Camus: The Rebel (or How to Live Without Hope?)

The Rebel is Camus' answer to the 20th century's political nihilism, an attempt to retain some positive ethics in light of the absurd.

Camus' painful realization is that absurdity is not to be assuaged anymore - neither by progress in history nor by religious providence. Recognizing the absurd as part of the human condition means rejecting any "solution" as an illusion. There's no consolation for man.

Nevertheless, the lack of hope does not amount to nihilism: the rebel faces absurdity with open eyes and resists it fiercely, metaphysically - against God, against Nature, against the human condition itself.

From postwar Europe's pillars of smoke, Camus sees the problem of the time in the rationalization of crime through doctrines: philosophy, science, religion:

"There are crimes of passion and crimes of logic. The boundary between them is not clearly defined. But the Penal Code makes the convenient distinction of premeditation. We are living in the age of premeditation and the perfect crime. Our criminals are no longer helpless children who could plead love as their excuse. On the contrary, they are adults and they have a perfect alibi: philosophy, which can be used for any purpose, - even for transforming murderers into judges. soon as a man, through lack of character, takes refuge in doctrine, as soon as crime reasons about itself, it multiplies like reason itself and assumes all the aspects of the syllogism. Once crime was as solitary as a cry of protest; now it is as universal as science. Yesterday it was put on trial; today it determines the law." (The Rebel, p. 3)


Some of the questions we're going to be asking are:

Who is the rebel? What does she want and do?

What is the meaning of rejecting doctrines and constantly living the tension freedom and mortality?

How can we lead our lives with no a-prior values or expectations from history?

Following Nietzsche's ideas - at what point does Camus depart and why?


A PDF version of the book is available to download from the Files section.

Suggested readingRebellion and Revolution: pp. 122-125 in the PDF version (or pp. 246-252 in the Vintage Books 1991 edition)

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  • Jeryl

    “If irony is the ethos of our age — and it is — then the hipster is our archetype of ironic living.”

    “Throughout history, irony has served useful purposes, like providing a rhetorical outlet for unspoken societal tensions. But our contemporary ironic mode is somehow deeper; it has leaked from the realm of rhetoric into life itself. This ironic ethos can lead to a vacuity and vapidity of the individual and collective psyche. Historically, vacuums eventually have been filled by something — more often than not, a hazardous something. Fundamentalists are never ironists; dictators are never ironists; people who move things in the political landscape, regardless of the sides they choose, are never ironists."

    1 · December 12, 2012

    • Jeryl

      "Where can we find other examples of nonironic living? What does it look like? Nonironic models include very young children, elderly people, deeply religious people, people with severe mental or physical disabilities, people who have suffered, and those from economically or politically challenged places where seriousness is the governing state of mind. My friend Robert Pogue Harrison put it this way in a recent conversation: “Wherever the real imposes itself, it tends to dissipate the fogs of irony.”­

      December 12, 2012

  • Jeryl

    “Having lived for a long time without morality, like many men of my generation, and having actually advocated nihilism, although not always knowingly, I then understood that ideas were not only emotionally moving or pleasant-sounding games, and on certain occasions, to accept certain thoughts amounted to accepting murder without limits. It was then that I began to reflect upon this contradiction that was consuming us.. It appeared to me, lacking sufficient knowledge or better guidance, I had to try to draw a rule of conduct and perhaps an initial value from the only experience with which I was in agreement, namely, our revolt. Since nothing that was then proposed to us could teach us, [given the nihilism of] our entire political society ... it was therefore precisely at the level of our negation and of our barest and most impoverished revolt that we had to find within ourselves and with others the reasons to survive and struggle against murder.”
    ~Albert Camus, In Defense of The Rebel

    December 9, 2012

    • Jeryl

      “The absurdist position, translated into action, is inconceivable, [and] it is equally inconceivable when translated into expression. Simply by being expressed, it gives a minimum coherence to incoherence, and introduces consequence where, according to its own tenets, there is none”

      December 9, 2012

  • Jeryl

    “Because his mind was free, Nietzsche knew that freedom of the mind is not a comfort, but an achievement to which one aspires and at long last obtains after an exhausting struggle. He knew that in wanting to consider oneself above the law, there is a great risk of finding oneself beneath the law. That is why he understood that only the mind found its real emancipation in the acceptance of new obligations. The essence of his discovery consists in saying that if the eternal law is not freedom, the absence of law is still less so. If nothing is true, if the world is without order, then nothing is forbidden; to prohibit an action, there must, in fact, be a standard of values and an aim. But, at the same time, nothing is authorized; there must also be values and aims in order to choose another course of action.”

    ~Albert, Camus. “The Rebel: An Essay on Man in Revolt.”

    December 9, 2012

    • Jeryl

      “When we talk of values we are speaking under the inspiration or optics of life: life itself compels us to set up values; life itself values through us whenever we posit values” ~Nietzsche, Friedrich, The Will to Power “Philosophy is not the reflection of a pre-existing truth, but like art, the act of bringing truth into being”

      ~Merleau-Ponty, Phemenology of Perception

      December 9, 2012

  • Jeryl

    “Half of your life is done,
    The hand moves on, you feel a sudden chill.
    You have roamed long, and run,
    And sought, and found not–why this sudden frill?

    Half of your life is done,
    And it was pain and error through and through:
    Why do you still seek on?
    Precisely this I seek: The reason why!”

    –Nietzsche , The Skeptic Speaks, from The Gay Science.

    “HAMM: We're not beginning to ... to ... mean something? cLov: Mean something! You and I, mean something! (Brief laugh.) Ah that's a good one! “

    –Samual Beckett, Endgames.

    December 7, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    Sorry to see the meetup filled up before I responded. Any chance of opening a wait list in case spots open at a later time? I know meetup has this feature.

    November 20, 2012

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