Ideas of Albert Camus, by Theme

[French, 1913 - 1960, Born in Algiers. Killed in a car accident.]

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1. Philosophy / A. Wisdom / 3. Wisdom Deflated
Life will be lived better if it has no meaning
     Full Idea: Life will be lived all the better if it has no meaning.
     From: Albert Camus (The Myth of Sisyphus [1942], 'Abs free')
     A reaction: One image of the good life is that of a successful wild animal, for which existence is not a problem, merely a constant activity and pursuit. Maybe life begins to acquire meaning once we realise that meaning should not be sought directly.
1. Philosophy / D. Nature of Philosophy / 3. Philosophy Defined
Suicide - whether life is worth living - is the one serious philosophical problem
     Full Idea: There is but one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide. Judgine whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy.
     From: Albert Camus (The Myth of Sisyphus [1942], p.11)
     A reaction: What a wonderful thesis for a book. In Idea 2682 there is the possibility of life being worth living, but not worth a huge amount of effort. It is better to call Camus' question the first question, rather than the only question.
1. Philosophy / D. Nature of Philosophy / 7. Despair over Philosophy
To an absurd mind reason is useless, and there is nothing beyond reason
     Full Idea: To an absurd mind reason is useless, and there is nothing beyond reason.
     From: Albert Camus (The Myth of Sisyphus [1942], 'Phil Suic')
     A reaction: But there is, surely, intuition and instinct? Read Keats's Letters. There is good living through upbringing and habit. Read Aristotle. If you like Camus' thought, you will love Chuang Tzu. Personally I am a child of the Enlightenment.
5. Theory of Logic / A. Overview of Logic / 3. Value of Logic
Logic is easy, but what about logic to the point of death?
     Full Idea: It is always easy to be logical. It is almost impossible to be logical to the bitter end. The only problem that interests me is: is there a logic to the point of death?
     From: Albert Camus (The Myth of Sisyphus [1942], 'Abs and Suic')
     A reaction: This is a lovely hand grenade to lob into an analytical logic class! It is very hard to get logicians to actually ascribe a clear value to their activity. They tend to present it as a marginal private game, and yet it has high status.
16. Persons / F. Free Will / 1. Nature of Free Will
Whether we are free is uninteresting; we can only experience our freedom
     Full Idea: Knowing whether or not a man is free doesn't interest me. I can only experience my own freedom.
     From: Albert Camus (The Myth of Sisyphus [1942], 'Abs free')
     A reaction: Camus has the right idea. Personally I think you could drop the word 'freedom', and just say that I am confronted by the need to make decisions.
16. Persons / F. Free Will / 6. Determinism / b. Fate
The human heart has a tiresome tendency to label as fate only what crushes it
     Full Idea: The human heart has a tiresome tendency to label as fate only what crushes it.
     From: Albert Camus (The Myth of Sisyphus [1942], 'Appendix')
     A reaction: Nice. It might just as much be fate that you live a happy bourgeois life, as that you inadvertently murder your own father at a crossroads. But you can't avoid the powerful awareness of fate when a road accident occurs.
22. Metaethics / A. Value / 2. Values / d. Love
The more one loves the stronger the absurd grows
     Full Idea: The more one loves the stronger the absurd grows.
     From: Albert Camus (The Myth of Sisyphus [1942], 'Don Juan')
     A reaction: A penetrating remark, to be placed as a contrary to the remarks of Harry Frankfurt on love. But if the absurd increases the intensity of life, as Camus thinks, then they both make love the great life-affirmation, but in different ways.
22. Metaethics / C. Ethics Foundations / 1. Nature of Ethics / d. Ethical theory
Discussing ethics is pointless; moral people behave badly, and integrity doesn't need rules
     Full Idea: 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.
     From: Albert Camus (The Myth of Sisyphus [1942], 'Abs Man')
     A reaction: I don't agree. If someone 'behaves badly with great morality' there is something wrong with their morality, and I want to know what it is. The last part is more plausible, and could be a motto for Particularism. Rules dangerously over-simplify life.
23. Ethics / C. Virtue Theory / 2. Elements of Virtue Theory / c. Motivation for virtue
One can be virtuous through a whim
     Full Idea: One can be virtuous through a whim.
     From: Albert Camus (The Myth of Sisyphus [1942], 'Abs Man')
     A reaction: A nice remark. Obviously neither Aristotle nor Kant would be too impressed by someone who did this, and Aristotle would certainly say that it is not really virtue, but merely right behaviour. I agree with Aristotle.
23. Ethics / F. Existentialism / 2. Nihilism
If we believe existence is absurd, this should dictate our conduct
     Full Idea: What a man believes to be true must determine his action. Belief in the absurdity of existence must then dictate his conduct.
     From: Albert Camus (The Myth of Sisyphus [1942], 'Abs and Suic')
     A reaction: It is intriguing to speculate what the appropriate conduct is. Presumably it is wild existential gestures, like sticking a knife through your hand. Suicide will be an obvious temptation. But bourgeois life might be equally appropriate.
Happiness and the absurd go together, each leading to the other
     Full Idea: 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.
     From: Albert Camus (The Myth of Sisyphus [1942], p.110)
     A reaction: I'm not sure that I understand this, but I understand the experience of absurdity, and I can see that somehow one feels a bit more alive when one acknowledges the absurdity of it all. Meta-meta-thought is the highest form of human life, I say.
23. Ethics / F. Existentialism / 7. Existential Action
Essential problems either risk death, or intensify the passion of life
     Full Idea: The essential problems are those that run the risk of leading to death, or those that intensify the passion of living.
     From: Albert Camus (The Myth of Sisyphus [1942], 'Abs and Suic')
     A reaction: This seems to be distinctively existentialist, in a way that a cool concern for great truths are not ranked as so important. Ranking dangerous problems as crucial seems somehow trivial for a philosopher. Intensity of life is more impressive.
Danger and integrity are not in the leap of faith, but in remaining poised just before the leap
     Full Idea: The leap of faith does not represent an extreme danger as Kierkegaard would like it to do. The danger, on the contrary, lies in the subtle instant that precedes the leap. Being able to remain on the dizzying crest - that is integrity.
     From: Albert Camus (The Myth of Sisyphus [1942], 'Phil Suic')
     A reaction: I have always found that a thrilling thought. It perfectly distinguishes atheist existentialism from religious existentialism. It is Camus' best image for how the Absurd can be a life affirming idea, rather than a sort of nihilism. Life gains intensity.
24. Applied Ethics / C. Death Issues / 4. Suicide
It is essential to die unreconciled and not of one's own free will
     Full Idea: It is essential to die unreconciled and not of one's own free will. Suicide is a repudiation.
     From: Albert Camus (The Myth of Sisyphus [1942], 'Abs free')
     A reaction: Camus' whole book addresses the question of suicide. He suggests that life can be redeemed and become livable if you squarely face up to the absurdity of it, and the gap between what we hope for and what we get.