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"We have art in order not to die of the truth"(Neitzsche),
This review is from: The Myth of Sisyphus (Penguin Modern Classics) (Paperback)
Camus's Le Mythe de Sisyphe written to accompany his 1st novel L'Etranger is a philosophy as a branch of literature rather than philosophy in itself.Camus never claimed(a la Sartre)to be a philosopher,he claimed a novel was a philosophy expressed with images.Just as reason is subservient to nostalgia,philosophy is subservient to art.This provides the ballast to his fictional works,with a felicity of style they share. We have the major essay The Myth of Sisyphus and the series of essays based upon places in Algeria,Summer in Algiers,The Minotaur,Helen'sExile and Return to Tipasa,where what concerns him is a passion for the present moment.Camus states he deals with a description,not a metaphysical belief,of an `intellectual malady',an absurd sensitivity citing certain contemporary thinkers,not a philosophy.Camus immediately states the meaning of life deals with the most urgent of questions.The only philosophical problem in an absurd world devoid of eternal values is suicide.We're all mortal,allcondemned to death,we must live in the present,for the here and now,not some imaginary future or other world.Is lifetherefore worth living?Suicide can be due to the ridiculous habits,gestures of existence,"a universe suddenly divested of illusions and lights,man feels an alien, a stranger".One learns the truth about the absurd through everyday banal experience, that can hit you on the street corner.
Camus's aim is not to overcome a sense of alienation or separateness from the world. In The Outsider Meursault takes a defiant pleasure in this condition. Sisyphus, the `absurd hero', feels a `silent joy' in living in a world where `man feels an alien, a stranger...his exile...without remedy.' Camus was by his own admission not interested in weighty philosophical topics of a systematic kind like existentialism,being neither a philosopher norsystematic. According to Camus,man has a fundamental `longing for reason',especially for a world as a unitary whole within which everything has its demonstrable station and value.Unfortunately people have recognized the `irrationality ` of reality and hence `despair of true knowledge'.Yet a `nostalgia' for reason remains,and it is the confrontation between this and reality,rather than the latter's irrationality alone,which constitutes absurdity.From the `encounters' between a `human need and the unreasonable silence of the world',the absurd is `born'.Reality is irrational because it is `chaotic',and shot through with paradoxes.Existentialism starts with an attempt to `overcome' people's sense of alienation from the world.But it is precisely this `divorce' between ourselves and the world that Camus revels in,why he is not an existentialist,closer to Neitschze's nihilism,the self-overcomer. But he wants to live with absurdity not overcome it.
The route Camus takes here is committed to shunning philosophy. He purports to be interested only in whether a certain proposition is livable, not whether it is true. If he were to try to assert his own metaphysical position, if he were to try to claim that such-and-such is the case, he would then be burdened with the responsibility of proving the superiority of his metaphysical position over those of other philosophers. All this is relevant because Camus comes dangerously close to metaphysics when he asserts that the absurd is our fundamental relationship with the world and that our need for reasons and the silence of the universe are the two basic facts of human existence. Camus's essay rests on faith, though faith of a negative kind. Camus is determined to believe that there is no God and that life is meaningless more than he is determined to argue for that meaninglessness. He is not presenting a philosophical system so much as he is diagnosing a certain way of looking at the world.To Camus enduring theworld's absurdity is a metaphysical honour.He posits a metaphysics of non-belief:"Even men without a gospel have their Mount of Olives".
Camus identified with the idea that a personal experience could become a reference point for his philosophical and literary writings. Although he considered himself an atheist, Camus came to the idea that the absence of religious belief can simultaneously be accompanied by a longing for "salvation and meaning".His thesis on neo-platonism at university: for Plotinus, philosophy was not only a matter of abstract speculation but also a way of life and a religion. The devotional nature of Plotinus' s philosophy may be further illustrated by his concept of attaining ecstatic union with the One:he turned reason away from contradiction into the magic of participation. Camus describes the absurd man as `innocent',free of `guilt' and `sin',free according to impulse and desire but not respecting human rationality,living in the present.In The Outsider we get the acte gratuite,in the murder of the Arab. Meursault the model existentialist hero,free from morality. In the absence of a moral code, there is nothing to stop people from behaving in a criminal or harmful manner, but Camus does not take this to be much of a problem, even though perhaps he should .He describes what living with absurdity entails.
The Myth of Sisyphus is beautifully written,metaphor takes the place of syllogism,the aesthetic comes before the ethical.Rather than choose suicide or belief in God,man chooses to live life to the fullest.The only sin against life(not despair of life but hoping for another)is eluding the implacable grandeur of this life.Camus uses reason rather than intellectual argument,can he live simply with just what he knows? Suicide, like hope, is just another way out of this conflict. Living the absurd is more akin to the predicament faced by the man condemned to death yet who, with every breath, revolts against the notion that he must die.The absurd man is determined to reject everything we cannot know with certainty,free from metaphysics,meaning,prejudices and preconceptions,free to think and act as he chooses,taking each moment of life as it strikes him.He wants to live with the certainty he has just now and nothing more.The consequences of living with the certainty that there is no certainty are "revolt,freedom and passion".The revolt without hope is the myth of Sisyphus;free from theconstraints of normal society,living in the present moment(passion).His interest is the art of living,a way of life.The question is does Camus go beyond a use of metaphor,describe a way of life that goes beyond the figurative,are we truly living or just playing a role? The great work has a limpid classical style,a homage showing man's thought is his nostalgia