This book is the first English-language collection of essays by leading Camus scholars from around the world to focus on Albert Camus’ place and status as a philosopher amongst philosophers. After a thematic introduction, the dedicated chapters of Part 1 address Camus’ relations with leading philosophers, from the ancient Greeks to Jean-Paul Sartre (Augustine, Hume, Kant, Diderot, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Husserl, Hegel, Marx, Sartre). Part 2 contains pieces considering philosophical themes in Camus’ works, from the absurd in The Myth of Sisyphus to love in The First Man (the absurd, psychoanalysis, justice, Algeria, solidarity and solitude, revolution and revolt, art, asceticism, love).
Intellectual Biography and Critical Balance-Sheet
Perhaps no philosopher is more of a conundrum than Nietzsche, the solitary rebel, poet, wayfarer, anti-revolutionary Aufklärer and theorist of aristocratic radicalism. His accusers identify in his ‘superman’ the origins of Nazism, and thus issue an irrevocable condemnation; his defenders pursue a hermeneutics of innocence founded ultimately in allegory. In a work that constitutes the most important contribution to Nietzschean studies in recent decades, Domenico Losurdo instead pursues a less reductive strategy. Taking literally the ruthless implications of Nietzsche's anti-democratic thinking – his celebration of slavery, of war and colonial expansion, and eugenics – he nevertheless refuses to treat these from the perspective of the mid-twentieth century. In doing so, he restores Nietzsche’s works to their complex nineteenth-century context, and presents a more compelling account of the importance of Nietzsche as philosopher than can be expected from his many contemporary apologists.

Translated by Gregor Benton. With an Introduction by Harrison Fluss.


Originally published in Italian by Bollati Boringhieri Editore as Domenico Losurdo, Nietzsche, il ribelle aristocratico: Biografia intellettuale e bilancio critico, Turin, 2002.
Author: Grace Whistler

In chapter 13, Grace Whistler presents an account of Camus’ celebrated but often-misrepresented theme of absurdity, rejecting claims about its putative logical inconsistency. As Whistler rightly points out, the absurd was the point of departure for all of Camus’s subsequent deliberation on moral and political concerns. Whistler’s aim is not only to present us the theme of absurdity in dialogue and discussion with a diverse sample of authors, ranging from Blanchot and Sartre to Ayer and Nagel. She also aims to contribute to the debate on the much-discussed issue of the continuity or discontinuity in Camusian thought. Camus, she claims, saw moral perils emanating from the reflection on the absurd and was at pains to avoid them. This does not mean, however, that the feeling of absurdity that Camus considered the starting point for his reflection had to be completely abandoned. This experience indeed continues to inform Camus’ understanding of human limitations, essential for the further progression of his thought.

In: Brill's Companion to Camus
Author: Eric Berg

Eric Berg’s chapter on the influence of Kierkegaard on Camus’s œuvre begins with a thorough analysis of the sources and means by which Kierkegaard became visible within French philosophy and consequently, to Camus himself. Kierkegaard is initially a negative figure for the French author: a thinker whose appearance in The Myth of Sisyphus is dictated by the need to show “devastating consequences of religious hope when confronted with the absurd”. For Berg, this critique reflects a contestable understanding of Kierkegaard’s theology, shaped by Camus’ limited acquaintance with the Lutheranism of the Danish philosopher. Nevertheless, Berg lists five areas where Camus’s style of thinking converges with that of Kierkegaard: the use of theological language, a cyclical writing plan, the demand for intellectual limits, irony and indirect communication, and Camus’ treatment of death as a trigger for the absurd.

In: Brill's Companion to Camus
Author: Patrick Hayden

Patrick Hayden’s contribution is an extended consideration of the key distinction Camus makes in The Rebel, between rebellion and revolution. Hayden’s chapter begins with a delineation of what he calls Camus’s “para-philosophy”: a stance characterised on the one hand by his often-expressed hostility to systematic philosophy whilst at the same time, on the other hand, featuring a deep, thoughtful, observant, and informed engagement with philosophical sources and questions. Hayden notes that Camus’s primary target in the sections on “Historical Revolt” in The Rebel is above all the propensity of a certain kind of modern philosopher to look at history through an elevated, systematising lens. Paradigmatic here is of course Hegel’s great drama of the alienation and homewards return of Geist (see chapter 10), and Karl Marx’s materialist rewriting of the Hegelian philosophy of history (see chapter 11). The metaphysical and historical revolutionaries, as against the Camusian rebel, look forwards in the light of such totalising visions to a complete overthrow of existing modes and orders. In such a revolutionary Event, they look to see the “end of history”, or a millennial, new dispensation. Contra Sartre et al, Hayden notes that such a critique of revolutionary historicism in no way made Camus a “counter-revolutionary”. Rather, as Foley also stresses (chapter 5), his goal in The Rebel was one of “reclaiming rebellion” from its collapse into forms of revolutionary messianism, and attendant forms of political violence, by drawing upon rebellion to found a philosophy of limits: first, one setting limits against suicide and second, later, one prohibiting murder as a political means.

