Albert Camus () gives a quite different account of philosophy and politics of In The Myth of Sisyphus Camus elucidates this concept of the absurd . Oct 29, In his essay, The Myth of Sisyphus, Camus recounts the story of the mortal Sisyphus—condemned by the gods to roll a stone up a mountain for. 5; also quoted in Albert Camus and the Philosophy of the Absurd () by Avi Sagi, p. 43 .. The Myth of Sisyphus and other essays by Albert Camus, An Absurd .. his victim of the date on which he would inflict a horrible death on him and who, . Widely attributed to Camus on the internet, the earliest attribution of such a.
The Myth of Sisyphus - Wikipedia
This divorce between man and his life, the actor and his setting, is properly the feeling of absurdity. Like great works, deep feelings always mean more than they are conscious of saying. Great novelists are philosopher novelists — that is, the contrary of thesis-writers. We get into the habit of living before acquiring the habit of thinking. Great feelings take with them their own universe, splendid or abject. They light up with their passion an exclusive world in which they recognize their climate.
There is a universe of jealousy, of ambition, of selfishness or generosity. A universe — in other words a metaphysic and an attitude of mind. But I know that I cannot know that meaning and that it is impossible for me just now to know it. At any street corner the feeling of absurdity can strike any man in the face. It happens that the stage sets collapse.
Rising, streetcar, four hours in the office or the factory, meal, streetcar, four hours of work, meal, sleep and Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday and Saturday according to the same rhythm — this path is easily followed most of the time.
But one day the "why" arises and everything begins in that weariness tinged with amazement. If I try to seize this self of which I feel sure, if I try to define and to summarize it, it is nothing but water slipping through my fingers. I can sketch one by one all the aspects it is able to assume, all those likewise that have been attributed to it, this upbringing, this origin, this ardor or these silences, this nobility or this vileness.
But aspects cannot be added up. I do not want to found anything on the incomprehensible. I want to know whether I can live with what I know and with that alone. Everything considered, a determined soul will always manage. What can a meaning outside my condition mean to me?
I can understand only in human terms. What I touch, what resists me — that I understand. And these two certainties — my appetite for the absolute and for unity and the impossibility of reducing this world to a rational and reasonable principle — I also know that I cannot reconcile them.
What other truth can I admit without lying, without bringing in a hope I lack and which means nothing within the limits of my conditions? Knowing whether or not one can live without appeal is all that interests me. Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal. This quotation is from Notebook IV in Notebooks: The quotation appears in none of Camus books you find in bookstores.
The absurd is the essential concept and the first truth. To two men living the same number of years, the world always provides the same sum of experiences. It is up to us to be conscious of them. The preceding merely defines a way of thinking. But the point is to live. At this point of his effort man stands face to face with the irrational.
He feels within him his longing for happiness and for reason. The absurd is born of this confrontation between the human need and the unreasonable silence of the world. This must not be forgotten. This must be clung to because the whole consequence of a life can depend on it. The irrational, the human nostalgia, and the absurd that is born of their encounter — these are the three characters in the drama that must necessarily end with all the logic of which an existence is capable.
A man defines himself by his make-believe as well as by his sincere impulses. The Absurd Man[ edit ] There is but one moral code that the absurd man can accept, the one that is not separated from God: That innocence is to be feared. All systems of morality are based on the idea that an action has consequences that legitimize or cancel it.
A mind imbued with the absurd merely judges that those consequences must be considered calmly. What, in fact, is the Absurd Man? He who, without negating it, does nothing for the eternal.
Not that nostalgia is foreign to him. But he prefers his courage and his reasoning. The first teaches him to live without appeal and to get along with what he has; the second informs him of his limits. Assured of his temporally limited freedom, of his revolt devoid of future, and of his mortal consciousness, he lives out his adventure within the span of his lifetime. There can be no question of holding forth on ethics.
