Year of Graduation
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Restricted Access Thesis
Department or Program
Government and Legal Studies
Albert Camus the novelist is better remembered than Albert Camus the political philosopher. Still, Camus is regarded by scholars as one of the most influential political thinkers of his time. A moralist as well as an absurdist, a novelist as well as a philosopher, Camus occupies a peculiar, ambiguous space with regards to his political career.
Camus’ politics are difficult to define. To understand them, one must first take into account his moral position. As a moralist, Camus desires a politics that promote an ethical way of living. However, this becomes difficult when one takes into account the philosophical position from which he begins: Absurdity. According to the Absurd, there are no higher truths that man can discover about life. In the face of such uncertainty, there is no basis for morality or justification for acting one way as opposed to another. So the Absurd appears to entail nihilism or moral relativism. It would be difficult to defend ethics in the absurd world.
This is the project that Camus undertakes. He attempts to ascertain from the Absurd a logically coherent argument against nihilism, which he saw as an epidemic devastating European politics in the mid-twentieth century. In this thesis, I interrogate how Camus moves from the Absurd to an ethical politics, remaining cognizant of the places where Camus’ philosophical thought succeeds and where it fails. I then situate Camus in his historical context and explore the significance of his philosophy for mid-century European political thought.
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