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Dostoevsky on Self Deception

Dostoevsky on Self Deception

Dostoevsky don't lie to yourself illustration by Evan Robertson
"Above all, don't lie to yourself." - Fyodor Dostoevsky

This passage from The Brothers Karamazov is so awesome, we included the entire excerpt in our design to provide context for Dostoevsky's stunning insight into personal responsibility, clarity, and the dangers of self-deception.

While one may mistake this wisdom for mere platitude, we found the central theme inspired - that lying to oneself deranges the most basic tools of perception, like erasing the cardinal directions on a compass. If perception and experience help us orient ourselves in the world and to discern reality, then self-deception can be thought of as deliberate misperception, and self-induced blindness. As one's actions influence others and we learn to accept falsehoods as truth, then all of society can become deranged and unable to make proper sense of the world. All of this can be distilled to that one simple truth above all others: Don't lie to yourself.

For the illustration, I wanted to create something as simple and direct as Dostoevsky's words, and ideally to include the entire quotation somehow. Because the insight is about the inner reality of the psyche, I used the language to make the shape of a face. To represent the act of lying, a portion of the text is redacted. The black bands then serve as a blindfold, a self-inflicted denial of what one knows to be true that prevents the figure from perceiving reality. 

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Obvious State Don't Lie Dostoevsky art print by Evan Robertson 

The entire passage reads:

"And above all, do not be so ashamed of yourself, for that is at the root of it all… You have known for a long time what you must do. You have sense enough: don't give way to drunkenness and incontinence of speech; don't give way to sensual lust; and, above all, to the love of money. And close your taverns. If you can't close all, at least two or three. And, above all—don't lie... Above all, don't lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to such a pass that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love, and in order to occupy and distract himself without love he gives way to passions and coarse pleasures, and sinks to bestiality in his vices, all from continual lying to other men and to himself. The man who lies to himself can be more easily offended than any one. You know it is sometimes very pleasant to take offense, isn't it? A man may know that nobody has insulted him, but that he has invented the insult for himself, has lied and exaggerated to make it picturesque, has caught at a word and made a mountain out of a molehill—he knows that himself, yet he will be the first to take offense, and will revel in his resentment till he feels great pleasure in it, and so pass to genuine vindictiveness. But get up, sit down, I beg you. All this, too, is deceitful posturing..."

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