I have seen people behave badly with great morality and I note every day that integrity has no need of rules. There is but one moral code that the absurd man can accept, the one that is not separated from God: But it so happens that he lives outside that God. As for the others I mean also immoralismthe absurd man sees nothing in them but justifications and he has nothing to justify.
I start out here from the principle of his innocence. That, too, smacks of the absurd. But on condition that it not be taken in a vulgar sense. I don't know whether or not it has been sufficiently pointed out that it is not an outburst of relief or of joy, but rather a bitter acknowledgment of a fact. The absurd does not liberate; it binds. It does not authorize all actions. It is ready to pay up.
Albert Camus - Wikiquote
In other words, there may be responsible persons, but there are no guilty ones, in its opinion. At very most, such a mind will consent to use past experience as a basis for its future actions. Time will prolong time, and life will serve life.
In this field that is both limited and bulging with possibilities, everything to himself, except his lucidity, seems unforeseeable to him. What rule, then, could emanate from that unreasonable order? The only truth that might seem instructive to him is not formal: The absurd mind cannot so much expect ethical rules at the end of its reasoning as, rather, illustrations and the breath of human lives.
A sub-clerk in the post office is the equal of a conqueror if consciousness is common to them. All experiences are indifferent in this regard. There are some that do either a service or a disservice to man. They do him a service if he is conscious. Otherwise, that has no importance: Absurd Creation[ edit ] In that daily effort in which intelligence and passion mingle and delight each other, the absurd man discovers a discipline that will make up the greatest of his strengths.
Outside of that single fatality of deatheverythingjoy or happinessis liberty. To become god is merely to be free on this earth, not to serve an immortal being. Kirilov Existence is illusory and it is eternal. Kirilov There is no mystery in humans creation. Will performs this miracle. But at least there is no true creation without a secret.
Kirilov If the world were clear, art would not exist. One recognizes one's course by discovering the paths that stray from it. To work and create "for nothing," to sculpture in clay, to know one's creation has no future, to see one's work destroyed in a day while being aware that fundamentally this has no more importance than building for centuries — this is the difficult wisdom that absurd thought sanctions. Performing these two tasks simultaneously, negating on the one hand and magnifying on the other, it the way open to the absurd creator.
He must give the void its colors. A profound thought is in a constant state of becoming; it adopts the experience of a life and assumes its shape. Likewise, a man's sole creation is strengthened in its successive and multiple aspects: One after another they complement one another, correct or overtake one another, contradict one another, too. If something brings creation to an end, it is not the victorious and illusory cry of the blinded artist: That effort, that superhuman consciousness are not necessarily apparent to the reader.
There is no mystery in human creation. To be true, a succession of works can be but a series of approximations of the same thought. But it is possible to conceive of another type of creator proceeding by juxtaposition. Their words may seem to be devoid of inter-relations, to a certain degree, they are contradictory. But viewed all together, they resume their natural grouping. Of all the schools of patience and lucidity, creation is the most effective.
It is also the staggering evidence of man's sole dignity: It calls for a daily effort, self-mastery, a precise estimate of the limits of truth, measure, and strength. It constitutes an ascesis. All that "for nothing," in order to repeat and mark time. But perhaps the great work of art has less importance in itself than in the ordeal it demands of a man and the opportunity it provides him of overcoming his phantoms and approaching a little closer to his naked reality.
Ironic philosophies produce passionate works. Any thought that abandons unity glorifies diversity! And diversity is the home of art. The only thought to liberate the mind is that which leaves it alone, certain of its limits and of its impending end. No doctrine tempts it. It awaits the ripening of the work and of life. In that daily effort in which intelligence and passion mingle and delight each other, the absurd man discovers a discipline that will make up the greatest of his strengths.
The required diligence and doggedness and lucidity thus resemble the conqueror's attitude. To create is likewise to give a shape to one's fate. For all these characters, their work defines them at least as much as it is defined by them. The actor taught us this: There is no frontier between being and appearing.
Outside of that single fatality of death, everything, joy or happiness, is liberty. The world evades us because it becomes itself again.
