Camus and Sartre Friendship Troubled by Ideological Feud - SPIEGEL ONLINE
The querulous falling out of Sartre and Camus has acquired almost may have precipitated the increasingly fractious relationship between the two men, Click here to visit our frequently asked questions about HTML5 video. 1 Introduction on Sartre vs Camus: War & Philosophy: An historical The relationship between Sartre/Camus has modeled the post-war french philosophy. Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre, two of the most important minds of to become "completely committed" to political issues in their works.
For Camus, Sisyphus reminds us that we cannot help seeking to understand the reality that transcends our intelligence, striving to grasp more than our limited and practical scientific understanding allows, and wishing to live without dying.
Like Sisyphus, we are our fate, and our frustration is our very life: But there is more. After the rock comes tumbling down, confirming the ultimate futility of his project, Sisyphus trudges after it once again. At each of those moments when he leaves the heights and gradually sinks towards the lairs of the gods, he is superior to his fate. Full consciousness, avoiding false solutions such as religion, refusing to submit, and carrying on with vitality and intensity: This is how a life without ultimate meaning can be made worth living.
Sisyphus accepts and embraces living with death without the possibility of appealing to God. His fate belongs to him. He has lived his existence from one moment to the next and without much awareness, but at his trial and while awaiting execution he becomes like Sisyphus, fully conscious of himself and his terrible fate.
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He will die triumphant as the absurd man. The Myth of Sisyphus is far from having a skeptical conclusion. In response to the lure of suicide, Camus counsels an intensely conscious and active non-resolution. Rejecting any hope of resolving the strain is also to reject despair. Indeed, it is possible, within and against these limits, to speak of happiness. It is not that discovering the absurd leads necessarily to happiness, but rather that acknowledging the absurd means also accepting human frailty, an awareness of our limitations, and the fact that we cannot help wishing to go beyond what is possible.
These are all tokens of being fully alive. First of all, like Pyrrho, Camus has solved his pressing existential issue, namely, avoiding despair, by a kind of resolution entailed in accepting our mortality and ultimate ignorance. But there are two critical differences with Pyrrho: This last point was already contained in Nuptials, but here is expanded to link consciousness with happiness.
But how is it possible that, by the end of The Myth of Sisyphus, Camus has moved from skepticism about finding the truth and nihilism about whether life has meaning to advocating an approach to life that is clearly judged to be better than others? How does he justify embracing a normative stance, affirming specific values? This contradiction reveals a certain sleight of hand, as the philosopher gives way to the artist.
It is as an artist that Camus now makes his case for acceptance of tragedy, the consciousness of absurdity, and a life of sensuous vitality. He advocates this with the image of Sisyphus straining, fully alive, and happy.
Camus and the World of Violence: And it is often forgotten that this absurdist novelist and philosopher was also a political activist—he had been a member of the Algerian branch of the French Communist Party in the mids and was organizer of an Algiers theater company that performed avant-garde and political plays—as well as a crusading journalist.
In June he wrote a series of reports on famine and poverty in the mountainous coastal region of Kabylie, among the first detailed articles ever written by a European Algerian describing the wretched living conditions of the native population. The spectacle of Camus and his mentor Pascal Pia running their left-wing daily into the ground because they rejected the urgency of fighting Nazism is one of the most striking but least commented-on periods of his life.
Misunderstanding Nazism at the beginning of the war, he advocated negotiations with Hitler that would in part reverse the humiliations of the Treaty of Versailles.
His pacifism was in keeping with a time-honored French tradition, and Camus reported for military service out of solidarity with those young men, like his brother, who had become soldiers. Intending to serve loyally and to advocate a negotiated peace in the barracks, he was angered that his tuberculosis disqualified him Lottman, —31; Aronson25— However, after the Liberation the question of violence continued to occupy him both politically and philosophically.