In: Brill's Companion to Camus
Author: Maciej Kałuża

Camus’s treatment of the great German Idealist, W.G.F. Hegel in L’Homme révolté has received much attention and criticism. As in the cases of Rousseau or Kierkegaard, Camus is lambasted by critics as a thinker who failed to fully understand Hegelian thought, instead dismissing it on basis of a superficial reading. What emerges in Maciej Kaluza’s chapter (chapter 10) is a much more complex picture of the relations between The Phenomenology of Spirit and The Rebel than many commentators have supposed. Kałuża’s analysis reaches out not only to Hegel himself, but also to his famous commentators in French thought, showing their indirect influence on Camusian conclusions. Much of what Camus criticized in Hegel, Kałuża shows, should be more accurately directed against Alexander Kojève and his famous, highly influential interpretation of Hegel’s master-slave dialectic from the Phenomenology of Spirit. Additionally, given our knowledge of Camus’s studies of Jean Hyppolite’s commentaries – especially focused on the issue of unhappy consciousness – Kaluza argues that Camus’s view of Hegelianism could have been much more balanced and dialogical than it remained.

In: Brill's Companion to Camus

George Heffernan’s chapter presents an overview of Camus’s use and understanding of phenomenology, as presented in The Myth of Sisyphus. The second part of Heffernan’s chapter methodically distinguishes major topics in which Camus’s critique of phenomenology, undertaken from the point of view of a person engaged in the theme of absurdity, can be developed and properly understood. In the chapter’s third part, Heffernan considers what objections the phenomenologist could raise had have replied to Camus’s essay. he chapter presents us not only with the unavoidable differences between Husserl’s diverse and systematic analysis and Camus’s rather impressionistic style of philosophising, but also proceeds to offering a view of their common ground. Following other scholars like Avi Sagi or David Sherman, Heffernan concludes that both Camus and Husserl may be seen as thinkers “who describe the phenomenon and the phenomena of human existence in original, significant, and tenable ways”, offering in spite of their differences an illustration of “the creative tension between the search for the meaning of life and the task of living a meaningful life.”

In: Brill's Companion to Camus
Author: Michael Ure

Michael Ure brings a Nietzschean, critical perspective to reading Camus. Ure’s article opens by considering Camus’s reading of Nietzsche in the decisive section “Absolute Affirmation” of The Rebel. Camus’s criticism of modern revolutionary traditions, Ure notes, echoes Nietzsche’s diagnosis that modern liberal and socialist political forms have incompletely overcome Christianity. Camus’s concept of rebellion, Ure notes, involves a kind of balancing act in which the rebel “must negate suffering and injustice and yet nonetheless maintain an aesthetic appreciation of an arational world which can never definitively satisfy the “frantic desire for complete unity”. According to Ure, this balancing act ultimately fails. Camus wants to sever rebellion from resentment, the psychological motive for the slave revolt in morals that Nietzsche had posited in Beyond Good and Evil and Genealogy of Morals as having taken place within Judaism and Christianity against the world of the classical, aristocratic masters. For Ure, the key background text for understanding Camus’s conception of the rebellion of the archetypal “slave” against the “master” is not Kojève, and before him Hegel. But Camus’ attempt to locate a pure, uncontaminated core of modern rebellion – with resentment instead accruing only to modern revolutionaries – fails, for Ure, as his recourse to the profoundly psychologically ambivalent figure of Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights attests.

In: Brill's Companion to Camus

Several of Camus’s later fictional works, led by The Fall, cover many of the same themes that were central to psychoanalysis in the 20th century. Yet, as Matthew Bowker notes in his powerful contribution to this collection (chapter 15), few authors have tried to plumb the psychodynamics of Camus’s specifically philosophical works, beginning with The Myth of Sisyphus, with its preoccupation with the absurd. Yet, Bowker provocatively contends that Camus’s philosophy of the absurd, with its sense of the fundamental “divorce” between the human desire for meaning and a world which ultimately refuses it significantly anticipates, if it does not directly shape, many of the key, deeply melancholic motifs of later postmodern and post-structuralist thought. For Bowker, the “absurd man” and his postmodern legatees remaining moored in an attitude of “melancholic revolt.” Camus’s inability to mourn the loss of a sense of metaphysical at-homeness, Bowker ties to his political stance in Algeria (examined in this collection in the contributions by Dunwoodie and Orme).

In: Brill's Companion to Camus

Albert Camus’s question: “What is it like to exist in an absurd world, where one is alienated from the workings of the universe, the minds of others, and even in some ways from one’s own mind?” did not trouble earlier modern philosophers like David Hume and Immanuel Kant. Nevertheless, Kimberly Baltzer-Jaray shows how Camus develops his post-absurdist thought on the basis of metaphysical and epistemological conclusions of these 18th century thinkers. For Baltzer-Jaray, Camus “explored how we live and breathe the consequences of Hume and Kant”. For her, we can understand Camus’s themes of absurdity and alienation and his proposal of revolt as a practical resolution of epistemological dilemmas introduced by these earlier modern predecessors. In the light of their reflection on the limits of human knowledge, Camus should be positioned as a thinker who explores the individual consequences of living without appeal to absolute theological or rationalistic claims in a difficult attempt at finding meaning in a post-metaphysical world.

In: Brill's Companion to Camus