Absurdism as Self-Help: Resolving an Essential Inconsistency in Camus’ Early Philosophy

Journal of Camus Studies 2014:91-102 (2014)
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Camus’ early philosophy has been subject to various kinds of criticism. In this paper I address a problem that has not been noticed so far, namely that it appears to be essentially inconsistent. On the one hand, Camus explicitly denies the existence of moral values, and construes his central notion of the absurd in a way that presupposes this denial. On the other hand, he is also committed to the existence of certain values. Both in his literary and philosophical works Camus is not so much interested in the absurd per se, but rather in how we ought to respond to it. In justifying his supposed normative conclusions, he tacitly, but crucially, relies on evaluative judgements. If all this is true, then prospects for defenders of absurdism seem bleak. In whichever way the inconsistency is resolved, they will have to give up or significantly modify central parts of Camus’ early philosophy. But things may not stand quite as bad. As I try to show, there is a route to consistency that preserves much of Camus’ early philosophy, and leaves it prima facie plausible. The key is to re-interpret its normative aspects. Stated a bit provocatively, we need to put Camus in the self-help genre.



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Thomas Pölzler
University of Graz

Citations of this work

Camus’ Feeling of the Absurd.Thomas Pölzler - 2018 - Journal of Value Inquiry 52 (4):477-490.
Wie schlüssig ist Albert Camus’ frühe „Logik des Absurden“?Thomas Pölzler - 2016 - Allgemeine Zeitschrift für Philosophie 41 (1):59-76.
Camus on the Value of Art.Thomas Pölzler - 2020 - Philosophia 48 (1):365-376.

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