His allegory of the war years, The Plague, depicts a nonviolent resistance to an unexplained pestilence, and in his was one of the few voices raised in protest against the American use of nuclear weapons to defeat Japan Aronson After the Liberation he opposed the death penalty for collaborators, turned against Marxism and Communism for embracing revolution, rejected the looming cold war and its threatening violence, and then in The Rebel began to spell out his deeper understanding of violence.
Writing as a philosopher again, he returns to the terrain of argument by explaining what absurdist reasoning entails.
Since to conclude otherwise would negate its very premise, namely the existence of the questioner, absurdism must logically accept life as the one necessary good. As in his criticism of the existentialists, Camus advocates a single standpoint from which to argue for objective validity, that of consistency. One might think that a period which, in a space of fifty years, uproots, enslaves, or kills seventy million human beings should be condemned out of hand.
Do such questions represent an entirely new philosophy or are they continuous with The Myth of Sisyphus?. The issue is not resolved by the explanations that Camus gives for his shift in the first pages of The Rebel—by referring to the mass murders of the middle third of the twentieth century.
In so doing Camus applies the philosophy of the absurd in new, social directions, and seeks to answer new, historical questions. But as we see him setting this up at the beginning of The Rebel the continuity with a philosophical reading of The Stranger is also strikingly clear.
At the beginning of The Rebel Camus explains: Awareness of the absurd, when we first claim to deduce a rule of behavior from it, makes murder seem a matter of indifference, to say the least, and hence possible. We are free to stoke the crematory fires or to devote ourselves to the care of lepers. Evil and virtue are mere chance or caprice. Having ruled out suicide, what is there to say about murder? Starting from the absence of God, the key theme of Nuptials, and the inevitability of absurdity, the key theme of The Myth of Sisyphus, Camus incorporates both of these into The Rebel, but alongside them he now stresses revolt.
The act of rebellion assumes the status of a primary datum of human experience, like the Cartesian cogito taken by Sartre as his point of departure. Camus first expressed this directly under the inspiration of his encounter with Being and Nothingness. But how can an I lead to a we? Acting against oppression entails having recourse to social values, and at the same time joining with others in struggle. On both levels solidarity is our common condition. In The Rebel Camus takes the further step, which occupies most of the book, of developing his notion of metaphysical and historical rebellion in opposition to the concept of revolution.
And now, in The Rebel, he describes this as a major trend of modern history, using similar terms to those he had used in The Myth of Sisyphus to describe the religious and philosophical evasions.
What sort of work is this? In a book so charged with political meaning, Camus makes no explicitly political arguments or revelations, and presents little in the way of actual social analysis or concrete historical study. The Rebel is, rather, a historically framed philosophical essay about underlying ideas and attitudes of civilization. David Sprintzen suggests these taken-for-granted attitudes operate implicitly and in the background of human projects and very rarely become conscious Sprintzen Camus felt that it was urgent to critically examine these attitudes in a world in which calculated murder had become common.
The book provides a unique perspective—presenting a coherent and original structure of premise, mood, description, philosophy, history, and even prejudice. These certainly reached back to his expulsion from the Communist Party in the mids for refusing to adhere to its Popular Front strategy of playing down French colonialism in Algeria in order to win support from the white working class.
Then, making no mention of Marxism, The Myth of Sisyphus is eloquently silent on its claims to present a coherent understanding of human history and a meaningful path to the future. Validating revolt as a necessary starting point, Camus criticizes politics aimed at building a utopian future, affirming once more that life should be lived in the present and in the sensuous world.
He explores the history of post-religious and nihilistic intellectual and literary movements; he attacks political violence with his views on limits and solidarity; and he ends by articulating the metaphysical role of art as well as a self-limiting radical politics.
In place of argument, he paints a concluding vision of Mediterranean harmony that he hopes will be stirring and lyrical, binding the reader to his insights. As a political tract The Rebel asserts that Communism leads inexorably to murder, and then explains how revolutions arise from certain ideas and states of spirit. Furthermore, Camus insists that these attitudes are built into Marxism. Marxists think this, Camus asserted, because they believe that history has a necessary logic leading to human happiness, and thus they accept violence to bring it about.
