I am enjoying reading Albert Camus. Over a year and a half ago I decided to engage Edmund Husserl. I read Crisis of the European Sciences. I took my time, and read it slowly and carefully. In trying to understand Husserl, this has lead to try and understand the existentialists who flow from (Husserl's) phenomenological tradition—largely for my purposes Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus. I have enjoyed Camus immensely.
Currently I am reading The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays. For Camus life is fundamentally absurd. The absurd is essentially what we find when two things meet: (1) The mind that desires unity/coherence/meaning meets (2) the world that disappoints; or (1) one’s nostalgia for unity meets (2) the fragmented universe. In short, we are faced with absurdity when man and his desire for truth, unity, etc., encounters a universe which in no way gives evidence of truth, beauty, ultimate meaning, coherence, etc.
Camus sets up his option against two others. Thus, when faced with the absurd one should not (1) with Kierkegaard, take a “leap” against reason, or in spite of reason into the Christian faith; nor should one (2) with Edmund Husserl embrace a form of reason/knowledge which claims too much—i.e., where reason/knowledge is able to achieve almost absolute and divine-like success [these are Camus’ summary of Kierkegaard and Husserl]. In contradistinction to these two options, the truly courageous must simply face the absurdity of life.
The answer for Camus is to face the absurdity of life. We are to engage in “permanent revolution,” “revolt,” “defiance” (pp. 54-55). We engage in “revolution,” “revolt,” and “defiance” by refusing the Kierkegaardian or Husserlian options (again, as Camus understands them), and by persisting in living our lives knowing full well that all is absurd.
Having read all of this, it was then fascinating to see him say of such “revolt”: “That revolt gives life its value. Spread out over the whole length of life, it restores its majesty to that life” (p. 55).
A basic thought: Even though Camus is self-consciously rejecting a Christian understanding of man, he nonetheless (unknowingly, I presume) slips into a type of Christian language about man. Adam in the garden was given a command to rule, subdue, and exercise dominion over the garden (and by extension, the world) (Genesis 1:26ff.). He was also placed in the garden and told “to work” and “to keep” the garden (Gen. 2:15). In short, as God’s representative man was to function as kingly figure. For Camus, man is a “kingly” (his majesty is restored) when he engages in revolt. For historic Christianity, man is “kingly” when he engages in faith-filled obedience, as fleshed out in exercising dominion. It is good to see Camus (even if unknowingly) stumble upon Christian categories in speaking about man. I suspect such categories are hard to avoid.
Note: I am working from The 1983 Vintage International version of The Myth of Sisyphus.