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The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays (1942)

by Albert Camus

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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5,901341,390 (3.97)69
One of the most influential works of this century, this is a crucial exposition of existentialist thought. Influenced by works such as Don Juan and the novels of Kafka, these essays begin with a meditation on suicide: the question of living or not living in an absurd universe devoid of order or meaning. With lyric eloquence, Camus posits a way out of despair, reaffirming the value of personal existence, and the possibility of life lived with dignity and authenticity.--From publisher description.… (more)
  1. 30
    The Fall by Albert Camus (WilfGehlen)
    WilfGehlen: The Fall brings to mind The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, by Coleridge--tales that attempt to imbue the innocent with the wisdom of experience.
  2. 22
    Moby Dick by Herman Melville (WilfGehlen)
    WilfGehlen: Camus was greatly influenced by Melville and in The Myth of Sisyphus mentions Moby-Dick as a truly absurd work. Reading Moby-Dick with Camus' absurd in mind gives a deeper, and very different insight than provided by the usual emphasis on Ahab's quest for revenge.… (more)

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"“I hate my time,” Saint-Exupery wrote shortly before his death,
for reasons not far removed from those I have spoken of. But,
however upsetting that exclamation, coming from him who loved
men for their admirable qualities, we shall not accept responsibility
for it. Yet what a temptation, at certain moments, to turn one’s
back on this bleak, fleshless world! But this time is ours, and we
cannot live hating ourselves"
  roseandisabella | Mar 18, 2022 |
"Sisyphus is ultimately happy." ( )
  chrisvia | Apr 30, 2021 |
In this essay published in 1942, Albert Camus sets out his theory of the “absurd.” According to the biographer Herbert Lottman, Camus intended this essay to be published as part of a cycle. The other works were his novel, The Stranger, and his play, Caligula, both of which deal with an individual’s confrontation with the absurd. In the event, each of these works was ultimately published separately. A more contemporary work that can be fruitfully analyzed from the standpoint of the absurd is the film Groundhog Day.

The essay has four parts. The first part, an Absurd Reason, explains how an individual’s reason discovers and confronts the absurd and the various consequences that can come from that. The second part is the Absurd Man, which consists of the presentation of three types of characters who in Camus’s view live the life of an individual who recognizes the absurd without seeking to escape from or resign oneself to it. The third part, Absurd Creation, looks at the treatment of the absurd in artistic creation, specifically literature. Finally, the fourth part, the Myth of Sisyphus, presents Camus’s theory in the form of his interpretation of the Greek myth of Sisyphus. There is also an appendix, Hope and the Absurd in the Work of Franz Kafka. This was originally a chapter in the third part but was excluded by the censors when the essay was first published in France. In later editions it was added as an appendix. In 1942, its place in the essay was taken by a chapter on Dostoevsky.

In the first part, Camus uses Absurd Reason to analyze the meaninglessness of life and to reject suicide as a response to it. He defines the absurd as a relationship or comparison involving a contradiction or an impossibility. On the one hand is humankind with its reason and desire for clarity and on the other is the world which confronts it. The absurd arises from the confrontation of the individual and the world but also is the only thing that unites them. Examples of things that give rise to the absurd include mortal man’s revolt against time, the separation of man from nature, the mechanical or routine life of men (as Sartre portrayed it in Nausea) and death itself. The individual seeks to understand the world, to clarify it by his reason, and instead finds the world to be irrational. Reason has limits that prevent it from achieving an understanding of the irrational and unifying the world.

Camus reviews the identification of the absurd in the works of thinkers like Heidegger (consciousness of anxiety leads to anguish), Jaspers (despairs of reason transcending the world of appearances and looks for a solution in religion), and Kierkegaard (discovered the absurd and lived it for most of his life). However, these existentialists philosophers and many other thinkers (Nietzsche, Husserl, Chestov and Scheler) cannot accept the limits imposed by reason. They criticize reason for its failures and look for ways to go beyond reason. They want to escape from or overcome the absurd, rather than face its consequences.

Camus takes a different approach (and denies being an existentialist). The issue is how to respond to the absurd. In this regard, he asks if there is a logic of the absurd, which could lead to physical suicide (escaping the absurd by ending life) or philosophical suicide (escaping the absurd by means of religion as proposed by Kierkegaard and Jaspers, other irrational solutions or by pushing reason beyond its limits, such as Husserl’s project of using transcendental reason to identify the essence of experiences described by the phenomenological method). Camus rejects these escapes, which all lead to illusion. The individual must abandon hope for these kinds of solutions. However, Camus also rejects resigning oneself to the absurd or to despair.

His ideal is the absurd man who revolts against the absurd -- revolts by refusing to try to escape from it and by living and asserting his life despite the ultimate meaninglessness of existence. What are the consequences of this revolt? One dies unreconciled with the irrationality of the world. One has liberty of action in this life but no eternal salvation. One has a passion for life in the present without hope for the future.

In the second part of his essay, the Absurd Man, Camus gives three examples of character types who live their lives in revolt against the absurd and make no appeal to, and entertain no hope for, eternity beyond this life. They face life and the absurd clearly but do not despair. Because they are innocent, they are neither moral nor immoral. Although Camus was a young man when he wrote this essay, each of these types can be seen as based on his own experiences. First, there is Don Juan, who lives a life of sensuality. He seeks quantity, not quality, in love. Rather than give himself to one great love that lasts until death (and is a form of escape from the absurd), he lives his life in the moment and pursues love after love. It is not that he grows tired of his lovers, but that he wants more. He recognizes and accepts the challenges that he will face in old age. Second, there is the actor who explores many lives in the roles he takes on. He can experience an entire life in three hours on the stage. Finally, there is the adventurer or conqueror who dives into the world of his time. He picks action over contemplation; he is a man of action who thinks. His goal is to conquer life and himself. He may conquer geographic territories or he may choose to fight for lost causes. He chooses an active life over the illusion of eternal salvation. Prometheus is the model for this character, and the revolt of the individual who seeks to make himself in life begins by the rejection of religion. This character will be further examined in Camus’s work The Rebel. Camus emphasizes that these three characters are not models but rather examples. Indeed, he says any occupation or lifestyle can be lived in revolt against the absurd, including the life of the functionary, the president of the Republic and the chaste.

