A livingman can be enslaved and reduced to the historic condition of an object. But if he dies in refusing to be enslaved, he reaffirms the existence of another kind of human nature which refuses to be classified as an object.
Don't let them tell us stories. Don't let them say of the man sentenced to death "He is going to pay his debt to society," but: "They are going to cut off his head." It looks like nothing. But it does make a little difference. And then there are people who prefer to look their fate in the eye.
"Entre oui et non" in L'Envers et l'endroit (1937), translated as "Between Yes and No", in World Review magazine (March 1950), also quoted in The Artist and Political Vision (1982) by Benjamin R. Barber and Michael J. Gargas McGrath
Nous nous trompons toujours deux fois sur ceux que nous aimons: d'abord à leur avantage, puis à leur désavantage.
We always deceive ourselves twice about the people we love — first to their advantage, then to their disadvantage.
A novel is never anything but a philosophy put into images. And in a good novel, the whole of the philosophy has passed into the images. But if once the philosophy overflows the characters and action, and therefore looks like a label stuck on the work, the plot loses its authenticity and the novel its life. Nevertheless, a work that is to last cannot dispense with profound ideas. And this secret fusion between experiences and ideas, between life and reflection on the meaning of life, is what makes the great novelist.
Review of Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre, published in the newspaper Alger Républicain (20 October 1938), p. 5; reprinted in Selected Essays and Notebooks, translated and edited by Philip Thody
It is the failing of a certain literature to believe that life is tragic because it is wretched.
Life can be magnificent and overwhelming — that is its whole tragedy. Without beauty, love, or danger it would be almost easy to live. And M. Sartre's hero does not perhaps give us the real meaning of his anguish when he insists on those aspects of man he finds repugnant, instead of basing his reasons for despair on certain of man's signs of greatness. The realization that life is absurd cannot be an end, but only a beginning. This is a truth nearly all great minds have taken as their starting point. It is not this discovery that is interesting, but the consequences and rules of action drawn from it.
Review of Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre, published in the newspaper Alger Républicain (20 October 1938), p. 5; also quoted in Albert Camus and the Philosophy of the Absurd (2002) by Avi Sagi, p. 43
Perhaps we cannot prevent this world from being a world in which children are tortured. But we can reduce the number of tortured children. And if you don’t help us, who else in the world can help us do this?
Said at the Dominican Monastery of Latour-Maubourg (1948); reported in Resistance, Rebellion and Death (translation by Justin O'Brien, 1961), p. 73
We have exiled beauty; the Greeks took up arms for her.
"Helen's Exile" (1948)
We turn our backs on nature; we are ashamed of beauty. Our wretched tragedies have a smell of the office clinging to them, and the blood that trickles from them is the color of printer's ink.
"Helen's Exile" (1948)
Man cannot do without beauty, and this is what our era pretends to want to disregard. It steels itself to attain the absolute and authority; it wants to transfigure the world before having exhausted it, to set it to rights before having understood it. Whatever it may say, our era is deserting this world.
"Helen's Exile" (1948)
Toute idée fausse finit dans le sang, mais il s'agit toujours du sang des autres. C'est ce qui explique que certains de nos philosophes se sentent à l'aise pour dire n'importe quoi.
Mistaken ideas always end in bloodshed, but in every case it is someone else’s blood. That is why some of our thinkers feel free to say just about anything.
Actuelles I, 1950
Simone Weil, je le sais encore maintenant, est le seul grand esprit de notre temps et je souhaite que ceux qui le reconnaissent en reçoivent assez de modestie pour ne pas essayer d’annexer ce témoignage bouleversant.
Pour moi, je serais comblé si l’on pouvait dire qu’à ma place, et avec les faibles moyens don’t je dispose, j’ai servi à faire connaitre et à répandre son oeuvre dont on n’a pas encore mesuré tout le retentissement.
Simone Weil, I maintain this now, is the only greatspirit of our times and I hope that those who realize this have enough modesty to not try to appropriate her overwhelming witnessing.
For my part, I would be satisfied if one could say that in my place, with the humble means at my disposal, I served to make known and disseminate her work whose full impact we have yet to measure.
Variant translation: The only great spirit of our time.
As quoted in Between the Human and the Divine : The Political Thought of Simone Weil (1988) by Mary G. Dietz, Introduction, p. xiv
O light! This is the cry of all the characters of ancient drama brought face to face with their fate. This last resort was ours, too, and I knew it now. In the middle of winter I at last discovered that there was in me an invincible summer.
Return to Tipasa (1954)
Variant translation: In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.