In The Rebel Camus takes this assertion a further step: As does the rebel who becomes a revolutionary who kills and then justifies murder as legitimate. According to Camus, the execution of King Louis XVI during the French Revolution was the decisive step demonstrating the pursuit of justice without regard to limits.
It contradicted the original life-affirming, self-affirming, and unifying purpose of revolt.
Camus focuses on a variety of major figures, movements, and literary works: Camus describes revolt as increasing its force over time and turning into an ever more desperate nihilism, overthrowing God and putting man in his place, wielding power more and more brutally.
Historical revolt, rooted in metaphysical revolt, leads to revolutions seeking to eliminate absurdity by using murder as their central tool to take total control over the world. Communism is the contemporary expression of this Western sickness. We might justly expect an analysis of the arguments he speaks of, but The Rebel changes focus.
But—and here Sartre differs from Kafka—"some indefinable obstacle prevents the reader from participating and holds him back when he is on the very threshold of consent. Sartre dwells on the repugnant features of humankind "instead of basing his reasons for despair on certain of man's signs of greatness. Though strongly critical, Camus appreciated Sartre's ideas and enjoyed his honesty and his capacity to break new ground. The review's closing words stress his admiration: This is the first novel from a writer from whom everything may be expected.
So natural a suppleness in staying on the far boundaries of conscious thought, so painful a lucidity, are indications of limitless gifts. These are grounds for welcoming Nausea as the first summons of an original and vigorous mind whose lessons and works to come we are impatient to see.
Was this merely a reviewer's posture, a way of balancing criticism with just enough praise so as to not sound peevish? The impatient critic did not have long to wait. Less than six months later, Sartre's next book fully satisfied him. In Februaryin reviewing Sartre's collection of stories The Wall, Camus enthusiastically hailed Sartre's lucidity, his portrayal of the absurdity of existence, and his depiction of characters whose freedom was useless to them.
Their negativity—if anything, stronger in The Wall than in Nausea—now troubled him less. Overwhelmed by their freedom, these people could not overcome absurdity as they bumped up against their own lives. They had "no attachments, no principles, no Ariadne's thread," because they were unable to act.
They gave their reader "that higher, absurd freedom which leads the characters to their own ends. The philosophy and the images were now in balance.
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Camus's conclusion indicated not only his enthusiasm for the author but his sense of common purpose with a writer who, in his two books, has been able to get straight to the essential problem and bring it to life through his obsessive characters.
A great writer always introduces his own world and its message. Sartre's brings us to nothingness, but also to lucidity. And the image he perpetuates through his characters, of a man seated amid the ruins of his life, is a good illustration of the greatness and truth of his work.
On his side, all we know for certain is a literary encounter that took place in fall Discovering Camus only weeks after sending off the completed manuscript of Being and Nothingness, he was moved to devote a generous, detailed, 6,word essay to The Stranger. In this striking article, Sartre reads that book alongside The Myth of Sisyphus, the fiction in relation to the philosophy. As he writes, let us listen to the different voices: The absurd…resides neither in man nor in the world if you consider each separately.
But since man's dominant characteristic is "being-in-the-world," the absurd is, in the end, an inseparable part of the human condition. Thus, the absurd is not, to begin with, the object of a mere idea; it is revealed to us in a doleful illumination.
Here Sartre is approvingly summarizing and quoting from a passage near the beginning of The Myth of Sisyphus, where Camus lays out his basic ideas. Surprisingly, the quoted passage sounds like Camus's paraphrase of none other than Roquentin's experience in Nausea.
Sartre continues, in apparent agreement with Camus: As we turn the page, Sartre's novel is mentioned explicitly: In a stunning reflection of kinship, Sartre enthusiastically quoted Camus—whose analysis drew upon Sartre. It is both of their voices at one and the same time.
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Beyond this kinship, Sartre compared Camus with Kafka and Hemingway, whom he admired, and praised The Stranger for its "skillful construction. And when we close the book, we realize that it could not have had any other ending.
