"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 perceptions. The most
fundamental idea, the idea of existence, has not been received by
me through sensation; indeed, there is no special sense-organ for
the transmission of such an idea."
"Yes, but they--Wurt, and Knaust, and Pripasov--would answer
that your consciousness of existence is derived from the
conjunction of all your sensations, that that consciousness of
existence is the result of your sensations. Wurt, indeed, says
plainly that, assuming there are no sensations, it follows that
there is no idea of existence."
"I maintain the contrary," began Sergey Ivanovitch.
But here it seemed to Levin that just as they were close upon the
real point of the matter, they were again retreating, and he made
up his mind to put a question to the professor.
"According to that, if my senses are annihilated, if my body is
dead, I can have no existence of any sort?" he queried.
The professor, in annoyance, and, as it were, mental suffering
at the interruption, looked round at the strange inquirer, more
like a bargeman than a philosopher, and turned his eyes upon
Sergey Ivanovitch, as though to ask: What's one to say to him?
But Sergey Ivanovitch, who had been talking with far less heat
and one-sidedness than the professor, and who had sufficient
breadth of mind to answer the professor, and at the same time to
comprehend the simple and natural point of view from which the
question was put, smiled and said:
"That question we have no right to answer as yet."
"We have not the requisite data," chimed in the professor, and he
went back to his argument. "No," he said; "I would point out the
fact that if, as Pripasov directly asserts, perception is based
on sensation, then we are bound to distinguish sharply between
these two conceptions."
Levin listened no more, and simply waited for the professor to