As translated in Lyrical and Critical Essays (1968), p. 169; also in The Unquiet Vision : Mirrors of Man in Existentialism (1969) by Nathan A. Scott, p. 116
Hungary conquered and in chains has done more for freedom and justice than any people for twenty years. But for this lesson to get through and convince those in the West who shut their eyes and ears, it was necessary, and it can be no comfort to us, for the people of Hungary to shed so much blood which is already drying in our memories. In Europe's isolation today, we have only one way of being true to Hungary, and that is never to betray, among ourselves and everywhere, what the Hungarian heroes died for, never to condone, among ourselves and everywhere, even indirectly, those who killed them. It would indeed be difficult for us to be worthy of such sacrifices.
The Blood of the Hungarians (1957)
With rebellion, awareness is born.
As quoted in The Estranged God : Modern Man's Search for Belief (1966) by Anthony T. Padovano, p. 109
A living man can be enslaved and reduced to the historic condition of an object. But if he dies in refusing to be enslaved, he reaffirms the existence of another kind of human nature which refuses to be classified as an object.
"The Failing of Prophecy" in Existentialism Versus Marxism : Conflicting Views on Humanism (1966) by George Edward Novack
There is not love of life without despair about life.
Preface, Lyrical and Critical Essays (1970)
Accepting the absurdity of everything around us is one step, a necessary experience: it should not become a dead end. It arouses a revolt that can become fruitful.
"Three Interviews" in Lyrical and Critical Essays (1970)
Knowing that certain nights whose sweetness lingers will keep returning to the earth and sea after we are gone, yes, this helps us to die.
"The Sea Close By" in Lyrical and Critical Essays (1970)
Life continues, and some mornings, weary of the noise, discouraged by the prospect of the interminable work to keep after, sickened also by the madness of the world that leaps at you from the newspaper, finally convinced that I will not be equal to it and that I will disappoint everyone—all I want to do is sit down and wait for evening. This is what I feel like, and sometimes I yield to it.
"Letter to P.B." in Lyrical and Critical Essays (1970)
Autumn is a second Spring when every leaf is a flower.
As quoted in Visions from Earth (2004) by James R. Miller, p. 126
Ce que, finalement, je sais de plus sûr sur la morale et les obligations des hommes, c'est au football que je le dois.
All I know most surely about morality and obligations, I owe to football.
The direction of the world overwhelms me at this time. In the long run, all the continents (yellow, black and brown) will spill over onto Old Europe. They are hundreds and hundreds of millions. They are hungry and they are not afraid to die. We no longer know how to die or how to kill. We could preach, but Europe believes in nothing. So, we must wait for the year 1000 or a miracle. For my part, I find it harder and harder to live before a wall.
I may not have been sure about what really did interest me, but I was absolutely sure about what didn't.
Aujourd'hui maman est morte. Ou peut-être hier, je ne sais pas.
Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday; I can't be sure.
First sentences of the book; some translations retain the original Maman.
I hope the dogs don't bark tonight. I always think it's mine.
I was assailed by memories of a life that wasn't mine anymore, but one in which I'd found the simplest and most lasting joys.
Since we're all going to die, it's obvious that when and how don't matter.
Of course, I had to own that he was right; I didn't feel much regret for what I'd done. Still, to my mind, he overdid it, and I'd have liked to have a chance of explaining to him, in a quite friendly, almost affectionate way, that I have never been able to really regret anything in all my life. I've always been far too much absorbed in the present moment, or the immediate future, to think back.
The papers were always talking about the debt owed to society. According to them, it had to be paid. But that doesn't speak to the imagination. What really counted was the possibility of escape, a leap to freedom, out of the implacable ritual, a wild run for it that would give whatever chance for hope there was. Of course, hope meant being cut down on some street corner, as you ran like mad, by a random bullet. But when I really thought it through, nothing was going to allow me such a luxury. Everything was against it; I would just be caught up in the machinery again.
Everybody was privileged. There were only privileged people.
I may not have been sure about what really did interest me, but I was absolutely sure about what didn't.
[I]l me restait peu de temps. Je ne voulais pas le perdre avec Dieu.
I had only a little time left and I didn't want to waste it on God.
Maman used to say that you can always find something to be happy about.
I don't know why, but something inside me snapped. I started yelling at the top of my lungs, and I insulted him and told him not to waste his prayers on me. I grabbed him by the collar of his cassock. I was pouring out on him everything that was in my heart, cries of anger and cries of joy.
