Reading List (Update): questions of Free Will

By | November 27, 2022

[November 27, 2022]  As many of my regular readers know, I have been more prone to read those works that ferret out the depth of human understanding and allow me to understand others better, myself included.  I do this in several ways, like riding horses for mental therapy, walking my dog Bella, being with my wife as much as possible (although I often frustrate her), and listening to podcasts that I think are worthy of my time.  None of these are for entertainment purposes, but I do enjoy them, mostly I enjoy them.  I try to understand what is being said, which is often difficult for me to do.  One advantage of being retired is that I have more time on my hands, despite being very busy with several projects.  If you are interested in the psychology of the human mind, read any of the five novels of Fyodor Dostoyevsky (a Russian writer).  Today’s article will address one of them, my personal favorite.

Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, 1866

This book is a transformative reading.  Raskolnikov is one of Dostoyevsky’s main characters, a material rationalist (an odd type of person back in the 1880s) who is taken by the idea that God was dead and convinced himself that the only reason people acted morally was because of cowardice; they were unable to remove from themselves the restrictions of culture and act in a manner that raises above the norm.  Raskolnikov is a poor law student and is tortured by these ideas of God and morality.  His sister is planning to engage in a loveless marriage to someone who is somewhat tyrannical but who she hopes will provide the family with enough money so he can continue in law school.  Raskolnikov believes his sister is just altruistically prostituting herself for the family, and he’s not very happy with that.  At the same time, he becomes aware of a pawnbroker taking Raskolnikov’s last possessions, and she is a horrible person.  She pawns many things from the neighborhood and is not well-liked; she is cruel, deceitful, and resentful.  She also has an intellectually-impaired niece who she treats as a slave and always beats her.  So, Raskolnikov – who is torn with these ideas of God while struggling and having family problems – decides the best way out is to kill this pawnbroker, take her wealth, free the niece, free his sister from the necessity of a loveless marriage, and allow him to go to law school where he can become educated and do some good for the world.

One of the great things about Dostoyevsky is that he does not make his main character Raskolnikov into a straw man, which is now easy to destroy or pontificate about.  Those who stand for the antithesis of what Dostoyevsky believes are often the strongest, smartest, and sometimes most admirable characters in the novel.  In the character of Raskolnikov, Dostoyevsky wanted to set up a character with the best reasons to commit murder; philosophically, practically, and ethically.  So Raskolnikov goes and kills the old lady, the pawnbroker, with an axe.  But it doesn’t go the way Raskolnikov thinks it would go.  He discovers that pre-murder Raskolnikov and post-murder Raskolnikov are not the same people.  Dostoyevsky does a great job of describing the horror of post-murder Raskolnikov.  A great novel.  You will change after you’ve finished the book.

Highly recommended.


Please read my books:

  1. “55 Rules for a Good Life,” on Amazon (link here).
  2. “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” on Amazon (link here).

To go to the complete Professional Reading list, click on this direct link:

Side Note: Please remember and take a look at Tom Copeland’s reading blog.  His website, which I highly recommend, can be found here:


Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I provide one article every day. My writings are influenced by great thinkers such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Jung, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Jean Piaget, Erich Neumann, and Jordan Peterson, whose insight and brilliance have gotten millions worldwide to think about improving ourselves. Thank you for reading my blog.

22 thoughts on “Reading List (Update): questions of Free Will

  1. Arena of Fools

    If you don’t have free will, and don’t practice it, and working with others to maintain it, you will lose it. I see that in many young folks today, they have lost their free will.

    1. Guns are Us

      Too often the case. And they give it us without a fight or even a whimper. Now they are “safe” but their safety is an illusion.

  2. Dead Pool Guy

    Wow, strong book that does deserve reading and thinking about. Moral dilemmas. Now that is something to ponder.

    1. Obama Cash

      Right, Pen Q. When in school we are often ‘required’ to read certain books. Now that is an interesting way of ‘learning’ but it works to a degree. We should get students to want to read rather than requiring them to read.

  3. Karl J.

    This article is another example of why I read Gen. Satterfield’s blog every day. Even when I’m busy, I read this blog. It gives me something to think about and of interest to me and why I am so interested in leadership and being a better person.

  4. Emma Archambeau

    Gen. Satterfield wrote, “One of the great things about Dostoyevsky is that he does not make his main character Raskolnikov into a straw man, which is now easy to destroy or pontificate about. Those who stand for the antithesis of what Dostoyevsky believes are often the strongest, smartest, and sometimes most admirable characters in the novel. ” POW, that is the heart of a great novel.

  5. Max Foster

    Crime and Punishment follows the mental anguish and moral dilemmas of Rodion Raskolnikov, an impoverished ex-student in Saint Petersburg who plans to kill an unscrupulous pawnbroker, an old woman who stores money and valuable objects in her flat. He theorises that with the money he could liberate himself from poverty and go on to perform great deeds, and seeks to convince himself that certain crimes are justifiable if they are committed in order to remove obstacles to the higher goals of ‘extraordinary’ men. Once the deed is done, however, he finds himself racked with confusion, paranoia, and disgust. His theoretical justifications lose all their power as he struggles with guilt and horror and confronts both the internal and external consequences of his deed.

    1. Frank Graham

      Excellent summary! Well written, Max. The moral dilemma is what puts this book on the high shelf of those who most need to read and understand the outcome. Today, so many believe there is not moral outcomes necessary and they are out leaders. Go figure.

    2. Wendy Holmes

      Despite its title, the novel does not so much deal with the crime and its formal punishment as with Raskolnikov’s internal struggle – the torments of his own conscience, rather than the legal consequences of committing the crime. Believing society would be better for it, Raskolnikov commits murder with the idea that he possesses enough intellectual and emotional fortitude to deal with the ramifications, but his sense of guilt soon overwhelms him to the point of psychological and somatic illness. It is only in the epilogue that he realizes his formal punishment, having decided to confess and end his alienation from society.

      1. Bird Man

        Max and Wendy. Excellent. You are spot on. And, thanks to Gen. Satterfield for highlighting this great novel by Dostoyevsky.

        1. USA Patriot II

          After I read “55 Rules for a Good Life” I will then try to tackle “Crime and Punishment.” That is going to take some brainpower to get thru. 😊

        2. Winston

          Excellent comments and good summaries of the issues. I am going to suggest to Gen. Satterfield that he set up a separate tab for book review like he did for Movies.

  6. Audrey

    Thank you Gen. Satterfield for highlighting this book. I’ll get my copy this week from GoodReads. Should be a fabulous read.

  7. ant man

    Great book. I also highly recommend it. Gen. Satterfield does a good job of setting up the overall scenario. But the book is the best. Why is it that so many Russians have such great books?

  8. Forrest Gump

    Great review, Gen. Satterfield. I read this book in college, but never really got much out of it because I was in such a rush. Since you reviewed it, I will dig into my old school book box in the basement and re-read it. Thanks again. Indeed, a great book.

    1. MrJohn

      Right Forrest, and this book sets up a moral dilemma and works thru the aftermath. ✔

      1. ZB Two Two

        Heck, just read the book. Plenty of copies to be had for free if you download the Kindle version off Amazon. You can also get the book at a great discount in most stores.
        …… and if you want to read another really good book, then get Gen. Satterfield’s book “55 Rules for a Good Life” here on Amazon.


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