In the third part, Camus looks at the portrayal of the absurd man in artistic creation and in particular in literature. Camus asserts that artistic creation is the greatest joy to be derived from the absurd. The work of art marks the point where reason reaches its limits and the passion of the absurd begins. To create is to live two times. Lucid thinking recognizes the absurd but the work of art renounces the illusion that reason can explain the absurd. The absurd creator does not make the creation into the end of his life, which would be to make his creation into an escape from life and the absurd. Like Rimbaud, the creator renounces his work by going to Abyssinia, i.e., moving onto the next project. In the novel, there is a tension between recognizing the absurd and the temptation to explain it. Camus analyzes the response to the absurd in the Possessed by Dostoevsky and, in the appendix, Kafka’s The Trial and The Castle.

In the last part, Sisyphus is the absurd hero. His destiny is tragic because it consists of useless labor rolling a rock up the hill only to have it roll back down again and having to begin the work again, without hope of ever ending the cycle. It is his consciousness of his fate that makes it tragic. But by scorning his fate he also overcomes the tragedy and the absence of hope. Indeed, by defying the absurdity of his fate, he finds happiness. Happiness and the absurd go together; you cannot have one without the other, just like you cannot have shade without the sun. As he approaches his rock for the next labor up the mountain, Sisyphus realizes that his fate belongs to him. It is his rock. “The struggle toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.” Whatever life we choose, we will come up against the absurd. By confronting it, and not trying to escape into illusions, we can still find happiness and meaning.

Why did a young man like Camus make the “absurd” the central concept of life? Putting aside his readings of the philosophers and other sources, we obviously see the wars of the 20th century looming over him. But he also confronted the “absurd” in his own life: diagnosed with tuberculosis at age 17, he had to give up his beloved soccer and other strenuous outdoor activities as well as being foreclosed from becoming a teacher in the French school system, which would have been a clear career path for him. His response was to live by his writing, and in the result he became one of the great French literary figures of the 20th century. ( )
  drsabs | Feb 15, 2021 |
The Myth of Sisyphus: Intellectualized Hedonism and Nietzsche's' Superman

The Myth of Sisyphus winding, loosely organized book that repeats the same ideas dozens of times, folding back in on itself and contradicting itself over and over again. It is an easy read, a poetic read, but does not contain clear answers to any of the questions regarding life and happiness it sets out to answer. Nietzsche argued that "Such [existentialist, Absurd] distress always permits a variety of interpretations'' and does not have to lead to Nihilism; Optimism and pessimism are equally valid outcomes of experience. Camus agrees on principle but dedicated his life to charting a course through Nihilism to a reason to live, and a reason to choose happiness. Dostoevskian language is presuppositionally and ironically situated at the foundation of Camus' works. In The Myth, he attempts to create a new synthesis beyond the Dostoevskian universe in which the Myth of Sisyphus can be happy precisely because he is without hope. Yet his poetry rings derivative; he tries to create a paradox but because Absurdism contains no preternatural element, it ends up with a poetic contradiction. This expressed goal of charting a way to a happy life (mind you, not a meaningful life, but simply not a suicidal life) through The Absurd desert of French Neo-Nihilism remains unrealized.

This is why I think it's important to point out the Emperor Wears No Clothes when it comes to the Neo-Nihilists like Bukowski, Camus, Sartre, and Vonnegut; these ‘modern’ philosophers are peddling a very old, very dangerous creed as something new, beautiful, and progressive. And the vague moderns at the beginning of the 21st century are buying into it nearly as much as those at the beginning of the 20th did, despite it having 100's of millions of nooks carved into the stock of its rifle. So many moderns that this re-packaging of Nihilism is different from the creed of Stalin, Lenin, and Pol Pot. It's not. And I fear about the future of a world who does not see anything wrong with the semi-Nihilistic, amoral poison Camus took from Nietzsche and is peddling to the modern man. Opening oneself to "the gentle indifference of the universe" is precisely why the Nihilistic society of 1940's Germany stood by and did nothing; Nietzsche and Camus' ideal man (superman) is a terrifying and inhuman species. Those who applaud Camus' Nihilism do not understand how deep the well from which they drink runs.

The Absurd

The Absurd is a Kierkegaardian concept which Camus hijacks and adopts as his own. The Absurd is the realization of the disconnect between the cold, agnostic, and meaningless universe and the finite and infinite realities of the individuals' consciousness. It is a "metaphysical state of the unconscious man" and is "lucid reason noting its own limits... The absurd is essentially a divorce. It lies in neither of the elements compared; it is born of their confrontation". It is the existentialist reality the human mind finds itself trapped in.

The Existentialist, unconscious, and uninterrupted state of the individual is the only actual reality we can know, Camus argues. All of history that came before the individual's experience with reality is meaningless and has not led us to progress, but the realization that progress is meaningless since there can be no goal for humanity to seek in the religion of Absurdism. Camus writes, "The primitive hostility of the world rises up to face us across millennia" and that the dizziness, this absence of an anchor is the only reality one can know. He writes, "This incalculable tumble before the image of what we are, this "nausea," as a writer of today calls it, is also the absurd."