He seemed so certain about everything, didn't he? And yet none of his certainties was worth one hair of a woman's head. He wasn't even sure he was alive, because he was living like a dead man. Whereas it looked as if I was the one who'd come up emptyhanded. But I was sure about me, about everything, surer than he could ever be, sure of my life and sure of the death I had waiting for me. Yes, that was all I had. But at least I had as much of a hold on it as it had on me. I had been right, I was still right, I was always right. I had lived my life one way and I could just as well have lived it another. I had done this and I hadn't done that. I hadn't done this thing but I had done another. And so? It was as if I had waited all this time for this moment and for the first light of this dawn to be vindicated. Nothing, nothing mattered, and I knew why. So did he. Throughout the whole absurd life I'd lived, a dark wind had been rising toward me from somewhere deep in my future, across years that were still to come, and as it passed, this wind leveled whatever was offered to me at the time, in years no more real than the ones I was living. What did other people's deaths or a mother's love matter to me; what did his God or the lives people choose or the fate they think they elect matter to me when we're all elected by the same fate, me and billions of privileged people like him who also called themselves my brothers? Couldn't he see, couldn't he see that? Everybody was privileged. There were only privileged people. The others would all be condemned one day. And he would be condemned, too.
Gazing up at the dark sky spangled with its signs and stars, for the first time, the first, I laid my heart open to the benign indifference of the universe.
For the first time in a long time I thought about Maman. I felt as if I understood why at the end of her life she had taken a 'fiancé,' why she had played at beginning again. Even there, in that home where lives were fading out, evening was a kind of wistful respite. So close to death, Maman must have felt free then and ready to live it all again. Nobody, nobody had the right to cry over her. And I felt ready to live it all again too. As if the blind rage had washed me clean, rid me of hope; for the first time, in that night alive with signs and stars, I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world. Finding it so much like myself — so like a brother, really — I felt I had been happy and that I was happy again. For everything to be consummated, for me to feel less alone, I had only to wish that there be a large crowd of spectators the day of my execution and that they greet me with cries of hate.
Variant translation: I, too, felt ready to start life all over again. It was as if that great rush of anger had washed me clean, emptied me of hope, and, gazing up at the dark sky spangled with its signs and stars, for the first time, the first, I laid my heart open to the benign indifference of the universe. To feel it so like myself, indeed, so brotherly, made me realize that I’d been happy, and that I was happy still. For all to be accomplished, for me to feel less lonely, all that remained to hope was that on the day of my execution there should be a huge crowd of spectators and that they should greet me with howls of execration.
There is but one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy. All the rest – whether or not the world has three dimensions, whether the mind has nine or twelve categories – comes afterwards. These are games; one must first answer. And if it is true, as Nietzsche claims, that a philosopher, to deserve our respect, must preach by example, you can appreciate the importance of that reply, for it will precede the definitive act. These are facts the heart can feel; yet they call for careful study before they become clear to the intellect. If I ask myself how to judge that this question is more urgent than that, I reply that one judges by the actions it entails. I have never seen anyone die for the ontological argument.
The Myth of Sisyphus and other essays by Albert Camus, An Absurd Reasoning : Absurdity and Suicide p. 3 (1942, 1955)
Absurdity and Suicide
With the exception of professional rationalists, today people despair of true knowledge. If the only significant history of human thought were to be written, it would have to be history of its successive regrets and impotences.
What, then, is that incalculable feeling that deprives the mind of the sleep necessary to life? A world that can be explained even with bad reasons is a familiar world. But, on the other hand, in a universe suddenly divested of illusions and lights, man feels an alien, a stranger. His exile is without remedy since he is deprived of the memory of a lost home or the hope of a promised land. 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.
I don’t know whether this world has a meaning that transcends it. 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.
I don’t know whether this world has a meaning that transcends it. But I know that I cannot know that meaning and that it is impossible for me just now to know it. 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: 1942-1951, not Myth of Sisyphus. The quotation appears in none of Camus books you find in bookstores).
The absurd is the essential concept and the first truth.
Il n'y a qu'un problème philosophique vraiment sérieux : c'est le suicide. Juger que la vie vaut ou ne vaut pas la peine d'être vécue, c'est répondre à la question fondamentale de la philosophie. Le reste, si le monde a trois dimensions, si l'esprit a neuf ou douze catégories, vient ensuite. Ce sont des jeux; il faut d'abord répondre.
There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy. All the rest — whether or not the world has three dimensions, whether the mind has nine or twelve categories — comes afterward. These are games; one must first answer.
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.
Un homme se définit aussi bien par ses comédies que par ses élans sincères.
Translation: A man defines himself by his make-believe as well as by his sincere impulses.
There is but one moral code that the absurd man can accept, the one that is not separated from God: the one that is dictated … I start out here from the principle of his innocence.
