On arriving in Moscow by a morning train, Levin had put up at the house of his
elder half-brother, Koznishev. After changing his clothes he went down to his
brother's study, intending to talk to him at once about the object of his visit, and
to ask his advice; but his brother was not alone. With him there was a well-known
professor of philosophy, who had come from Harkov expressly to clear up a
difference that had arisen between them on a very important philosophical
question. The professor was carrying on a hot crusade against materialists.
Sergey Koznishev had been following this crusade with interest, and after
reading the professor's last article, he had written him a letter stating his
objections. He accused the professor of making too great concessions to the
materialists. And the professor had promptly appeared to argue the matter out.
The point in discussion was the question then in vogue: Is there a line to be
drawn between psychological and physiological phenomena in man? and if so,
Sergey Ivanovitch met his brother with the smile of chilly friendliness he always
had for everyone, and introducing him to the professor, went on with the
A little man in spectacles, with a narrow forehead, tore himself from the
discussion for an instant to greet Levin, and then went on talking without paying
any further attention to him. Levin sat down to wait till the professor should go,
but he soon began to get interested in the subject under discussion.
Levin had come across the magazine articles about which they were disputing,
and had read them, interested in them as a development of the first principles of
science, familiar to him as a natural science student at the university. But he had
never connected these scientific deductions as to the origin of man as an animal,
as to reflex action, biology, and sociology, with those questions as to the
meaning of life and death to himself, which had of late been more and more often
in his mind.
As he listened to his brother's argument with the professor, he noticed that they
connected these scientific questions with those spiritual problems, that at times
they almost touched on the latter; but every time they were close upon what
seemed to him the chief point, they promptly beat a hasty retreat, and plunged
again into a sea of subtle distinctions, reservations, quotations, allusions, and
appeals to authorities, and it was with difficulty that he understood what they
were talking about.
"I cannot admit it," said Sergey Ivanovitch, with his habitual clearness, precision
of expression, and elegance of phrase. "I cannot in any case agree with Keiss
that my whole conception of the external world has been derived from