Camus plagiarized the idea of the Absurd directly from Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard's definition from his 1849 Journals was published a century before Camus was born:
"What is the Absurd? It is, as may quite easily be seen, that I, a rational being, must act in a case where my reason, my powers of reflection, tell me: you can just as well do the one thing as the other, that is to say where my reason and reflection say: you cannot act and yet here is where I have to act... The Absurd, or to act by virtue of the absurd, is to act upon faith ... I must act, but reflection has closed the road so I take one of the possibilities and say: This is what I do, I cannot do otherwise because I am brought to a standstill by my powers of reflection."

The material universe is meaningless in-and-of itself. On this, Camus tracks with Kierkegaard and Dostoevsky. Camus writes, "Everything is ordered in such a way as to bring into being that poisoned peace produced by thoughtlessness, lack of hearing, or fatal renunciations... This world is not reasonable; that is all that can be said. But what is absurd is the confrontation of this irrational and the world longing for clarity whose call echoes in the human heart. The absurd depends as much on man as on the world." Camus takes the irrationality of the raw world as the only truth, which other philosophers moved beyond to find external, ambient meaning.

In the Myth, Camus expands the understanding of The Absurd to near cosmic applicability; Rick & Morty is Absurdist fiction; really, any engagement with the world is a type of Absurdism. There is scant any work of art that cannot be understood as engaging the question of the Absurd. Melville, Hemmingway, Faulkner are all detailed as examples by Camus. The odd exception is Conrad's Heart of Darkness. As I was reading Camus' thoughts on literature and The Absurd, this is the first and strongest example that came to mind, and I'm surprised Camus does not mention it.

Camus does not refine the concept of The Absurd further than Kierkegaard; rather, he makes it more ambiguous. Somehow, even after heavily plagiarizing Dostoevsky and Kierkegaard, he managed to move backward in both definitions and analysis. Presumably, a thinker tries to progress the field by standing on the shoulders of those who came before him; Camus does the opposite. He takes their questions and thoughts, creates a shoddy and half-baked reconstruction of them, and then bigotedly asserts everyone is wrong, but his non-answer is somehow better and correct. Everything is meaningless, except his philosophy that states that everything is meaningless, which has meaning. Somehow he expects us to take this dodge of the question as an answer.

Know Thyself

Camus elucidates several touchpoints between his philosophy and the Existentialists he discusses and agrees with them on three major points. First, he asserts that one may not fully know oneself. This is expressed by the Cockney philosopher G.K. Chesterton as "Every man has forgotten who he is. One may understand the cosmos, but never the ego; the self is more distant than any star. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, but thou shalt not know thyself." Kierkegaard and Dost also agree with this; we can't know ourselves directly. Only in relationship with external beings do we find and understand our own reality. Kierkegaard penned this as "only in relationship with the other am I free".

He explains his rejection of self-knowledge within The Absurd very poetically: "This heart within me I can feel, and I judge that it exists. This world I can touch, and I likewise judge that it exists. There ends all my knowledge, and the rest is construction... They reveal a nostalgia at the same time as an ignorance. They are sterile exercises on great subjects. They are legitimate only in precisely so far as they are approximate."

Secondly, he asserts that ideology dominates and defines a man. He writes, "There exists an obvious fact that seems utterly moral, namely, that a man is always a prey to his truths. Once he has admitted them, he cannot free himself from them. One has to pay for something." Dostoevsky could not agree more. What we believe, not on the surface, but in our deepest parts, determines how our internal universes interact with those around us. This idea that belief proceeds action is contrary to traditional Nihilism, which asserts nothing is connected due to the inherently chaotic nature of the universe. Within Dostoevskian psychology, the philosophic beliefs of the individual interact with their own internal world in a dynamic, not linear, fashion, but they do predestination their vessels to a certain number of possible fates.
Thirdly, he believes in unity and 'purity' of philosophic truth, writing about his belief in "that nostalgia for unity, that appetite for the absolute illustrates the essential impulse of the human drama." He is not a relativist at all. He believes, like Kierkegaard and Dostoevsky, that either "everything is true or everything is false," as noted in the courtroom scene in The Stranger. He, I would argue, correctly asserts that truth is under no obligation to be good for the individual nor society. This is one of the few points upon which the Christian Existentialists agree with the Agnostic Nihilists.

Despite these deviances from Classical Nihilism, he still makes the loci of happiness and morality the individual’s will. He writes that the Absurd man "argues that Nihilism does not endorse evil behavior, but restores an ambivalence to it as the consequences are all the same for all actions." Camus states that mass-murder really isn't a big deal morally and tries to justify this by drawing a distinction that does not exist. When the murder kneels in awful dread at the blood on his hands, Camus does not do so much as hand him a tissue. When humanity faced it's darkest hours in the Holocaust, The Absurd Man simply shrugs. Nihilism, It's 19th and 20th centuries as much as these modern manifestations, does not care about the well-being of the human race on an individual or collective level.

Dostoevsky predicted philosophers like Camus a decade before. Camus very dogmatically and enthusiastically does exactly what Dostoevsky predicts in Demons; "The very distinction between evil and good begins to fade and disappear." Camus is very clear that there is no such thing as good and evil objectively. Murder is as legitimate and "good" as almsgiving. Camus understands the dangers of pure Nihilism, but Absurdism delivers the human being to the same place at the end of the day. Genocide is not good, but it's also not bad either in Absurdism. But saying that rape is "not bad" and saying that it is good is not functionally different from each other. This is linguistic gymnastics. And Camus expects us to be fine with that. But I say The Emperor Wears no Clothes: Camus is hypocritical and sick for his refusal to call evil evil.