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.
"My field," said Goethe, "is time." That is indeed the absurd speech. 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: the one that is dictated. But it so happens that he lives outside that God. As for the others (I mean also immoralism), the 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 innocence is to be feared. "Everything is permitted," exclaims Ivan Karamazov. 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. "Everything is permitted" does not mean that nothing is forbidden.
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. It is ready to pay up. 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: it comes to life and unfolds in men. 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: a man's failures imply judgment, not of circumstances, but of himself.
To become god is merely to be free on this earth, not to serve an immortal being.
Existence is illusory and it is eternal.
There is no mystery in humans creation. Will performs this miracle. But at least there is no true creation without a secret.
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: his works. 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: "I have said everything," but the death of the creator which closes his experiences and the book of his genius.
That effort, that superhuman consciousness are not necessarily apparent to the reader. There is no mystery in human creation. Will performs this miracle. But at least there is no true creation without a secret. 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: the dogged revolt against his condition, perseverance in an effort considered sterile. 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.
The actor’s realm is that of the fleeting.
This was her finest role and the hardest one to play. Choosing between heaven and a ridiculous fidelity, preferring oneself to eternity or losing oneself in God is the age-old tragedy in which each must play his part.
The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.
The gods had condemned Sisyphus to ceaselessly rolling a rock to the top of a mountain, whence the stone would fall back of its own weight. They had thought with some reason that there is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labor.
Opinions differ as to the reasons why he became the futile laborer of the underworld. To begin with, he is accused of a certain levity in regard to the gods. He stole their secrets.
Homer tells us also that Sisyphus had put Death in chains. Pluto could not endure the sight of his deserted, silent empire. He dispatched the god of war, who liberated Death from the hands of her conqueror.
You have already grasped that Sisyphus is the absurdhero. He is, as much through his passions as through his torture. His scorn of the gods, his hatred of death, and his passion for life won him that unspeakable penalty in which the whole being is exerted toward accomplishing nothing. This is the price that must be paid for the passions of this earth. Nothing is told us about Sisyphus in the underworld. Myths are made for the imagination to breathe life into them.
There is no fate that can not be surmounted by scorn.
If the descent is thus sometimes performed in sorrow, it can also take place in joy. This word is not too much. Again I fancy Sisyphus returning toward his rock, and the sorrow was in the beginning.
One does not discover the absurd without being tempted to write a manual of happiness. "What! — by such narrow ways — ?" There is but one world, however. Happiness and the absurd are two sons of the same earth. They are inseparable. It would be a mistake to say that happiness necessarily springs from the absurd discovery. It happens as well that the feeling of the absurd springs from happiness.
"I conclude that all is well," says Oedipus, and that remark is sacred. It echoes in the wild and limited universe of man. It teaches that all is not, has not been, exhausted. It drives out of this world a god who had come into it with dissatisfaction and a preference for futile suffering. It makes of fate a human matter, which must be settled among men.
I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain! One always finds one's burden again. But Sisyphus teaches the higher fidelity that negates the gods and raises rocks. He too concludes that all is well. This universe henceforth without a master seems to him neither sterile nor futile. Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night filled mountain, in itself forms a world. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.
Original French: La lutte elle-même vers les sommets suffit à remplir un cœur d'homme; il faut imaginer Sisyphe heureux.
Variant translation: The fight itself towards the summits suffices to fill a heart of man; it is necessary to imagine Sisyphus happy.
Essay in reaction to the announcement of the bombing of the city of Hiroshima with an atomic bomb, published in the French Resistance newspaper, Combat (8 August 1945), as translated by Alexandre de Gramont, in Between Hell and Reason: Essays from the Resistance Newspaper Combat, 1944–1947 (1991), p. 110
The world is what it is, which is to say, nothing much. This is what everyone learned yesterday, thanks to the formidable concert of opinion coming from radios, newspapers, and information agencies. Indeed we are told, in the midst of hundreds of enthusiastic commentaries, that any average city can be wiped out by a bomb the size of a football. American, English, and French newspapers are filled with eloquent essays on the future, the past, the inventors, the cost, the peaceful incentives, the military advantages, and even the life-of-its-own character of the atom bomb.
We can sum it up in one sentence: Our technical civilization has just reached its greatest level of savagery. We will have to choose, in the more or less near future, between collective suicide and the intelligent use of our scientific conquests.
Meanwhile we think there is something indecent in celebrating a discovery whose use has caused the most formidable rage of destruction ever known to man. What will it bring to a world already given over to all the convulsions of violence, incapable of any control, indifferent to justice and the simple happiness of men — a world where science devotes itself to organized murder? No one but the most unrelenting idealists would dare to wonder.
