Konstantin Levin felt himself morally pinned against a wall, and so he got hot, and unconsciously blurted out the chief cause of his indifference to public business.
“Perhaps it may all be very good; but why should I worry myself about establishing dispensaries which I shall never make use of, and schools to which I shall never send my children, to which even the peasants don’t want to send their children, and to which I’ve no very firm faith that they ought to send them?” said he.
Sergey Ivanovitch was for a minute surprised at this unexpected view of the subject; but he promptly made a new plan of attack. He was silent for a little, drew out a hook, threw it in again, and turned to his brother smiling.
“Come, now.... In the first place, the dispensary is needed. We ourselves sent for the district doctor for Agafea Mihalovna.”
“Oh, well, but I fancy her wrist will never be straight again.”
“That remains to be proved.... Next, the peasant who can read and write is as a workman of more use and value to you.”
“No, you can ask anyone you like,” Konstantin Levin answered with decision, “the man that can read and write is much inferior as a workman. And mending the highroads is an impossibility; and as soon as they put up bridges they’re stolen.”
“Still, that’s not the point,” said Sergey Ivanovitch, frowning. He disliked contradiction, and still more, arguments that were continually skipping from one thing to another, introducing new and disconnected points, so that there was no knowing to which to reply. “Do you admit that education is a benefit for the people?”
“Yes, I admit it,” said Levin without thinking, and he was conscious immediately that he had said what he did not think. He felt that if he admitted that, it would be proved that he had been talking meaningless rubbish. How it would be proved he could not tell, but he knew that this would inevitably be logically proved to him, and he awaited the proofs.
The argument turned out to be far simpler than he had expected.
“If you admit that it is a benefit,” said Sergey Ivanovitch, “then, as an honest man, you cannot help caring about it and sympathizing with the movement, and so wishing to work for it.”
“But I still do not admit this movement to be just,” said Konstantin Levin, reddening a little.
“What! But you said just now...”
“That’s to say, I don’t admit it’s being either good or possible.”
“That you can’t tell without making the trial.”
“Well, supposing that’s so,” said Levin, though he did not suppose so at all, “supposing that is so, still I don’t see, all the same, what I’m to worry myself about it for.”
“No; since we are talking, explain it to me from the philosophical point of view,” said Levin.
“I can’t see where philosophy comes in,” said Sergey Ivanovitch, in a tone, Levin fancied, as though he did not admit his brother’s right to talk about philosophy. And that irritated Levin.