Camus agrees with Dostoevsky that Nihilism (honest Atheism in its fully realized form) leads to the death of the individual. But to the Absurd Man, this doesn't matter.

In the Myth of Sisyphus, Camus describes Meursault's conclusions: "He recognizes the struggle, does not absolutely scorn reason, and admits the irrational. This he again embraces in a single glance all of the data of experience, and he is little inclined to leap before knowing. He knows simply that in that alert awareness, there is no further place for hope." Meursault's racist murder of a random human being does not bother him even a little bit. There is no remorse, no repentance, no change of any kind. Mersault says, "I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world. Finding it so much like myself – so like a brother, really- I felt that I had been happy and that I was happy again." And this is Camus' dogma of depravity; murder, racism, sexism, even rape is not wrong, and there is no reason anyone should have a conscious about it. Do what you want, when you want, for whatever reason you want.

Camus is certainly not popular due to his philosophic or intellectual merits. He can only speak to edgy hedonists who are looking to justify their self-described "rebel" lifestyle, although these non-conformists inevitably all end up identical in their refusal to take moral and ethical questions seriously. The philosophy of Camus is poorly intellectualized Hedonism.

The Modified Nietzschean Superman of France

Despite so many criticisms of historic Nihilism, he still has kept the most dangerous aspects of Nihilism. Just like Nietzsche, Camus asks us to believe that apathy towards others –towards everything- and living in complete egotism is what it means to be human. He believes that individual happiness is more important than Goodness; just like his Atheistic predecessors, he finds beauty in the resonance of words, the sensual sensations and does not ask the eternal questions correctly. It is a foundation of Hedonism. He believes that hope in the infinite, the afterlife, in real justice, in other people, is what causes unhappiness. I dogmatically disagree.

Absurdism hates hope; it states that hope is a sign of a weak mind that has not fully understood the dim reality of its own existence. In The Stranger, every character has some form of hope except The Absurd Man, Meursault. This is a question Camus does not really expand upon to much in The Stranger or The Myth, nor does he explain away the theme of hope in the Romantic writers, which engage the concept of the Absurd as much as he does. Yet in Neither Victims nor Executioners, he asserts Dostoevskian dogmas: "No worthwhile life is possible without projection onto the future, without promise of development and progress." The differences between his religious and political teachings are a mess. Either way, Camus must have been absolutely mortified at the ending of Count of Monte Cristo.
Chesterton wrote about how Nietzsches' philosophy, so perfectly captured by Camus in The Stranger, is the death of what it means to be human:

"Nietzsche's Superman [Ideal human] is cold and friendless. Achilles is so foolishly fond of his friend that he slaughters armies in the agony of his bereavement. Mr. Shaw's sad Caesar says in his desolate pride, "He who has never hoped can never despair." The Man-God of old answers from his awful hill, "Was ever sorrow like unto my sorrow?" A great man is not a man so strong that he feels less than other men; he is a man so strong that he feels more. And when Nietzsche says, "A new commandment I give to you, 'be hard,'" he is really saying, "A new commandment I give to you, 'be dead.'" Sensibility [emotional response to meaning] is the definition of life." (Heretics, 1905)

What a flawless description of Meursault. Becoming The Absurd Man is the death of one's humanity; Meursault died long before he saw the guillotine.

Functional Fatalism & Theodicy

The Plague is a good place to discuss Camus' haphazard use of Theodicy. Camus, in the tradition of Nietzsche, argues against Materialistic Determinism from a psychological causality standpoint. Yet in the Myth, he articulates a practical Predestination while avoiding the question altogether, writing "knowing whether a man is free or not doesn't interest me." But functionally speaking, he denies free human agency by embracing Materialistic Determinism. He is trying to chart a way for the individual to choose to embrace the irrationality of the universe and remain free; but this is a contradiction. It has long been noted by everyone from Plato to Jung that without the supernatural there can be no possibility of free human agency to choose anything.

This refusal to seriously engage the topic of Determinism explains why he flippantly addresses Theodicy in The Plague and The Myth: "You know the alternative: either we are not free and God the all-powerful is responsible for evil. Or we are free and responsible, and God is not all-powerful. All the scholastic subtleties have neither added anything nor subtracted anything from the acuteness of this paradox." While he asserts these very Platonic rational sequences, he denies the very legitimacy of this kind of logic elsewhere. He selectively engages the aspects of reasoning that supports his presuppositional Atheism, refuses to take it seriously, and then throws his hands up and says, "it's all meaningless!" When he encounters the absurd hypocrisy and internal contradictions of his own thinking.

This is Poetry, not Philosophy. Camus here relies on the emotional resonance of the words to sound profound, but French Existentialism truly is all Sound and Fury. It's profoundly meaningless and self-serving bordering Solipsistic. French Existentialism is about as useful as a fork in a soup house.