Even before the bomb, one did not breathe too easily in this tortured world. Now we are given a new source of anguish; it has all the promise of being our greatest anguish ever. There can be no doubt that humanity is being offered its last chance. Perhaps this is an occasion for the newspapers to print a special edition. More likely, it should be cause for a certain amount of reflection and a great deal of silence.
On the wholemen are more good than bad; that, however, isn't the real point. … the most incorrigible vice being that of an ignorance which fancies it knows everything and therefore claims for itself the right to kill.
Query: How to contrive not to waste one's time? Answer: By being fully aware of it all the while. Ways in which this can be done: By spending one's days on an uneasy chair in a dentist's waiting room; by remaining on one's balcony all a Sunday afternoon; by travelling by the longest and least-convenient train routes, and of course standing all the way; by queueing at the box-office of theatres and then not booking a seat.
When a war breaks out, people say: "It's too stupid; it can't last long." But though the war may well be "too stupid," that doesn't prevent its lasting. Stupidity has a knack of getting its way; as we should see if we were not always so much wrapped up in ourselves.
He tried to recall what he had read about the disease. Figures floated across his memory, and he recalled that some thirty or so great plagues known to history had accounted for nearly a hundred million deaths. But what are a hundred million deaths? When one has served in a war, one hardly knows what a dead man is, after a while. And since a dead man has no substance unless one actually sees him dead, a hundred million corpses broadcast through history are no more than a puff of smoke in the imagination.
There lay certitude; there, in the daily round. All the rest hung on mere threads and trivial contingencies; you couldn't waste your time on it. The thing was to do your job as it should be done.
"What on earth prompted you to take a hand in this?"
"I don't know. My… my code of morals, perhaps."
"Your code of morals. What code, if I may ask?"
The important thing isn't the soundness or otherwise of the argument, but for it to make you think.
The evil that is in the world always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence, if they lack understanding. On the whole men are more good than bad; that, however, isn't the real point. But they are more or less ignorant, and it is this that we call vice or virtue; the most incorrigible vice being that of an ignorance which fancies it knows everything and therefore claims for itself the right to kill. There can be no true goodness, nor true love, without the utmost clear-sightedness.
There always comes a time in history when the person who dares to say that 2+2=4 is punished by death. And the issue is not what reward or what punishment will be the outcome of that reasoning. The issue is simply whether or not 2+2=4.
Yes, there was an element of abstraction and unreality in misfortune. But when an abstraction starts to kill you, you have to get to work on it.
In Oran, as elsewhere, for want of time and thought, people have to love one another without knowing it.
Can one be a saint without God?, that's the problem, in fact the only problem, I'm up against today.
The ancients, even though they believed in destiny, believed primarily in nature, in which they participated wholeheartedly.
A character is never the author who created him. It is quite likely, however, that an author may be all his characters simultaneously.
Art, at least, teaches us that man cannot be explained by history alone and that he also finds a reason for his existence in the order of nature.
The absurd … is an experience to be lived through, a point of departure, the equivalent, in existence of Descartes' methodical doubt. Absurdism, like methodical doubt, has wiped the slate clean. It leaves us in a blind alley. But, like methodical doubt, it can, by returning upon itself, open up a new field of investigation, and in the process of reasoning then pursues the same course. I proclaim that I believe in nothing and that everything is absurd, but I cannot doubt the validity of my proclamation and I must at least believe in my protest. The first and only evidence that is supplied me, within the terms of the absurdist experience, is rebellion … Rebellion is born of the spectacle of irrationality, confronted with an unjust and incomprehensible condition.
pp. 8 - 10 as quoted in Albert Camus and the Philosophy of the Absurd';(2002) by Avi Sagi, p. 44
Absolutefreedom mocks at justice. Absolute justice denies freedom. To be fruitful, the two ideas must find their limits in each other.
"Historical Murder", as translated by Anthony Bower
What is a rebel? A man who says no.
The slave begins by demanding justice and ends by wanting to wear a crown. He must dominate in his turn.
One might think that a period which, in a space of fifty years, uproots, enslaves, or kills seventy million human beings should be condemned out of hand. But its culpability must still be understood... In more ingenuous times, when the tyrant razed cities for his own greater glory, when the slave chained to the conqueror's chariot was dragged through the rejoicing streets, when enemies were thrown to the wild beasts in front of the assembled people, the mind did not reel before such unabashed crimes, and the judgment remained unclouded. But slave camps under the flag of freedom, massacres justified by philanthropy or by a taste for the superhuman, in one sense cripple judgment. On the day when crime dons the apparel of innocence — through a curious transposition peculiar to our times — it is innocence that is called upon to justify itself.