In this world that has been stripped of its causality and presented as absurd, the smallest incident has weight. Inafter three years working on it, Sartre published the Critique of Dialectical Reason. He was a high profile figure in the Peace Movement. Inhe turned down the Nobel prize for literature.
He was actively involved in the May uprising. His study of Flaubert, L'Idiot de la Famille, was published in Inhe claimed no longer to be a Marxist, but his political activity continued until his death in Early Works Sartre's early work is characterised by phenomenological analyses involving his own interpretation of Husserl's method. Sartre's methodology is Husserlian as demonstrated in his paper "Intentionality: This means that the acts by which consciousness assigns meaning to objects are what is analysed, and that what is sought in the particular examples under examination is their essential structure.
At the core of this methodology is a conception of consciousness as intentional, that is, as 'about' something, a conception inherited from Brentano and Husserl.
Sartre puts his own mark on this view by presenting consciousness as being transparent, i. The distinctiveness of Sartre's development of Husserl's phenomenology can be characterised in terms of Sartre's methodology, of his view of the self and of his ultimate ethical interests. Methodology Sartre's methodology differs from Husserl's in two essential ways.
Although he thinks of his analyses as eidetic, he has no real interest in Husserl's understanding of his method as uncovering the Essence of things. For Husserl, eidetic analysis is a clarification which brings out the higher level of the essence that is hidden in 'fluid unclarity' Husserl, Ideas, I.
For Sartre, the task of an eidetic analysis does not deliver something fixed immanent to the phenomenon. It still claims to uncover that which is essential, but thereby recognizes that phenomenal experience is essentially fluid.
In Sketch for a Theory of the Emotions, Sartre replaces the traditional picture of the passivity of our emotional nature with one of the subject's active participation in her emotional experiences. Emotion originates in a degradation of consciousness faced with a certain situation. The spontaneous conscious grasp of the situation which characterizes an emotion, involves what Sartre describes as a 'magical' transformation of the situation.
Faced with an object which poses an insurmountable problem, the subject attempts to view it differently, as though it were magically transformed. Thus an imminent extreme danger may cause me to faint so that the object of my fear is no longer in my conscious grasp. Or, in the case of wrath against an unmovable obstacle, I may hit it as though the world were such that this action could lead to its removal.
The essence of an emotional state is thus not an immanent feature of the mental world, but rather a transformation of the subject's perspective upon the world.
In The Psychology of the Imagination, Sartre demonstrates his phenomenological method by using it to take on the traditional view that to imagine something is to have a picture of it in mind.
Sartre's account of imagining does away with representations and potentially allows for a direct access to that which is imagined; when this object does not exist, there is still an intention albeit unsuccessful to become conscious of it through the imagination.
So there is no internal structure to the imagination. It is rather a form of directedness upon the imagined object. Imagining a heffalump is thus of the same nature as perceiving an elephant.
Both are spontaneous intentional or directed acts, each with its own type of intentionality. The Ego Sartre's view also diverges from Husserl's on the important issue of the ego. For Sartre, Husserl adopted the view that the subject is a substance with attributes, as a result of his interpretation of Kant's unity of apperception. Husserl endorsed the Kantian claim that the 'I think' must be able to accompany any representation of which I am conscious, but reified this 'I' into a transcendental ego.
Such a move is not warranted for Sartre, as he explains in The Transcendence of the Ego. Moreover, it leads to the following problems for our phenomenological analysis of consciousness. The ego would have to feature as an object in all states of consciousness. This would result in its obstructing our conscious access to the world.
But this would conflict with the direct nature of this conscious access. Correlatively, consciousness would be divided into consciousness of ego and consciousness of the world.
This would however be at odds with the simple, and thus undivided, nature of our access to the world through conscious experience. In other words, when I am conscious of a tree, I am directly conscious of it, and am not myself an object of consciousness. Sartre proposes therefore to view the ego as a unity produced by consciousness. In other words, he adds to the Humean picture of the self as a bundle of perceptions, an account of its unity.
