Original: "если Бога нет - значит, все позволено" (yesli Boga net - znachit, vse pozvoleno)


The phrase, "esli Boga net--znachit, vsio pozvoleno" is subject to many interpretations after the dash: "If there is no God--" is unambiguous. The latter part says, "that means everything is" is also unambiguous. The verb, "pozvolit'" means to allow or permit, and it is used in the past passive participle. It does not, literally mean "lawful." The entire quotation is, "if there is no God, that means everthing is permitted/allowed/permissible." It seems that he is stating that immortality and the belief in God together impose the only real limits on what individuals can do, can permit themselves to do.

There is also a slightly later conversation with Alyosha in which Ivan refers to his own statement as quoted by Miusin, as "everything is pozvoleno."

That's quite correct. The Russian sources usually quote Dostoevsky like this: According to Dostoevsky, without God, "everything is permitted".

"Permitted" is the correct translation for the Russian word 'pozvoleno' ("lawful" is not as good, in Russian it would be 'zakonno'.)

The phrase is attributed to Ivan Karamazov - he did not say that explicitly, but he did confirm "everything is permitted" from the other characters in the context "if there is no God" or "if there is no afterlife".


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