Albert Camus: A Prophetic Voice

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The Ohio State University

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Over the past year I have been plumbing the philosophic and literary works of the "Existentialist" tradition in order to fully understand and elaborate on Albert Camus' notion of the Absurd, and to consider whether it is a tenable, humanist worldview in the modern climate. Specifically, I am interested in his proclamation in Ni Victimes, Ni Bourreaux (Neither Victims Nor Executioners) that, "henceforth, the only honorable course will be to stake everything on a formidable gamble: that words are more powerful than munitions." For Camus, the reasons to "reflect on murder and to make a choice" are not dictated from above nor as direct results of a systematized set of rules, but instead stem directly from a time when the “future [is] materially closed” to humanity and the need for lucidity and reason are of the utmost importance. Camus saw in the worldwide and systematic destruction of World War II a future plagued by despair and murder—a closed off, paralyzed fate. If, Camus argues, "Life has no validity unless it can project itself toward a future", then a closed off future is not one at all; it "is a dog’s life." Thus far in my research I have found that Camus' "Absurd logic" springs forth from a whole nexus of interlocking ideas spanning throughout other writers' oeuvres and is firmly situated in a philosophic and literary tradition. His notion of the Absurd provides a foundation for morality and meaning based not on religious or absolute systems, but on accepting one's condition and asserting one's freedom and responsibility. Hence, I argue that Camus was not just a man of his time, but that the legacy of his work has direct relevance to the exploration of the human condition in the 21st century.



Existentialism, Albert Camus, Continental Philosophy, Twentieth Century, Pacifism, Absurd