That stage scenery masked by habit becomes what it is. It withdraws at a distance from us. If the only significant history of human thought were to be written, it would have to be the history of its successive regrets and its impotences.
A fate is not a punishment. Indeed the killing takes place almost as if by accident, with Meursault in a kind of absent-minded daze, distracted by the sun. From this point of view, his crime seems surreal and his trial and subsequent conviction a travesty. The significantly named Jean-Baptiste Clamence a voice in the wilderness calling for clemency and forgiveness is tortured by guilt in the wake of a seemingly casual incident.
While strolling home one drizzly November evening, he shows little concern and almost no emotional reaction at all to the suicidal plunge of a young woman into the Seine.
But afterwards the incident begins to gnaw at him, and eventually he comes to view his inaction as typical of a long pattern of personal vanity and as a colossal failure of human sympathy on his part. Wracked by remorse and self-loathing, he gradually descends into a figurative hell. In the final sections of the novel, amid distinctly Christian imagery and symbolism, he declares his crucial insight that, despite our pretensions to righteousness, we are all guilty.
Hence no human being has the right to pass final moral judgment on another. In a final twist, Clamence asserts that his acid self-portrait is also a mirror for his contemporaries. Hence his confession is also an accusation—not only of his nameless companion who serves as the mute auditor for his monologue but ultimately of the hypocrite lecteur as well.
At heart a nature-worshipper, and by instinct a skeptic and non-believer, Camus nevertheless retained a lifelong interest and respect for Christian philosophy and literature. In particular, he seems to have recognized St.
Augustine and Kierkegaard as intellectual kinsmen and writers with whom he shared a common passion for controversy, literary flourish, self-scrutiny, and self-dramatization. Christian images, symbols, and allusions abound in all his work probably more so than in the writing of any other avowed atheist in modern literatureand Christian themes—judgment, forgiveness, despair, sacrifice, passion, and so forth—permeate the novels.
Meursault and Clamence, it is worth noting, are presented not just as sinners, devils, and outcasts, but in several instances explicitly, and not entirely ironically, as Christ figures. Meanwhile alongside and against this leitmotif of Christian images and themes, Camus sets the main components of his essentially pagan worldview.
Like Nietzsche, he maintains a special admiration for Greek heroic values and pessimism and for classical virtues like courage and honor. What might be termed Romantic values also merit particular esteem within his philosophy: Can an absurd world have intrinsic value?
Is authentic pessimism compatible with the view that there is an essential dignity to human life? They are almost a hallmark of his philosophical style. Oracular and high-flown, they clearly have more rhetorical force than logical potency. Surprisingly, the sentiment here, a commonplace of the Enlightenment and of traditional liberalism, is much closer in spirit to the exuberant secular humanism of the Italian Renaissance than to the agnostic skepticism of contemporary post-modernism.
History and Mass Culture A primary theme of early twentieth-century European literature and critical thought is the rise of modern mass civilization and its suffocating effects of alienation and dehumanization.
This became a pervasive theme by the time Camus was establishing his literary reputation. Anxiety over the fate of Western culture, already intense, escalated to apocalyptic levels with the sudden emergence of fascism, totalitarianism, and new technologies of coercion and death.
He responded to the occasion with typical force and eloquence. Even his concept of the Absurd becomes multiplied by a social and economic world in which meaningless routines and mind-numbing repetitions predominate. The drudgery of Sisyphus is mirrored and amplified in the assembly line, the business office, the government bureau, and especially in the penal colony and concentration camp. In line with this theme, the ever-ambiguous Meursault in The Stranger can be understood as both a depressing manifestation of the newly emerging mass personality that is, as a figure devoid of basic human feelings and passions and, conversely, as a lone hold-out, a last remaining specimen of the old Romanticism—and hence a figure who is viewed as both dangerous and alien by the robotic majority.
Similarly, The Plague can be interpreted, on at least one level, as an allegory in which humanity must be preserved from the fatal pestilence of mass culture, which converts formerly free, autonomous, independent-minded human beings into a soulless new species.
