Tsoncho Tsonchev

Freedom and Happiness:

The Dystopian Visions of Dostoyevsky and Zamyatin

"Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and pursuit, is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason, the good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim. But a certain difference is found among the ends..." These are the opening words of Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics. They raise more questions than answers. For example: What is the end of all ends? How do we learn about the final end? And what if our personal ends are manipulated by some "soft" or "hard" power, that is, through deception or coercion? How do we know that the ends we pursue are our own ends and not someone else's? Whom may we trust? Who takes the "burden" of responsibility and gives us criteria for proper aims and proper means? Who is the "mediator" between us and the desired, between what "is" and what "ought" to be: Is it our senses? Or our reason? Science and technology? Some authority? Or our inner feeling?... In this short presentation, I search for answers to these questions, discussing Dostoyevsky's Story of the Grand Inquisitor and its less-known sequel, Yevgeny Zamyatin's dystopia We that served for a model of two great books—Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and Orwell's 1984.