The Invincible Summer: On Albert Camus' Philosophical Neoclassicism

Sophia 50 (4):577-592 (2011)
What follows is a work of critical reconstruction of Camus' thought. It aims to answer to the wish Camus expressed in his later notebooks, that he at least be read closely. Specifically, I hope to do three things. In Part I, we will show how Camus' famous philosophy of the absurd represents a systematic scepticism whose closest philosophical predecessor is Descartes' method of doubt, and whose consequence, as in Descartes, is the discovery of a single, orienting certainty, on the basis of which Camus would proceed to pass beyond the 'nihilism' that conservative critics continued to level against him (MS 34). Part II will unfold the central tenets of Camus' mature thought of rebellion, and show how Camus' central political claims follow from his para-Cartesian claim to have found an irreducible or 'invincible' basis for a post-metaphysical ethics, consistent with the most thoroughgoing epistemic scepticism. Part III then undertakes to show that the neoclassical rhetoric and positioning Camus claimed for his postwar thought—as a thought of moderation or mesure, and a renewed Greek or Mediterranean naturalism—is more than a stylistic pretension. It represents, so I argue, a singular amalgam of modern and philosophical classical motifs which makes Camus' voice nearly unique in twentieth century ideas, and all the more worth reconsidering today. So let us proceed
Keywords Camus philosophy classicism absurd rebellion moderation
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DOI 10.1007/s11841-011-0275-z
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