasoning capacity, while wanting is a manifestation of the whole of life—that is, the whole of human life, including reason and various little itches.

Man wants what is not best for himself if only to rebel against the obligations of lifeless reason—the calendar of human behavior.

I think this is where the u.m. cannot be identified with D. Given what D. has said about individuality, I believe this individualism and the rebellion described—the significance of “wanting” to personality—is the mark of reason’s progeny. D. is pointing to something else. We see this pointed to most explicitly in I.xi, para 1.

The u.m. goes on to say that a man “will deliberately go mad for the occasion, so as to do without reason and still have his own way!”


The law of logic may not be a law of mankind. “Man loves creating and making roads, that is indisputable. But why does he so passionately love destruction and chaos as well?”

Man fears finding that towards which he is working, because then there will be nothing left for which to search. 2 * 2 = 4 is the beginning of death. If it is an excellent thing 2 * 2 = 5 is also “a most charming little thing.”

I stand… for my own caprice, and that it be guaranteed me when necessary.

Suffering is the “sole cause of consciousness.” In the face of 2 * 2 = 4, there is nothing left except to “occasionally whip oneself…” to liven things up.


Crystal palace as symbol of reason and logic. U.M. posits a chicken coop, and he is grateful for it keeping him from the rain.

The crystal palace is some sort of artificial pleasure, a substitute “crown of desires.” U.M. calls it a tenement house.

What rational society offers up as man’s ultimate benefit is somehow shabby, lacking. Something less than life. In the face of this, man will turn to irrationality and his own will, and his will comes to want monstrosities out of rebelliousness against the lifelessness of 2 * 2 = 4.

The second to last paragraph points to something greater.

Can it be that I’ve been arranged simply so as to come to the conclusion that my entire arrangement is a hoax? Can that be the whole purpose? I don’t believe it."


He envies the normal man, but he has no desire to be him. The underground, he says, is better—No—A lie! It is something else, but something which he cannot find.

U.M. writes to no audience so as not to turn duplicitous. He writes to explore the things he will not admit to himself. Also to rid himself of bothersome recollections and to take on a work in the hopes of becoming “a man good and honest.”

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