If Nietzsche and Hegel serve as alibis to the masters of Dachau and Karaganda, that does not condemn their entire philosophy. But it does lead to the suspicion that one aspect of their thought, or of their logic, can lead to these appalling conclusions.
Every revolutionary ends as an oppressor or a heretic.
Variant translation: Every revolutionary ends by becoming either an oppressor or a heretic.
Nothing can discourage the appetite for divinity in the heart of man.
For those of us who have been thrown into hell, mysterious melodies and the torturing images of a vanished beauty will always bring us, in the midst of crime and folly, the echo of that harmonious insurrection which bears witness, throughout the centuries, to the greatness of humanity.
When the throne of God is overturned, the rebel realizes that it is now his own responsibility to create the justice, order, and unity that he sought in vain within his own condition, and in this way to justify the fall of God. Then begins the desperate effort to create, at the price of crime and murder if necessary, the dominion of man.
“The real saint”, Baudelaire pretends to think, “is he who flogs and kills people for their own good.” His argument will be heard. A race of real saints is beginning to spread over the earth for the purposes of confirming these curious conclusions about rebellion.
The words that reverberate for us at the confines of this long adventure of rebellion are not formulas for optimism, for which we have no possible use in the extremities of our unhappiness, but words of courage and intelligence which, on the shores of the eternal seas, even have the qualities of virtue.
"Then we understand that rebellion cannot exist without a strange form of love. Those who find no rest in God or in history are condemned to live for those who, like themselves, cannot live; in fact, for the humiliated."
"In the light, the earth remains our first and our last love. Our brothers are breathing under the same sky as we; justice is a living thing. Now is born that strange joy which helps one live and die, and which we shall never again postpone to a later time."
I rebel — therefore we exist.
Whatever we may do, excess will always keep its place in the heart of man, in the place where solitude is found. We all carry within us our places of exile, our crimes and our ravages. But our task is not to unleash them on the world; it is to fight them in ourselves and in others.
Man is the only creature who refuses to be what he is.
Real fulfillment, for the man who allows absolutely free rein to his desires, and who much dominate everything, lies in hatred.
Part 2: Metaphysical Rebellion
Metaphysical rebellion is a claim, motivated by the concept of a complete unity, against the suffering of life and death and a protest against the human condition both for its incompleteness, thanks to death, and its wastefulness, thanks to evil.
Part 2: Metaphysical Rebellion
Alyosha can, in fact, treat Ivan with compassion as a "real simpleton." The latter only made aa attempt at self-control and failed. Others will appear, with more serious intentions, who, on the basis of the same despairing nihilism, will insist on ruling the world. These are the Grand Inquisitors who imprison Christ and come to tell Him that His method is not correct, that universalhappiness cannot be achieved by the immediate freedom of choosing between good and evil, but by the domination and unification of the world. The first step is to conquer and rule. The kingdom of heaven will, in fact, appear on earth, but it will be ruled over by men — a mere handful to begin with, who will be the Cassars, because they were the first to understand — and later, with time, by all men. The unity of all creation will be achieved by every possible means, since everything is permitted. The Grand Inquisitor is old and tired, for the knowledge he possesses is bitter. He knows that men are lazy rather than cowardly and that they prefer peace and death to the liberty of discerning between good and evil. He has pity, a cold pity, for the silent prisoner whom history endlessly deceives. He urges him to speak, to recognize his misdeeds, and, in one sense, to approve the actions of the Inquisitors and of the Caesars. But the prisoner does not speak.
Part 2: Metaphysical Rebellion
A nihilist is not one who believes in nothing, but one who does not believe in what exists.
Part 2: Metaphysical Rebellion
The ancients, even though they believed in destiny, believed primarily in nature, in which they participated wholeheartedly. To rebel against nature amounted to rebelling against oneself. It was butting one's head against a wall.
Part 2: Metaphysical Rebellion
A character is never the author who created him. It is quite likely, however, that an author may be all his characters simultaneously.
Part 2: Metaphysical Rebellion; also quoted in Albert Camus : The Invincible Summer (1958) by Albert Maquet, p. 86; a remark made about the Marquis de Sade
Art is the activity that exalts and denies simultaneously. "No artist tolerates reality," says Nietzsche.
There is merely bad luck in not being loved; there is misfortune in not loving. All of us, today, are dying of this misfortune. For violence and hatred dry up the heart itself; the long fight for justice exhausts the love that nevertheless gave birth to it.
