Dostoevsky once wrote: “If God did not exist, everything would be permitted”; and that, for existentialism, is the starting point. Everything is indeed permitted if God does not exist, and man is in consequence forlorn, for he cannot find anything to depend upon either within or outside himself. He discovers forthwith, that he is without excuse. For if indeed existence precedes essence, one will never be able to explain one’s action by reference to a given and specific human nature; in other words, there is no determinism – man is free, man is freedom. Nor, on the other hand, if God does not exist, are we provided with any values or commands that could legitimise our behaviour. Thus we have neither behind us, nor before us in a luminous realm of values, any means of justification or excuse. – We are left alone, without excuse. That is what I mean when I say that man is condemned to be free. Condemned, because he did not create himself, yet is nevertheless at liberty, and from the moment that he is thrown into this world he is responsible for everything he does. The existentialist does not believe in the power of passion. He will never regard a grand passion as a destructive torrent upon which a man is swept into certain actions as by fate, and which, therefore, is an excuse for them. He thinks that man is responsible for his passion.
--Jean-Paul Sartre, "Existentialism is a Humanism," 1946
All right. Does anybody out there in LJ land know if the quote Sartre attributes to Dostoevsky is accurate? I have never actually made it all the way through The Brothers Karamazov, which is supposedly the source of the quote, but a little googling around seems to indicate that Sartre took the sense of a phrase that's repeated in the book-- "...everything is lawful" --and sort of made up the rest.
Anybody got a definitive answer?
(This is not a request for people to run right out and google for me. I have done that part already. However, I know there are at least two people with degrees in Russian literature reading this: I am looking for an expert answer.)