The Myth of Sisyphus is a perfect representation of the secular bigotry noted by the cockney philosopher in 1905:
"In real life, the people who are most bigoted are the people who have no convictions at all. It is the vague modern who is not at all certain what is right who is most certain that Dante was wrong."
Camus has no answers. He only has criticism and lyricism. It is easy to judge, but difficult to think honestly. Camus is asking us to believe only those who come to the same non-conclusions as he does.
Camus was right to reject the title of 'Existentialist.' While his thinking does reject external frameworks (in theory) and does identify the locus of reality at the individuals' level, but he's the antipodal expression of Existentialism; he practices anti-existentialism. He founds a religion of negation that only affirms the impulses of the natural state, whether they be murder or marriage, to Camus. "It doesn't matter. Nothing matters". He threw out the very basis of the subject-object dichotomy and shared reality, negating the possibility of truth. Kierkegaard solved the problem of The Absurd by accepting God's preemptive breach of Ontological reality; Camus rejects this because it leads to meaning, real meaning, and he lives in the shadows of criticism and negation while claiming to hold no dogma. There's a difference between Existentialism and Nihilistic Anxiety, and nothing about Camus deserves to be titled as Existentialism. He plagiarizes the original Existentialists but has nothing original to say himself.

Existentialism asks the question, "we find within ourselves to commit unspeakable evil- what does this mean to our humanity?" We are all Raskolnikov, and we are all Meursault. Camus gets at least this far. But he stops there, and never gives the question an honest shake. This is precisely why he is not an Existentialist nor a legitimate philosopher; he is an apologist of Nothingness. He criticizes what he admits he does not care enough to understand (after all, everything is meaningless), and adds nothing to any conversation. He expresses dogma while claiming he has none. He describes the existentialist state of consciousness, but refuses to accept the ramifications it has on the human condition, retreating into a focus on the physical sensations of the present to escape the eternal questions and has the audacity to call this cowardice "authentic living."

Schiller sees beauty and finds Goodness; Dostoevsky and Gregory of Nyssa experience beauty and find God; Camus sees beauty and somehow manages to fall into an endless abyss. I've never found a writer who takes moral questions more seriously than Dostoevsky, and I've never found writers who respond to ethical questions with more self-righteous dismissive flippancy than Bukowski and Camus.
Camus is to Existentialism what Nietzsche is to theology; the Grand Canyon. People come from all over to peer into the explicit absence of something. Camus has the shape of Existentialism, but not the content.

Camus and the Copenhagen Thinker

Camus offers a chaotic and contradictory analysis of Kierkegaardian thinking. He wrongly characterizes Kierkegaard's thinking as the "the absurd becomes god," even after admitting he does not really understand Kierkegaard. That much is obvious to anyone who has spent time in the Kierkegaardian universe. The Absurd does not replace God in Kierkegaardian theology; rather, God, through the incarnation, breaches the Ontologic gap and defeats the darkness brought in to the human soul by the Absurd.

Camus states he rejects Kierkegaard because he moved beyond this "metaphysical state" of the Absurd into something beyond it, which he argues pulls the rug out from under his feet, erasing the foundation which began his search from meaning in the first place. Here Camus makes an arrogant mistake; he assumes Kierkegaard negates the Absurd in his "leap." He says that Kierkegaard applies the attributes into the nature of God "unjust, incoherent and incomprehensible" and that this leap to faith is an escape. Camus comments that Kierkegaard was "consumed by his God," and the Absurd becomes God in his thinking. Yet Kierkegaardian Mysticism teaches the exact opposite about the nature of God. Camus here creates a strawman of Kierkegaardian Epistemology; Kierkegaard does not stake the defeat of the Void on God's transcendence, but His Knowability and intimacy as Man Himself. Kierkegaard wrote;

"What, then, is the absurd? The absurd is that the eternal truth has come into existence in time, that God has come into existence, has been born, has grown up. etc., has come into existence exactly as an individual human being."

It is Theantropic/ Incarnational theology, which is at the crux of his hope; that this Otologic gap was breached in the most literal, real way possible. The God-Man paid the debt of The Absurd in full and reconciled the human soul through the 'relationship with the other.' It is precisely The Christian faith's dogma that God is Just, unified in purpose and knowable that Kierkegaard founds all of his hope upon. Camus simply lies about what Kierkegaard teaches. He's clearly read Kierkegaard, so there is no other option other than a willful and deliberate misrepresentation of his writings.

Camus writes "His childhood having been so frightened by Christianity, he ultimately returns to its harshest aspect" And later writes "god is maintained only through the negation of human reason," which is the eventual sacrifice of pure logic to life; the leap to a faith which leads one out of the hopelessness of the irrational universe. He writes, "the spiritual adventure that leads Kierkegaard to his beloved scandals begins likewise in the chaos of an experience divested of its setting and relegated to its original incoherence." He does fail to mention that the very idea of the Absurd comes directly from Kierkegaard, and his description of The Absurd is nearly thought-for-thought plagiarized from him. For Kierkegaard, human reason is divine in nature; God is maintained by reason and vice versa; Nihilism perfectly displays the necessity of this Antinomy, but Camus distorts and maligns to refute thinkers that come to different conclusions than him.

Camus directly contradicts himself in the same chapter, writing, "Rather than encountering here a taste for the concrete, the meaning of the human condition, I find an intellectualism sufficiently unbridled to realize the concrete itself." And then later, he does admit that Kierkegaard maintains the same starting point as he does- in the absurd- and "lives in the absurd" throughout his thinking, including in his leap to faith. Which completely contradicts his reason for rejecting Kierkegaard in the first place. Thus we are left in the same place we started with; Camus' "way of life" (read: religion) is internally inconsistent, based on lyricism and contrarianism.

Camus neglects to understand that deep within the Christian life as seen by Kierkegaard is an individualized, violent warfare with one's self and self-knowledge. Kierkegaard writes in "Training in Christianity" exactly this struggle with "The Absurd" in which the imitation of Christ is as much of an Existentialist effort as anything possibly could be. Only in "relationship with the other" is the individual actually free to engage in a truly authentic encounter with the self. Camus refuses to acknowledge Kierkegaard's arguments that such a positive faith and personal Goodness only comes from a withering encounter with evil; no disciple of the Theanthropos becomes such without dwelling in the desert of The Absurd first; all Christians have walked through the valley of the shadow of death, i.e., the Absurd.

