Philosophy Albert Camus
by
David Simpson
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 August 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396577-0317

Introduction

The identity of Albert Camus (b. 1913–d. 1960) as a philosopher is ambiguous, and his own relation to philosophy was ambivalent. He hesitated to identify as a philosopher, and following his publication of The Rebel, and his confrontation with Jean-Paul Sartre, his standing and ability as a philosopher was often dismissed. In the popular imagination, he became an existentialist, the “philosopher of the absurd,” and the “conscience of postwar France.” There seem to be two explanations for the ambiguity and ambivalence. First, Camus clearly wasn’t, and didn’t see himself as or desire to be, a discursive theoretical philosopher. He was skeptical of the efficacy of systematic philosophy and metaphysical thinking, and none of his mature writing fits this mold. He is instead what Alexander Nehamas has called a “philosopher of the art of living,” like Socrates, Nietzsche, or Foucault. Or, as Matthew Sharpe (see Sharpe 2015, cited under Intellectual Biographies of Camus) and others have claimed, Camus was a “philosophe,” an expression evoking 18th-century, mainly French, thinkers such as Rousseau, de Condorcet, and Voltaire: public intellectuals focused on worldly, political problems, rather than abstract concerns of theoretical philosophy. Second, much of Camus’s writing, both the clearly fictional and the more clearly philosophical, can be understood as a response to contingent historical circumstance, and his work might therefore be seen, from a philosophical perspective, as anachronistic and of little philosophical relevance. However, while this is partly true, it is perverse to deny the continuing relevance of a writer who addresses issues such as the challenge for an individual finding himself or herself in a meaningless life or an impossible situation, the difference between enlightened rebellion and reactionary irrationalism, the ethics of violence, and the complexity of anti- and postcolonialism. The approach taken in this bibliography is that Camus is not a theoretical philosopher, but a philosopher in Nehamas’s or Sharpe’s sense. After his death, and perhaps in the period leading up to his death, Camus lost prominence. His novels remained in print, and L’Étranger became a standard high school text around the world, but Camus the thinker and activist was relegated to a historical niche. Outside France he retained popularity among the New Left, offering a progressive alternative to Stalinism, but that movement had waned by the 1970s. Since the last decade of the 20th century, however, there has been a significant revival of interest, and the majority of the works in this bibliography have been drawn from this “revival.”

Camus’s Works

Camus wrote only three philosophical works: his dissertation, Christian Metaphysics and Neoplatonism, The Myth of Sisyphus, and The Rebel. In the latter works, he presented the two main philosophical themes of his intellectual framework: absurdity and rebellion. These works will be given prominence below. However, in other of his prima facie nonphilosophical works, many philosophically pertinent questions are addressed, and some of the most important of these will be recorded in this bibliography.

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