I Have a Euclidean, an earthly mind…

Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821 - 1881)

Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821 – 1881)

“…if God really exists and if he really has created the world, then, as we all know, he created it in accordance with the Euclidean geometry, and he created the human mind with the conception of only the three dimensions of space. And yet there have been and there still are mathematicians and philosophers, some of them indeed men of extraordinary genious, who doubt whether the whole universe, or, to put it more widely, all existence, was created only according to Euclidean geometry and they even dare to dream that two parallel lines which, according to Euclid, can never meet on earth, may meet somewhere in infinity. I, my dear chap, have come to the conclusion that if I can’t understand even that, then how can I be expected to understand about God? I humbly admit that I have no abilities for settling such questions. I have a Euclidean, an earthly mind, and so how can I be expected to solve problems which are not of this world. […] And so I accept God, and I accept him not only without reluctance, but, what’s more, I accept his divine wisdom and his purpose – which are completely beyond our comprehension. […] Anyway, you’d be surprised to learn, I think, that in the final result I refuse to accept this world of God’s, and though I know that it exists, I absolutely refuse to admit its existence. […] Let even the parallel lines meet and let me see them meet, myself – I shall see and I shall say they’ve met, but I still won’t accept it.”

From the novel “The brothers Karamazov” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky   (1880)

An excerpt from the chapter “The Brothers Get Acquainted” of the book five. Ivan, using ideas of non – Euclidean geometries as a metaphor, explains to his younger brotherAlyosha how it is possible for him to accept the existence of God and at the same time not to accept the existence of the world God has created. The “men of extraordinary genious”can be presumed to be Nikolai Ivanovich Lobatchevsky, János Bolyai and Bernhard Riemann.



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