Camus relies on a fatal over-simplification of Kierkegaardian Absurdity. The experienced realization of that darkness, that disconnect which surrounds the human soul, does not necessitate the disconnect of real agency, but rather precisely the opposite, according to Kierkegaard, and Camus never explains why it should. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark, but it's not Kierkegaard. The Aristocracy of Camus is one of intellectual cowardice.

The Leap of Nihilism

The ruler by which he is using to judge Hegel, Heidegger, Kierkegaard, and Dostoevsky by is "I merely have to wonder if the spectacle of the absurd and its own character justifies it... my reasoning wants to be faithful to the evidence which aroused it" and later "I don't know if this world has a meaning that transcends it. But I know that I do not know that meaning and that I am impossible for me just now to know it. What can a meaning outside my condition mean to me?" That is, whether their thinking is faithful to the penultimate reality of The Absurd. Implicit in Camus' methodology is a belief that he does not assert truth beyond the limits of the Absurd. But he does. And herein lies his leap out of the Absurd and into religious dogma.

The cockney philosopher wrote a perfect description of what Camus is doing here decades before Camus was even born:

"That peril is that the human intellect is free to destroy itself. Just as one generation could prevent the very existence of the next generation, by all entering a monastery or jumping into the sea, so one set of thinkers can in some degree prevent further thinking by teaching the next generation that there is no validity in any human thought, it is idle to talk always of the alternative of reason and faith. Reason is itself a matter of faith. It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all. If you are merely a skeptic, you must sooner or later ask yourself the question, 'Why should ANYTHING go right; even observation and deduction? Why should not good logic be as misleading as bad logic? They are both movements in the brain of a bewildered ape?' The young skeptic says, 'I have a right to think for myself.' But the old skeptic, the complete skeptic, says, "I have no right to think for myself. I have no right to think at all." (Orthodoxy, 1908)

Camus criticizes the original Existentialists for "making a leap," which goes beyond the void of the absurd, but he does not admit that he also makes multiple leaps. First, Camus fails to explain why the void called the Absurd necessitates any intellectual scrutiny of anything at all; why, after realizing the existence of the Absurd, do anything? The real, consistent Nihilist does not write philosophy books; they just find the nearest bridge. And secondly, Camus claims he is consistent within The Absurd, but he uses criteria that exist outside of it to judge other philosophies. There is nothing about The Absurd which tells its inhabitants to use it as a measure to criticize different ideologies. Yet he has taken it upon himself to attack other philosophies using the inconsistent doctrine he constructed himself.

Camus & the Deliberate Distortion of Dostoevsky

To say Camus was enamored by Dostoevsky is an understatement. Dostoevsky was the reason he did not become an advocate for Marxism and the Soviet Union, unlike his friends Sartre did who argued no human rights could every be violated under Communism, which is one of the reasons Camus is widely read and Satre is not; Camus was vindicated in many of his political views he gained from Dostoevsky.
He described his encounter with Dostoevsky's novels as a spiritual and life-changing experience. He encountered in the Russian theologian's fiction a vivid, haunting, and magnetic world of flesh-and-blood rebels, peasants, seekers, and saints dramatically living out all the great spiritual problems of human existence. Camus found him to be the prophet of the 20th century and his Proto-Existentialism to be profoundly accurate. Yet Camus encountered a problem; he was an avowed Atheist, and his religion was his entire reality and purpose for living, and Dostoevsky, at the close of the day, looked only to the living person of Christ as the savior of the realities. So, he set about dedicating his life to coming to a different conclusion as Dostoevsky, while working in an Absurd world that he admits, only Dostoevsky understood fully. The outcome of the clash is a-symmetrical and confusing; Camus admits himself he never could find a reason for life and happiness beyond Theism, but still, he tried. And Western society desperately wants this path and has resurrected Camus to try to give it to them.

In Ray Davison's 1997 book "Camus: The Challenge of Dostoevsky" he writes:
"A favored strategy of Camus in his response to other writers; he frequently uses their works, less perhaps for their autonomous or inherent interest, but more for the particular moments when they either significantly coincide or enter into conflict with his own, sometimes ignoring the specific meanings of various details within the individual author's worlds and, consequently, laying himself open to the charge of distortion."

And with Dostoevsky, the reason for his dishonesty is obvious; he is incapable of disproving Dostoevsky's Anti-Nihilistic polemics wrong. Instead of responding to them, he responds to a distorted caricature of his arguments and observations. Anyone who has read even one or two of Dostoevsky's novels can see an obvious and dishonest representation of the Russian writer.

Dostoevsky himself takes aim at the faulty preconceptions Camus uses in The Myth of Sisyphus in his 1872 novel Demons (Бѣсы) before Camus was even born: "There has never yet been a nation without a religion, that is, without an idea of evil and good... When many nations start having common ideas of evil and good [that is, when nations start believing they are truly non-religious], then the nations die out, and the very distinction between evil and good begins to fade and disappear. Reason has never been able to define evil and good, or even to separate evil from good, if only approximately; on the contrary, it has always confused them, shamefully and pitifully, and Half-Science has offered the solution of the fist."

Even more specifically, Dost refutes the specific strand French Nihilism of which Camus is a product. His character Lebedev, in The Idiot, muses, "You don't believe in the Devil? Disbelief in the devil is a French idea. It is a flippant idea. Do you know who the devil is? Do you know what his name is? Not knowing even his name, you laugh at his exterior form, following the example of Voltaire, at his hoofs, his tail and horns, which you have invented yourselves, for the evil spirit is a great and ruthless spirit, but he has not the hoofs and the horns you have invented for him."

