Why Camus Was Not An Existentialist
Greg Stone presents the evidence.
So what is existentialism, and why does Camus not qualify? In simple terms, Sartre believed that existence precedes essence; Camus however contended that essence precedes existence. That is to say, in Sartre’s bleak cosmos, man becomes conscious primarily of his existence as a free agent, and is then condemned to forge his own identity – his essence – in a world without God.
What then is this essence that Camus believed preceded existence...absurdism?
Is or is not the human condition essentially absurd?
No, seriously, what is essentially true about human interactions in regard to our moral, political and spiritual values?
As for Sartre, what I'd give to have him around today responding to my own arguments here. From my frame of mind, what makes the human condition bleak is that in a No God world we interact based on all of the variables in our lives that we do not either fully grasp or control. And, in fact, in regard to conflicting goods, a fractured and fragmented "self" seems entirely reasonable to me.
"Hell is other people" precisely when they objectify us. When they demand of all others that they embrace the same
essence. Then the "or else" part.
Camus, on the other hand, was willing to posit legal rules so absolute that they could be said to point to ‘essences’ – among them a belief that almost all violence is immoral. Therein lies the foul: dogmatic principles for living, no matter how well intentioned, are not ‘existential’.
Did he believe that? And, if he did, how on Earth did he reconcile it with the world that we actually live in? Violence is everywhere. And, in part, because some who do believe that essence is prior to existence are hellbent on including and excluding others in their own "my way or the highway" dogmas. And if one of them is hellbent on coming after you, how can a violent reaction be immoral then?
As for these factors...
Although Camus is invariably linked with Sartre, whose name is synonymous with existentialism, they were an odd couple, who clashed like Voltaire and Rousseau, or Verlaine and Rimbaud. Sartre was tiny, plump, and ugly; Camus tall, elegant, and handsome: Sartre played Quasimodo to Camus’ Humphrey Bogart. Sartre famously described man as a “useless passion”; Camus described himself as a man of passion. Sartre felt most at home in the dark cafés of Paris; Camus in the blazing sunlight of the Algeria of his childhood. Sartre wrote at Mozartian speed; Camus at Beethoven’s tortured pace.
...you tell me.
There are the truly personal components of our lives -- looks, demographics, experiences, relationships, etc. -- that will always set us apart from others. The facts of life.
And then the components rooted far more in dasein. And then "the gap" and "Rummy's Rule".