Variant translations: I shall tell you a great secret, my friend. Do not wait for the Last Judgment. It takes place every day. Do not await the last Judgement. It takes place everyday. You needn't await the Final Judgment. It takes place every day.
You know what charm is: a way of getting the answer 'yes' without having asked any clear question.
The essential is to cease being free and to obey, in repentance, a greater rogue than oneself. When we are all guilty, that will be democracy.
Capital punishment is the most premeditated of murders, to which no criminal’s deed, however calculated, can be compared. 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.
When the imaginationsleeps, words are emptied of their meaning: a deaf population absent-mindedly registers the condemnation of a man. … there is no other solution but to speak out and show the obscenity hidden under the verbal cloak.
What will be left of the power of example if it is proved that capital punishment has another power, and a very real one, which degrades men to the point of shame, madness, and murder?
When the imaginationsleeps, words are emptied of their meaning: a deaf population absent-mindedly registers the condemnation of a man … there is no other solution but to speak out and show the obscenity hidden under the verbal cloak.
I do not have much liking for the too famous existential philosophy, and, to tell the truth, I think its conclusions false.
"Pessimism and Tyranny"
The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants, and it provides the further advantage of giving the servants of tyranny a good conscience. It would be easy, however, to destroy that good conscience by shouting to them: if you want the happiness of the people, let them speak out and tell what kind of happiness they want and what kind they don't want! But, in truth, the very ones who make use of such alibis know they are lies; they leave to their intellectuals on duty the chore of believing in them and of proving that religion, patriotism, and justice need for their survival the sacrifice of freedom.
"Homage to an Exile", published as an essay in Actuelles III, originally a speech "delivered 7 December 1955 at a banquet in honor of President Eduardo Santos, editor of El Tiempo, driven out of Colombia by the dictatorship".
The aim of art, the aim of a life can only be to increase the sum of freedom and responsibility to be found in every man and in the world. It cannot, under any circumstances, be to reduce or suppress that freedom, even temporarily.
It takes time to live. Like any work of art, life needs to be thought about.
To have time was at once the most magnificent and the most dangerous of experiments. Idleness is fatal only to the mediocre.
Believe me, there is no such thing as great suffering, great regret, great memory...Everything is forgotten, even great love.
He marveled at the strange blindness by which men, though they are so alert to what changes in themselves, impose on their friends an image chosen for them once and for all. He was being judged by what he had been. Just as dogs don't change character, men are dogs to one another.
Happiness implied a choice, and within that choice a concerted will, a lucid desire.
The opposite of an idealist is too often a man without love.
Fate is not in man but around him.
Idleness is only fatal to the mediocre.
He discovered the cruel paradox by which we always deceive ourselves twice about the people we love — first to their advantage, then to their disadvantage.
He realized now that to be afraid of this death he was staring at with animal terror meant to be afraid of life. Fear of dying justified a limitless attachment to what is alive in man. And all those who had not made the gestures necessary to live their lives, all those who feared and exalted impotence — they were afraid of death because of the sanction it gave to a life in which they had not been involved. They had not lived enough, never having lived at all.
Manhattan. Sometimes from beyond the skyscrapers, across of thousands of high walls, the cry of a tugboat finds you in your insomnia in the middle of the night, and you remember that this desert of iron and cement is an island.
Great novelists are philosopher-novelists who write in images instead of arguments.
This may have arisen as a paraphrase of statements found in The Myth of Sisyphus (1942), "An Absurd Reasoning", or one found in The Novelist as Philosopher: Studies in French Fiction 1935-1960 (1962) edited by John Cruikshank, p. 218
Should I kill myself, or have a cup of coffee?
There is no documented evidence that Camus ever wrote or said this, aside from Barry Schwartz's uncited mention in The Paradox of Choice. It is likely falsely attributed.
Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth.
There are causes worth dying for, but none worth killing for.
Written by Albert Dietrich in a 31 January 1943 letter to his conscientious objector status Hearing Officer as "There are perhaps many causes worth dying for, but to me, certainly, there are none worth killing for." reported in Army GI, Pacifist CO: The World War II Letters of Frank and Albert Dietrich, Frank Dietrich, Albert Dietrich, Christine Dietrich, Scott H. Bennett (2005)
I think my life is of great importance, but I also think it is meaningless.
