Raskolnikov's Use of Utilitarianism

By: Nisreen & Rachana

Defining Utilitarianism

Philosophy: The belief that a morally good action is one that helps the greatest number of people

SPECIFICALLY, a theory that the aim of action should be the largest possible balance of pleasure over pain or the greatest happiness of the greatest number

'Does the End Justify the Means'

How Utilitarianism Was Seen in Russia

  1. Chernyshevsky (1828-1889) One of the most prominent utilitarian thinkers, In works such as What Is To Be Done? and The Anthropological Principle in Anthropology, Chernyshevsky argues that man is subservient to nature and using Utilitarian theory, rejects traditional Christian values, identifying ‘good’ and ‘evil’ in terms of utility to the greatest number.

  2. Belinsky (1811-1848), If to ensure the happiness of the majority, one were forced to cut off a hundred thousand heads—he (Belinsky) would cut them off.

How Roskolnikov Use Utilitarianism to Justify Crime

  • "The student in the bar calls it ‘simple arithmetic’. 'Kill her, take her money and with the help of it devote oneself to the service of humanity and the good of all. What do you think, would not one tiny crime be wiped out by thousands of good deeds?'” (Part 1, Ch 6 )

  • “An extraordinary man has the right to decide in his own conscience to overstep.. certain obstacles.” (Part 3, Ch 3)

  • "I did not bow down to you, I bowed down to all the suffering of humanity."(Part 4, Ch 4)

The Collapse of Raskolnikov's Utilitarianism

  • "The old woman was a mistake perhaps, but she’s not the point! The old woman was merely a sickness... I was in a hurry to step over... it wasn't a human being I killed, it was a principle! So I killed the principle, but I didn't step over, I stayed on this side... All I managed to do was kill. And I didn't even manage that, as it turns out..."(Part 3, Ch 6)

  • "I wanted to murder, for my own satisfaction ... At that moment I did not care a damn whether I would spend the rest of my life like a spider catching them all in my web and sucking the living juices out of them."(Part 5, Ch 4)

  • All who met him were loathsome to him—he loathed their faces, their movements, their gestures. If any one had addressed him, he felt that he might have spat at him or bitten him.…(Part 2, Ch 2)


  1. Do you think Raskolnikov's use of Utilitarianism was right?

  2. Did the final outcome help the greater good?

  3. Does the end always justify the means?

  4. In your opinion, what other approach could Raskolnikov have used in situation?

  5. Can Utilitarianism be applied in our society today? If so, what would be the result? Good or bad?
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