In Russia, during Soviet times, atheism was the official rule. In Marxist-Leninist atheism, religion was opium of the people and false consciousness. This ideological tendency was highly criticized by Western observers. In post-Communist Russia, religion is a relevant part of the national self-perception. As his precursor, Fyodor Dostoyevsky credits Miguel de Cervantes, who wrote from jail about wisdom and insanity. Mikhail Bakhtin gloried the ‘polyphonic’ qualities of Dostoyevsky’s books, which expanded the narrative to include many protagonists, bearing contradictory perspectives rather than a single authorial outlook. Differentiating from Dante’s Inferno, in Dostoyevsky reason and madness, goodness and evilness are not clearly opposed. This is modernity, discovered and described in Russia and in the US at same time. At the dawn of Western realism, there is the awareness around our bodies, our illnesses, and our limitations. There’s a saying attributed to Hippocrates that extreme remedies are appropriate for extreme diseases. Machiavelli made the classical suggestion for those facing crucial political problems: ‘’One never seeks to avoid one trouble without running into another; prudence consists in knowing how to distinguish the character of troubles, and for choice to take the lesser evil’’
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