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By Patrick Hayden (auth.)

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Extra resources for Camus and the Challenge of Political Thought: Between Despair and Hope

Sample text

As Caligula’s lover Caesonia observes, wanting to alter the scheme of things is to emulate the gods. For Caligula, the secret to eliminating death is to empty life of its own value by dispensing a kind of divine grace. ‘When all is levelled out’, when life and death are on a par, Caligula will have given humanity ‘the gift of equality’ (Camus 1984: 48). For Caligula, despotic excess is justified because his actions aim to ‘bring about the one real revolution in this world of ours’, an absolute transformation that would wash away all trace of the world’s absurdity (Camus 1984: 65).

The Myth of Sisyphus conveys the experiences and anxieties of an entire generation. It offers an account of how the sense of the modern individual, society and its values remain ambiguously informed by inherited philosophical and theological traditions that modernityy itself has either called radically into question or consigned to the past. In this situation, where ossified metaphysical categories and religious principles have fractured under the pressure of modernity’s contradictions and critical self-analysis, a pervasive unease defines the contemporary worldview.

Conclusion Camus’s work offers a sustained attempt to craft philosophical, literary and dramatic variants of the Sisyphean myth as images of the twentiethcentury experience of the absurd. It seeks to warn readers about the dangers of imposing totalizing theories onto an absurd world, and about wishing to remake the world no matter the cost, thereby diagnosing the existential impact of dogmatism and nihilism. The cycle of the absurd is therefore meant to provoke critical reflection on what it means to be human, to inspire creative engagement with the question of whether life is worth living in a cosmos shorn of meaning, without relying upon the comforting foundations of transcendent truths and faith in an inevitably better world to come.

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