In Demons, Dostoevsky describes the strawman fallacies Camus would level against him a century later, ironically. This desperate and reaching criticism of Dostoevsky fall flat at the dark history of Nihilism's 20th century.

Selective Deconstructivism

Classical Nihilism, Absurdism, and other deconstructivist ideologies are never consistent within themselves. The real and true Nihilist does not concern himself with articulating his philosophy to others; he simply finds the nearest bridge. They may correctly point out that other ideologies are social constructs, but they conveniently never turn their criticism to the scaffolding upon which they are standing.
While not an ideological relativist, he is a selective Neo-Nihilist. He practices the same Selective Deconstructivism found in every Agnostic creed, which strips meaning from everything until one is left holding nothing but one's own ego. It tries to come off as academic but ends up being derivative. Camus is essentially saying, "I reject your meaning because it's all made up. Now I'm going to make up my own meaning" and we are asked to pretend that that is not self-defeating and hypocritical. If you are making up your own meaning, why are you dogmatically condemning religious people for that exact same reason? If reality is fundamentally meaningless, why are you preaching about it?

Camus is truly enamored by Dostoevsky; Dostoevskian suspicion is the only constant across his philosophic, fictional and political works. He writes that Dostoevsky is indeed a true existentialist who understood the Absurd, writing that "It is possible to be Christian and absurd...The surprising reply of the creator to his characters, of Dostoevsky to Kiriloc, can indeed be summed up this: existence is illusory, and it is eternal." Yet then later rejects Dostoevsky for going beyond the Absurd, thus invalidating his opinions, which he later refers to as "prophetic." This blatant contradiction in Camus' philosophy should discredit Camus' worldview, but for some reason, Camus has a market in post-Christian Nihilistic societies. If you want intelligent commentary on the human experience, look elsewhere.

Camus the man lived a subjective and hedonistic life, enjoying his fame as a "philosopher." And his playboy lifestyle reflects his philosophy; he wrote only to justify seeking pleasure. While Dostoevsky spent time imprisoned in Siberia for his search for truth and fought the tide of popular opinion and Kierkegaard spent his entire life fighting for what was right against society, dying penniless and hated by society in the streets of Copenhagen, Camus died rich and famous with a Nobel Prize. Looking at the contrast between Saint Bonhoeffer, who died at the end of a thin metal wire trying to save Jews, and the lives of the Neo-Nihilists like Camus, who said the Holocaust was "neither wrong nor right" should tell you everything you need to know about Absurdism. Camus is an apologist of genocide and Hedonism, and his lifestyle reflected this. He gave the people what they wanted: that my self-absorbed lifestyle is perfectly fine and I need to change nothing. A good philosopher, moral theologian, or Existentialist should never be popular in his or her lifetime; it shows that they are giving people what they want, not challenging them to be better than they are.
There is no genius in Camus, only poetic, lyrical detachment from Goodness.

Camus the Bigot

Camus puts on display how deeply presuppositional secular apologetics really is. He accuses the Existentialist of making a jump but makes huge assumptions within Absurdism. Camus deliberately misrepresents Christian Theology, Kierkegaardian Existentialism, and Dostoevskian Sociology to dodge the most important questions. He accuses them of bigotry, but at least they stood for something and are consistent within themselves. But Camus, the ultimate bigot, states, "Nothing is correct, I am not correct, but you are all wrong, and I am right."

Camus states that Dostoevsky does not put as much thought in his Nihilistic characters as his other characters, although he doesn't cite any evidence and quickly changes the subject. Not only is this cowardly 'attack,' but factually wrong. Dostoevsky himself was an Atheist in his youth, a revolutionary Socialist progressive, and his participation in these nihilistic radical circles in pre-Bolshevik Russia is exactly what landed him in Siberia doing hard time. The personal attacks Camus uses illustrate that he really does not understand what either of them teaches, which he admits later openly; he is openly aporetic in The Myth but continues to preach.

Camus' attempts at heresy and being a self-styled rebel are desperate and lackluster. Dostoevsky has out-heresied the heretics; Kierkegaard has described a darker, deeper, and more senseless Absurd abyss than Nietzsche ever sketched. Nowhere in literature will you find a finer defense of Atheism than in Karamazov. Nowhere in Nihilistic literature will you find a finer specimen of a young Nihilist than in Arkady Dolgoruky. Nowhere will you find a greater rebellion than in Raskolnikov; find a more honest grappling with the question of suicide than in Prince Myoshkin; no example in global literature of a more serious, raw, and terrifying encounter with The Absurd than in Notes from Underground. And you will find a no finer blasphemy in Camus than is already fully expressed in Dostoevsky.

At one point, Camus writes, "no metaphysic, no belief is involved in it for the moment," which is a funny thing to say when you are writing a book denouncing other people's religion. After going on for chapters and chapters about how he's right and everyone else is wrong, he tries to dodge criticism by saying that Absurdism "merely represents a style of life." This is intellectual cowardice if I've ever seen it.
Camus sees himself as not merely a rebel, but a transcendent rebel. He sees himself above criticism, above reply, precisely because he only holds himself to the chaos of his unconscious reality.