This unity of the ego is a product of conscious activity. As a result, the traditional Cartesian view that self-consciousness is the consciousness the ego has of itself no longer holds, since the ego is not given but created by consciousness. What model does Sartre propose for our understanding of self-consciousness and the production of the ego through conscious activity?
The key to answering the first part of the question lies in Sartre's introduction of a pre-reflective level, while the second can then be addressed by examining conscious activity at the other level, i. An example of pre-reflective consciousness is the seeing of a house.
This type of consciousness is directed to a transcendent object, but this does not involve my focussing upon it, i. For Sartre, this pre-reflective consciousness is thus impersonal: Importantly, Sartre insists that self-consciousness is involved in any such state of consciousness: This accounts for the phenomenology of 'seeing', which is such that the subject is clearly aware of her pre-reflective consciousness of the house.
This awareness does not have an ego as its object, but it is rather the awareness that there is an act of 'seeing'. Reflective consciousness is the type of state of consciousness involved in my looking at a house.
For Sartre, the cogito emerges as a result of consciousness's being directed upon the pre-reflectively conscious. In so doing, reflective consciousness takes the pre-reflectively conscious as being mine. It thus reveals an ego insofar as an 'I' is brought into focus: This 'I' is the correlate of the unity that I impose upon the pre-reflective states of consciousness through my reflection upon them.
To account for the prevalence of the Cartesian picture, Sartre argues that we are prone to the illusion that this 'I' was in fact already present prior to the reflective conscious act, i. By substituting his model of a two-tiered consciousness for this traditional picture, Sartre provides an account of self-consciousness that does not rely upon a pre-existing ego, and shows how an ego is constructed in reflection.
Ethics An important feature of Sartre's phenomenological work is that his ultimate interest in carrying out phenomenological analyses is an ethical one. Through them, he opposes the view, which is for instance that of the Freudian theory of the unconscious, that there are psychological factors that are beyond the grasp of our consciousness and thus are potential excuses for certain forms of behaviour.
Starting with Sartre's account of the ego, this is characterised by the claim that it is produced by, rather than prior to consciousness. As a result, accounts of agency cannot appeal to a pre-existing ego to explain certain forms of behaviour. Rather, conscious acts are spontaneous, and since all pre-reflective consciousness is transparent to itself, the agent is fully responsible for them and a fortiori for his ego. In Sartre's analysis of emotions, affective consciousness is a form of pre-reflective consciousness, and is therefore spontaneous and self-conscious.
Against traditional views of the emotions as involving the subject's passivity, Sartre can therefore claim that the agent is responsible for the pre-reflective transformation of his consciousness through emotion. In the case of the imaginary, the traditional view of the power of fancy to overcome rational thought is replaced by one of imaginary consciousness as a form of pre-reflective consciousness.
As such, it is therefore again the result of the spontaneity of consciousness and involves self-conscious states of mind. An individual is therefore fully responsible for his imaginations's activity. In all three cases, a key factor in Sartre's account is his notion of the spontaneity of consciousness. To dispel the apparent counter-intuitiveness of the claims that emotional states and flights of imagination are active, and thus to provide an account that does justice to the phenomenology of these states, spontaneity must be clearly distinguished from a voluntary act.
A voluntary act involves reflective consciousness that is connected with the will; spontaneity is a feature of pre-reflective consciousness. Existential Phenomenology Is there a common thread to these specific features of Sartre's phenomenological approach?
Sartre's choice of topics for phenomenological analysis suggests an interest in the phenomenology of what it is to be human, rather than in the world as such. This privileging of the human dimension has parallels with Heidegger's focus upon Dasein in tackling the question of Being. This aspect of Heidegger's work is that which can properly be called existential insofar as Dasein's way of being is essentially distinct from that of any other being.
This characterisation is particularly apt for Sartre's work, in that his phenomenological analyses do not serve a deeper ontological purpose as they do for Heidegger who distanced himself from any existential labelling.