Attributed to Camus on social media, this sentence was taken from the Wikipedia article on Camus: "In Le Mythe, dualism becomes a paradox: we value our own lives in spite of our mortality and in spite of the universe's silence. While we can live with a dualism (I can accept periods of unhappiness, because I know I will also experience happiness to come), we cannot live with the paradox (I think my life is of great importance, but I also think it is meaningless)." Retrieved 16 July 2015, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Camus#Ideas_on_the_absurd
As a writer Camus maintained his independence from both friends and enemies in the political and philosophical movements that attempted to subvert his writing to their own ends. … Camus combines a taut writing style, as well as profound insights on society, with the courage to report back from the abyss of despair, unblinking.
Ottar G. Draugsvold, in Nobel Writers on Writing (2000)
There is a fundamental question which Camus never seems to have put to himself: by what right am I qualified to pass this sort of verdict on the world [the verdict that the world is absurd]? Of two things, one: either I myself do not belong to the world under discussion, but in that case have I not every reason to suppose that it is impenetrable to me and that I am not qualified to judge its value- or, on the other hand, I really am part of the world, and if the world is absurd, so am I absurd too. Camus, perhaps, might concede this. It is, however, a destructive concession. Again, of two things, one: either I am myself absurd in my ultimate nature- in which case so are my judgements absurd, they negate themselves, it cannot be conceded that they have any sort of validity- or, on the other hand, we have to admit that I have a double nature, that is there is a part of me which is not absurd and which can make valid judgements about absurdity: but how did this aspect of me which is not absurd get there? I cannot even admit the possibility of its existence without beginning to formulate a kind of dualism which, in some sense, splits my original assertion of the total absurdity of the universe apart.
All revolutions in modern times, Camus points out, have led to a reinforcement of the power of the State. … The counterrevolutions of fascism only serve to reinforce the general argument.
Camus shows the real quality of his thought in his final pages. It would have been easy, on the facts marshaled in this book, to have retreated into despair or inaction. Camus substitutes the idea of "limits." "We now know, at the end of this long inquiry into rebellion and nihilism, that rebellion with no other limits but historical expediency signifies unlimited slavery. To escape this fate, the revolutionary mind, if it wants to remain alive, must therefore, return again to the sources of rebellion and draw its inspiration from the only system of thought which is faithful to its origins: thought that recognizes limits." To illustrate his meaning Camus refers to syndicalism, that movement in politics which is based on the organic unity of the cell, and which is the negation of abstract and bureaucratic centralism. He quotes Tolain: "Les etres humains ne s'emancipent qu'au sein des groupes naturels" — human beings emancipate themselves only on the basis of natural groups. "The commune against the State... deliberate freedom against rational tyranny, finally altruistic individualism against the colonization of the masses, are, then, the contradictions that express once again the endless opposition of moderation to excess which has animated the history of the Occident since the time of the ancient world." This tradition of "mesure" belongs to the Mediterranean world, and has been destroyed by the excesses of German ideology and of Christian otherworldliness — by the denial of nature. Restraint is not the contrary of revolt. Revolt carries with it the very idea of restraint, and "moderation, born of rebellion, can only live by rebellion. It is a perpetual conflict, continually created and mastered by the intelligence.... Whatever we may do, excess will always keep its place in the heart of man, in the place where solitude is found. We all carry within us our places of exile, our crimes and our ravages. But our task is not to unleash them on the world; it is to fight them in ourselves and in others.
Although a few commentators have noted the influence of Simone Weil on the thought of Albert Camus, their relationship has never been fully explored … I shall examine several aspects of that influence in … Weil's critique of Marxism which Camus adopted in L'Homme Révolté… the conception of the rebel as an artisan which Camus also used in L'Homme Révolté, and … Weil's mysticism, to which Camus was reluctantly though definitely drawn. … I shall consider more fully the different conceptions of freedom and justice which appear in their writings and argue that their contributions to political thought here lay with their appreciation of the impulse in modern man to seek and impose absolutevalues. In this context, we shall see that Camus and Simone Weil provide different routes to individual authenticity and integrity in an absurdworld.
Fred Rosen, in "Marxism, Mysticism, and Liberty : The Influence of Simone Weil on Albert Camus", in Political Theory Vol. 7, No. 3 (August 1979), p. 301
I could see clearly that this problem could only be solved on the individual and personal level; political revolt is irrelevant. Both Camus and Sartre had been neatly hog-tied by their earlier radicalism. Camus came to see that rebellion is a political roundabout that revolves back to the same old tyranny; too ashamed to admit that he had outgrown his leftism, he found himself in an intellectual cul-de-sac. Sartre accused Camus of being a reactionary; but he paid for his own refusal to reexamine his political convictions by congealing into a grotesque attitude of permanent indignation, shaking his fist at some abstract Authority. Where politics is concerned, he seemed determined to be guided by his emotions.