Camus' Suicide of Humanity

"The only question that matters" to Camus receives no discernable answer other than emotional Hedonism. "Choosing to be happy" in a sense Camus means it is to choose Hedonism wrapped in a thin pseudo-intellectual wrapping. To say that life is worth living with any weight requires divergence from The Absurd; Camus is unwilling to do this, and so his belief that life is worth living remains without foundation. He never gives a clear reason why life should be chosen over death, why one should choose happiness over misery, only poetic soliloquy. He repeatedly states that there is no reason that life is a better choice than death because everything is inherently meaningless. If you are looking for a reason why the godless and egotistic life is worth living, Camus does not provide an answer to this original question he sets out to answer. The Myth of Sisyphus, failing to be consistent with the philosophy it espouses, is devoid of anything real.

Ironically, Camus gives us the antidote to his semi-Nihilism in his polemics. To the Snake Oil salesman, the dedicated scientist is his greatest enemy. And we see Camus raising the alarm at the cure to his venom; Kierkegaard and Dostoevsky. Both of them have walked through the valley; they have spent time in the void Camus describes. And you will find, to this day, no refutation more thorough and complete of the half-baked pseudo-philosophers of the Atheistic West like Camus than those thinkers who have returned from the void changed into something not transcendent or 'beyond human'; but more deeply human than ever before. Camus remains in the void; Dostoevsky defeated it.

Camus rages against the penultimate, antipodal opposite of Dogmatic Nihilistic Atheism: Orthodox Christianity. He does not take aim at Buddhism, Gnosticism, Unitarianism or Astrology, but only sees Orthodox Christianity as a real threat to his teachings. And he is correct to do so; the opposite of Nihilism is the religion of life. Dogmatic mystical Orthodoxy asserts positively that the world is dripping in ambient meaning, that suffering is salvific, not empty, that the darkness within and around us has a powerful answer, that people matter and how to treat them has eternal ramifications stretching throughout the realities in all directions; that there is a God, but he is not the caged dog of our preconceptions, and that He bridged the emptiness of the Absurd and held victory over this Nothingness of death; that the longings of the senses of the body and mind have ultimate fulfillment in the hope of the life to come; Resurgam; that life is worth meaning precisely because there is a life to come; that there is justice for evil done in this life beyond the earth. Nothing is more terrifying to an ideology that exists to destroy meaning than the defeat of death and the restoration of existentialist relationship by quenching the void of The Absurd with the eternal, transcendent, and deeply human creator.

Camus is revered in the secular West for reasons that baffle me. I cannot find a single original thought nor any consistency in his cockamamie presuppositionalist French version of Nihilism. I can only explain his popularity by pointing out his audience is the 'vague modern' who has never read Dostoevsky nor Kierkegaard, and only read for emotional validation, wanting a simple and dismissive explanation of the original Existentialists so that they don't have to think for themselves or (God forbid) challenge their lifestyle. They want an excuse to "live in the moment" (read: avoid moral agency) and never have to engage in painful self-reflection and deal with the darkness they find within themselves or struggle with any of the Ancient questions seriously. Absurdism provides this. The watered-down semi-Nihilism of Camus and Bukowski is much easier to swallow than the pure and consistent Nihilism of Nietzsche, but it is just as fatal to the human soul and the search for truth. To the idea of Camus being considered a good, or even legitimate philosopher; I say the Emperor wears no clothes. Everything profound in his writings, he plagiarized from Fyodor and Soren. He is a dogmatist and a half-baked bigoted one at that.
I went line-by-line through his works: not one sentence I had not already read in Kierkegaard and Dostoevsky (all published a century before he was even born). This is not hyperbole; he plagiarized every single thought; even his semi-Nihilism is identical to the Nihilism practiced by Dostoevsky's characters. Only those who have never read Kierkegaard, Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, and Hemmingway could be led into the idea he was an original thinker or a thinker by any measure.

He relies on the emotional resonance of words to create a sense of profundity or meaning, but this kinetic friction of the senses off of the material environment is lyrical, not meaningful. There is nothing eternal or transcendent here; only poorly intellectualized Hedonism. He is a poet, not a philosopher. Perhaps a good poet, but the religion he peddles is an old and dangerous creed, and the questions he is asking in the first place are fundamentally flawed and derivative. In The Myth, he calls his philosophic beliefs an "intellectual sickness" and writes, "Let me repeat. None of this has any real meaning". Let's all take Camus at his word: there's nothing to see here beyond the darkness Dostoevsky told the world was coming a century before.

There are no Absurdists; no real Mearsaults. We all believe fairy tales and live in them in every moment. Some believe in the existence of hope; some hold the undemonstrable dogma of God's existence, some equally in the undemonstrable dogma of their own consciousness, like Nietzsche and his disciples. ( )
  tnewcomb | Jun 5, 2020 |
Wow, this book has the most laborious prose ever put to page....I mean, It's just awful! May be the only work from Camus I ever read. Is that unfair? Was he just aping the writing style of the philosophers of the day? I don't know if I care! ( )
  markhopp | Mar 2, 2020 |
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O my soul, do not aspire to immortal life, but exhaust the limits of the possible.--Pindar, Pythian iii
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There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide.
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Alt det som får mennesket til å arbeide og uroe seg, benytter seg av håpet. Den eneste tanke som ikke er løgnaktig, er altså en ufruktbar tanke.
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Please use this work only for editions containing the following set of essays: The myth of Sisyphus -- Summer in Algiers -- The minotaur, or, The stop in Oran -- Helen's exile -- Return to Tipasa -- The artist and his time.
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One of the most influential works of this century, this is a crucial exposition of existentialist thought. Influenced by works such as Don Juan and the novels of Kafka, these essays begin with a meditation on suicide: the question of living or not living in an absurd universe devoid of order or meaning. With lyric eloquence, Camus posits a way out of despair, reaffirming the value of personal existence, and the possibility of life lived with dignity and authenticity.--From publisher description.

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