It was, above all, a shrewd, unflagging adversary; a skilled organizer, doing his work thoroughly and well. Clad in a gaudy military uniform bedecked with ribbons and decorations, the character Plague a satirical portrait of Generalissimo Francisco Franco—or El Caudillo as he liked to style himself is closely attended by his personal Secretary and loyal assistant Death, depicted as a prim, officious female bureaucrat who also favors military garb and who carries an ever-present clipboard and notebook.
So Plague is a fascist dictator, and Death a solicitous commissar. Together these figures represent a system of pervasive control and micro-management that threatens the future of mass society.
The myth of Sisyphus, and other essays.
In his reflections on this theme of post-industrial dehumanization, Camus differs from most other European writers and especially from those on the Left in viewing mass reform and revolutionary movements, including Marxism, as representing at least as great a threat to individual freedom as late-stage capitalism.
Throughout his career he continued to cherish and defend old-fashioned virtues like personal courage and honor that other Left-wing intellectuals tended to view as reactionary or bourgeois.
In Caligula the mad title character, in a fit of horror and revulsion at the meaninglessness of life, would rather die—and bring the world down with him—than accept a cosmos that is indifferent to human fate or that will not submit to his individual will. Like Wittgenstein who had a family history of suicide and suffered from bouts of depressionCamus considered suicide the fundamental issue for moral philosophy. However, unlike other philosophers who have written on the subject from Cicero and Seneca to Montaigne and SchopenhauerCamus seems uninterested in assessing the traditional motives and justifications for suicide for instance, to avoid a long, painful, and debilitating illness or as a response to personal tragedy or scandal.
Indeed, he seems interested in the problem only to the extent that it represents one possible response to the Absurd. His verdict on the matter is unqualified and clear: Executions by guillotine were a common public spectacle in Algeria during his lifetime, but he refused to attend them and recoiled bitterly at their very mention. Condemnation of capital punishment is both explicit and implicit in his writings.
The grim rationality of this process of legalized murder contrasts markedly with the sudden, irrational, almost accidental nature of his actual crime. Similarly, in The Myth of Sisyphus, the would-be suicide is contrasted with his fatal opposite, the man condemned to death, and we are continually reminded that a sentence of death is our common fate in an absurd universe.
Like Victor Hugo, his great predecessor on this issue, he views the death penalty as an egregious barbarism—an act of blood riot and vengeance covered over with a thin veneer of law and civility to make it acceptable to modern sensibilities. That it is also an act of vengeance aimed primarily at the poor and oppressed, and that it is given religious sanction, makes it even more hideous and indefensible in his view.
To all who argue that murder must be punished in kind, Camus replies: For there to be an equivalency, the death penalty would have to punish a criminal who had warned his victim of the date on which he would inflict a horrible death on him and who, from that moment onward, had confined him at his mercy for months.
Such a monster is not to be encountered in private life. Camus concludes his essay by arguing that, at the very least, France should abolish the savage spectacle of the guillotine and replace it with a more humane procedure such as lethal injection.
But he still retains a scant hope that capital punishment will be completely abolished at some point in the time to come: Existentialism Camus is often classified as an existentialist writer, and it is easy to see why. Affinities with Kierkegaard and Sartre are patent. He shares with these philosophers and with the other major writers in the existentialist tradition, from Augustine and Pascal to Dostoyevsky and Nietzsche an habitual and intense interest in the active human psyche, in the life of conscience or spirit as it is actually experienced and lived.
Like these writers, he aims at nothing less than a thorough, candid exegesis of the human condition, and like them he exhibits not just a philosophical attraction but also a personal commitment to such values as individualism, free choice, inner strength, authenticity, personal responsibility, and self-determination. However, one troublesome fact remains: Was this an accurate and honest self-assessment? In their view, Camus qualifies as, at minimum, a closet existentialist, and in certain respects e.
