The Grand Inquisitor and the problem of evil in modern literature and theology

Koppel, Kirsten (2012) The Grand Inquisitor and the problem of evil in modern literature and theology. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis is concerned with the parabolic relationship between evil and salvation. In this thesis I argue that only through recognising evil as inescapably woven into the fabric of our lives, can we construct a theology of hope. I further argue that this identification of evil in the individual is always necessarily something that is achieved through the workings of the apophatic, and can therefore only be realised through the address that reaches exclusively the individual through the unsayable in language. This study centres upon the Parable of the Grand Inquisitor in an inter-textual, literary context and the apophatic tradition.
The context in which my discussion of this parabolic relationship operates is the literary environment that allows for the parabolic and the paradoxical. My primary concern is therefore not with the question of theodicy, but with what happens when, through the intellectual struggle, we encounter the boundaries of our understanding in the beginnings of learned ignorance.
In the first chapter I have set out to establish the narrative of the thesis, starting with Ivan Karamazov’s articulation of the problem. In this conversation with Alyosha he problematizes the fact that when we accept God’s world, we ought, at the same time to acknowledge the suffering in that world. In this way he exposes the paradox that is inherent in reconciliation itself. However, in the middle of this exchange with Alyosha, Ivan tells the story of the Grand Inquisitor, where the question of reconciliation is addressed in the kiss; suddenly possible in the literary space of the parable.
In the chapter that follows I explore our relationship with evil within the space of a literary context. Starting with the fall as the moment at which the human being has put on self-awareness; separating the inner from outer part of the person. With Milton in Paradise Lost, and Dostoevsky in The Brothers Karamazov and The Idiot as my main conversational partners, I offer a reading of the story of the fall in Genesis as a narrative about our alienation from the divine. I argue that this alienation has also become an estrangement from ourselves where the spirit can no longer get to know itself through the body and the body can no longer know itself through the spirit. I argue that this inability to recognise what is other closes off the possibility of a hermeneutical encounter with the Other.
The third chapter examines the relationship between the inability to recognise what is Other and responsibility; in conversation with Kafka in The Trial and Kierkegaard’s discussion of Abraham in Fear and Trembling. I argue that Joseph K's inability to engage hermeneutically with the world is the reason why he cannot recognise his own guilt. Abraham is in that respect his opposite; he embodies the parabolic and the asymmetrical, and so becomes a fully responsible individual.
In the last chapter I discuss the relationship between the unsayable in language and the coincidentia oppositorum. Here my main conversational partners are Meister Eckhart, Thomas Altizer in The Descent into Hell, and Nicolas of Cusa. I argue that the language of the unsayable is what addresses us in the detached self, as Christ addresses the Grand Inquisitor in his detached self.
The kiss, as the climax, is the instant of initiation when the inner and the outer self again become one. At the same time this is the moment of betrayal when all command of our identity seems lost. This disintegration of the self is the descent into hell, and simultaneously the moment of salvation. It is also fundamentally apolitical and through its unsayability can address only the individual.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Evil, salvation, negative theology, Dostoevsky, parable of the Grand Inquisitor, The Brothers Karamazov, paradox, the fall, speech and silence, assymetry
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BR Christianity
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BJ Ethics
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies > Theology and Religious Studies
Supervisor's Name: Jasper, Prof. David and Walton, Dr. Heather
Date of Award: 2012
Depositing User: Miss Kirsten/K Koppel
Unique ID: glathesis:2012-3680
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 19 Oct 2012
Last Modified: 15 Jun 2016 14:49

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