1 Methodist College, United States
DiscussionThis paper suggests a possible reading of Crime and Punishment as a story that reveals two ways of understanding deification. Deification (theosis) is the doctrine that humans' purpose is to become gods according to grace. The idea appears as early of St. Athanasius, with his famous dictum that Christ has become man so that men can become gods. Raskolnikov's crime is an act that presupposes such a transformation from one nature, that of mere human beings, to another, that of being a supra-man, or a god.
There is a split in Raskolnikov, as his name suggests. But there is a split in any human being: is one a mere human or is one a god according to grace? From the beginning of the novel, Raskolnikov attempts to understand this theandric nature of man. He wants to be a supra-man and perceives murder to be the path to achieving it. He proclaims himself a man-god from his own powers, and doing so he becomes a criminal: the criminal of the old lady, and the criminal of his own personhood. In Aristotelian terms, the story of Raskolnikov is the question of actualizing a potentiality: being human is potentially being a god. The problem of any potentiality is the fashion in which it becomes actual. Crime and Punishment shows two ways: you become a god through your own will and action (which results in Raskolnikov's crime) or you become a god through self-denial (which is the path that Sonya models for Raskolnikov).