, Volume 50, Issue 4, pp 513-525
Date: 24 Sep 2011

The Tender Indifference of the World: Camus’ Theory of the Flesh

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This paper seeks to show that a deep strand running through Camus’ thinking and writing is what could be termed Camus’ own theory of ‘flesh’, comparable in its function and its scope to Merleau-Ponty’s famous notion. As is well known, in Merleau-Ponty the metaphor of ‘the flesh’ first serves ontological and epistemological purposes. It is supposed to characterise what Merleau-Ponty thinks is the actual mode of access to physical and symbolic worlds. Beyond its primary ontological purpose, Merleau-Ponty’s writings also explore the political and aesthetic implications of the notion. In this article, I attempt to show that Camus’ absurdist stance contained as its other side a positive ontological and epistemological position, comparable to Merleau-Ponty’s. I try to unveil this other side of the absurd in Camus’ early prose. In these texts, Camus’ unique version of sensualism comes to light most strikingly, as an indissolubly ontological and literary vision. That vision traverses Camus’ no ...