Thus, in his "Letter on Humanism", Heidegger reminds us that the analysis of Dasein is only one chapter in the enquiry into the question of Being. For Heidegger, Sartre's humanism is one more metaphysical perspective which does not return to the deeper issue of the meaning of Being. Sartre sets up his own picture of the individual human being by first getting rid of its grounding in a stable ego.
As Sartre later puts it in Existentialism is a Humanism, to be human is characterised by an existence that precedes its essence. As such, existence is problematic, and it is towards the development of a full existentialist theory of what it is to be human that Sartre's work logically evolves.
In relation to what will become Being and Nothingness, Sartre's early works can be seen as providing important preparatory material for an existential account of being human. But the distinctiveness of Sartre's approach to understanding human existence is ultimately guided by his ethical interest. In particular, this accounts for his privileging of a strong notion of freedom which we shall see to be fundamentally at odds with Heidegger's analysis.
Thus the nature of Sartre's topics of analysis, his theory of the ego and his ethical aims all characterise the development of an existential phenomenology. Let us now examine the central themes of this theory as they are presented in Being and Nothingness. The Ontology of Being and Nothingness Being and Nothingness can be characterized as a phenomenological investigation into the nature of what it is to be human, and thus be seen as a continuation of, and expansion upon, themes characterising the early works.
In contrast with these however, an ontology is presented at the outset and guides the whole development of the investigation. One of the main features of this system, which Sartre presents in the introduction and the first chapter of Part One, is a distinction between two kinds of transcendence of the phenomenon of being. The first is the transcendence of being and the second that of consciousness. This means that, starting with the phenomenon that which is our conscious experiencethere are two types of reality which lie beyond it, and are thus trans-phenomenal.
On the one hand, there is the being of the object of consciousness, and on the other, that of consciousness itself. These define two types of being, the in-itself and the for-itself.
To bring out that which keeps them apart, involves understanding the phenomenology of nothingness. This reveals consciousness as essentially characterisable through its power of negation, a power which plays a key role in our existential condition. Let us examine these points in more detail. The Being of the Phenomenon and Consciousness In Being and Time, Heidegger presents the phenomenon as involving both a covering and a disclosing of being.
For Sartre, the phenomenon reveals, rather than conceals, reality. What is the status of this reality? Sartre considers the phenomenalist option of viewing the world as a construct based upon the series of appearances.
He points out that the being of the phenomenon is not like its essence, i. In this way, Sartre moves away from Husserl's conception of the essence as that which underpins the unity of the appearances of an object, to a Heideggerian notion of the being of the phenomenon as providing this grounding.
Just as the being of the phenomenon transcends the phenomenon of being, consciousness also transcends it. Sartre thus establishes that if there is perceiving, there must be a consciousness doing the perceiving. How are these two transphenomenal forms of being related?
As opposed to a conceptualising consciousness in a relation of knowledge to an object, as in Husserl and the epistemological tradition he inherits, Sartre introduces a relation of being: This is Sartre's version of Heidegger's ontological relation of being-in-the-world.
It differs from the latter in two essential respects. First, it is not a practical relation, and thus distinct from a relation to the ready-to-hand. Rather, it is simply given by consciousness. Second, it does not lead to any further question of Being. For Sartre, all there is to being is given in the transphenomenality of existing objects, and there is no further issue of the Being of all beings as for Heidegger. Two Types of Being As we have seen, both consciousness and the being of the phenomenon transcend the phenomenon of being.
As a result, there are two types of being which Sartre, using Hegel's terminology, calls the for-itself 'pour-soi' and the in-itself 'en-soi'. Sartre presents the in-itself as existing without justification independently of the for-itself, and thus constituting an absolute 'plenitude'. It exists in a fully determinate and non-relational way.
This fully characterizes its transcendence of the conscious experience. In contrast with the in-itself, the for-itself is mainly characterised by a lack of identity with itself. This is a consequence of the following.