Albert Camus and the Ethics of Rebellion

Part of the American University Publications in Philosophy book series (MNPL, volume 29)


The work of Albert Camus as a philosopher somewhat closely related to European existentialism has been quite neglected in this country. Camus has disassociated himself from the existentialist movement, and it is not our intention to prove him wrong. In view of the fact, however, that he has an interest in many of the same philosophical issues, and because he frequently seems to state his position, either explicitely or implicitly, in relationship to that of Sartre, it is doubtful if his attempt to disassociate himself will succeed. There is little doubt, however, that his thought is to be clearly distinguished from that of Sartre, and if the term “existentialism” is defined so as to become nearly identical with Sartre’s philosophy, as sometimes seems to be the case, then no doubt Camus’ protest is valid.


Human Nature Common Humanity Historical Situation Empirical Ethic Authentic Existence 
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  1. 1a.
    For recent comments upon this political division within French existentialism see J-M. Domenach, “Camus-Sartre Debate,” Nation, CLXXVI (1953) pp. 202–203;Google Scholar
  2. 1b.
    N. Chiaromente, “Sartre Versus Camus: A Political Quarrel,” Partisan Review, XIX (1952) pp. 880–886.Google Scholar
  3. 2.
    Abert Camus, Le Mythe de Sisyphe (Paris: Gallimard, 1943).Google Scholar
  4. 3a.
    Albert Camus, The Rebel (London: H. Hamilton, 1953). This is the english version of L’Homme Revolte (Paris: Gallimard, 1951). All references will be to this english version. The reviews of this work have been most conflicting in their evaluation of Camus’ contribution.Google Scholar
  5. 3b.
    For a study of Camus’ thought see Robert de Luppe, Albert Camus (Paris: Editions Universitaires, 1952);Google Scholar
  6. 3c.
    L. Roth, “A Contomporary Moralist: Alert Camus,” Philosophy, XXX (1955) pp 291–303.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 3d.
    For a general survey of Camus’ writings with an emphasis upon his literary production see K. Lansner, “Albert Camus,” Kenyon Review, XIV (1952) pp. 562–578.Google Scholar
  8. 4.
    The Rebel, p. 11.Google Scholar
  9. 5.
    Albert Camus, “The Artist As Witness Of Freedom,.” Commentary, VIII (1949) p. 535.Google Scholar
  10. 6.
    The Rebel, p. 13.Google Scholar
  11. 8.
    The Rebel, p. 16.Google Scholar
  12. 9.
    Ibid., p. 22.Google Scholar
  13. 10.
    In regard to this matter Camus suggests a serious critique of Max Scheler’s analysis of resentment and the identification of this with rebellion. Camus compares rebellion, which is an act of the total being, with resentment as indwelling “evil secretion.” Scheler’s analysis is too confined to the passive aspects of resentment, while rebellion is the outlet of vitality. Resentment is full of envy, but rebellion is to defend one’s possessions. There is a humanitarianism in rebellion which is not at all recognized in the negative characteristic of resentment. (Ibid., pp. 23–25).Google Scholar
  14. 11.
    Ibid., p. 26.Google Scholar
  15. 12.
  16. 13.
    At this point Camus puts in one modification, “except in so far as religion is concerned,” but he indicates that within religion there can be no real rebellion. We shall return to this pont in the concluding section. See also T. L. Hanna, “Albert Camus And The Christian Faith,” Journal of Religion, XXXVI (1956) pp. 224–233. Hanna gives a helpful analysis of Camus’ attitude to the Christian faith and his analysis of the Judaic foundations of contemporary culture, including the culture of distorted rebellion. In this way he indicated the challenge which Camus offers contemporary Christian thought.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 14.
    The Rebel, p. 27.Google Scholar
  18. 15.
    Ibid., p. 28.Google Scholar
  19. 16.
    Ibid., p. 75.Google Scholar
  20. 17.
    To indicate the extent of rationalism in the communist movement Camus notes the Marxist rejection of the Freudian unconscious. (Ibid., p. 207).Google Scholar
  21. 20.
    The Rebel, p. 219.Google Scholar
  22. 21.
    See H. A. Durfee, “Camus’ Challenge To Modern Art,” Journal Of Aesthetics And Art Criticism, XIV (1955) pp. 201–205.Google Scholar
  23. 22.
    The Rebel, p. 227.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    The Rebel, pp. 269–270.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Ibid., p. 273.Google Scholar
  26. 27a.
    Camus answers some of Marcel’s criticisms in this essay but still does not avoid the dualism which Marcel accuses him of maintaining. See G. Marcel, Man Against Humanity (London: Harvill, 1952) pp. 86 ff.;Google Scholar
  27. 27b.
    G. Marcel, Homo Viator (Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1951) pp. 200 ff.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, Dordrecht 1987

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The American UniversityUSA

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