On the other hand, besides his personal rejection of the label, there appear to be solid reasons for challenging the claim that Camus is an existentialist.
Of course there is no rule that says an existentialist must be a metaphysician. Another point of divergence is that Camus seems to have regarded existentialism as a complete and systematic world-view, that is, a fully articulated doctrine. In his view, to be a true existentialist one had to commit to the entire doctrine and not merely to bits and pieces of itand this was apparently something he was unwilling to do. A further point of separation, and possibly a decisive one, is that Camus actively challenged and set himself apart from the existentialist motto that being precedes essence.
Ultimately, against Sartre in particular and existentialists in general, he clings to his instinctive belief in a common human nature. In his view human existence necessarily includes an essential core element of dignity and value, and in this respect he seems surprisingly closer to the humanist tradition from Aristotle to Kant than to the modern tradition of skepticism and relativism from Nietzsche to Derrida the latter his fellow-countryman and, at least in his commitment to human rights and opposition to the death penalty, his spiritual successor and descendant.
He truly lived his philosophy; thus it is in his personal political stands and public statements as well as in his books that his views are clearly articulated.
In short, he bequeathed not just his words but also his actions. The result is something like a cross between Hemingway a Camus favorite and Melville another favorite or between Diderot and Hugo.
The myth of Sisyphus, and other essays (eBook, ) [babae.us]
For the most part when we read Camus we encounter the plain syntax, simple vocabulary, and biting aphorism typical of modern theatre or noir detective fiction. However, this base style frequently becomes a counterpoint or springboard for extended musings and lavish descriptions almost in the manner of Proust. It is also a moral and political statement.
It says, in effect, that the life of reason and the life of feeling need not be opposed; that intellect and passion can, and should, operate together. Perhaps the greatest inspiration and example that Camus provides for contemporary readers is the lesson that it is still possible for a serious thinker to face the modern world with a full understanding of its contradictions, injustices, brutal flaws, and absurdities with hardly a grain of hope, yet utterly without cynicism.
To read Camus is to find words like justice, freedom, humanity, and dignity used plainly and openly, without apology or embarrassment, and without the pained or derisive facial expressions or invisible quotation marks that almost automatically accompany those terms in public discourse today. At Stockholm Camus concluded his Nobel acceptance speech with a stirring reminder and challenge to modern writers: References and Further Reading a.
Works by Albert Camus The Stranger. The Myth of Sisyphus and other Essays. A philosophical meditation on suicide originally published as Le Mythe de Sisyphe by Librairie Gallimard in Exile and the Kingdom.
Lyrical and Critical Essays. A selection of critical writings, including essays on Melville, Faulkner, and Sartre, plus all the early essays from Betwixt and Between and Nuptials. Resistance, Rebellion, and Death. A collection of essays on a wide variety of political topics ranging from the death penalty to the Cold War.
Caligula and Three Other Plays. Sisyphus by TitianChapter 4: The Myth of Sisyphus[ edit ] In the last chapter, Camus outlines the legend of Sisyphus who defied the gods and put Death in chains so that no human needed to die. When Death was eventually liberated and it came time for Sisyphus himself to die, he concocted a deceit which let him escape from the underworld.
After finally capturing Sisyphus, the gods decided that his punishment would last for all eternity. He would have to push a rock up a mountain; upon reaching the top, the rock would roll down again, leaving Sisyphus to start over. Camus sees Sisyphus as the absurd hero who lives life to the fullest, hates death, and is condemned to a meaningless task. Camus presents Sisyphus's ceaseless and pointless toil as a metaphor for modern lives spent working at futile jobs in factories and offices.
But it is tragic only at the rare moments when it becomes conscious. After the stone falls back down the mountain Camus states that "It is during that return, that pause, that Sisyphus interests me.
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A face that toils so close to stones is already stone itself! I see that man going back down with a heavy yet measured step toward the torment of which he will never know the end. He does not have hope, but "there is no fate that cannot be surmounted by scorn.