Camus and Nihilism
- Ashley Woodward
- … show all 1 hide
Rent the article at a discountRent now
* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.Get Access
Camus published an essay entitled ‘Nietzsche and Nihilism,’ which was later incorporated into The Rebel. Camus' aim was to assess Nietzsche's response to the problem of nihilism. My aim is to do the same with Camus. The paper explores Camus' engagement with nihilism through its two major modalities: with respect to the individual and the question of suicide in The Myth of Sisyphus, and with respect to the collective and the question of murder in The Rebel. While a Nietzschean influence thoroughly suffuses both books, it is in the second that Camus' most explicit, and most critical, engagement with the German philosopher takes place. The crux of Camus' critique of Nietzsche is that the absolute affirmation of existence he proposes as a response to nihilism cannot say ‘no’ to murder. In the terms of Camus' discussion in The Rebel, Nietzsche's philosophy is thus culpable in the straying of rebellion from its own foundations and its slide into bloody revolution. First, the paper argues that Camus' criticisms of Nietzsche are misplaced. Camus focuses his analysis on sections of the problematic text The Will to Power and misses important sections of Nietzsche's published texts which in fact support the condemnation of revolution which is the project of The Rebel. However, the paper argues that Camus moves beyond Nietzsche in radically democratizing the response to nihilism. While Nietzsche's hopes for the creation of meaning are focused on exceptional individuals, Camus insists that any response to nihilism needs to be accessible to the average person. Such a move is laudable, but it raises a number of questions and challenges regarding the type of problem nihilism is, and how these might be addressed.
- Adorno, T. W., & Horkheimer, M. (1997). Dialectic of enlightenment (trans: Cumming, J.). London and New York: Verso.
- Ansell-Pearson, K (1994) An introduction to Nietzsche as political thinker: the perfect Nihilist. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge CrossRef
- Camus, A. (1971). The rebel (trans: Bower, A.). London: Penguin.
- Camus, A. (2000a). The myth of Sisyphus (trans: O’Brien, J.). London: Penguin.
- Camus, A. (2000b). The outsider (trans: Loredo, J.). London: Penguin.
- Camus, A. (2007). Exile and the kingdom (trans: Cosman, C.). London: Vintage.
- Conway, DW (1997) Nietzsche and the political. Routledge, London
- Deleuze, G. (1983). Nietzsche and philosophy (trans: Tomlinson, H.). New York: Columbia University Press.
- Descartes, R. (1912). A discourse on method, etc. (trans: Veitch, J.). London: J.M. Dent and Sons.
- Detwiler, B (1990) Nietzsche and the politics of aristocratic radicalism. University of Chicago Press, Chicago
- Dreyfus, HL (1992) What computers still can’t do: A critique of artificial reason. The MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts
- Dreyfus, H Heidegger on the connection between Nihilism, art, technology, and politics. In: Guignon, C eds. (1993) The Cambridge companion to Heidegger. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge and New York
- Duvall, WE (1999) Camus reading Nietzsche: rebellion, memory, and art. History of European Ideas 25: pp. 39-53 CrossRef
- Heidegger, M The Question of Being. In: McNeill, W eds. (1998) Pathmarks. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
- Kaufmann, W (1975) Existentialism from Dostoevsky to Sartre. Meridian, New York
- Nagel, T (1979) ‘The absurd’ in Mortal questions. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge
- Nietzsche, F. (1986). Human, all too human (trans: Hollingdale, R.J.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Nietzsche, F. (2005). The anti-christ in the anti-christ, ecce homo, twilight of the idols, and other writings, A. Ridley (Ed.), (trans: Norman, J.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Rancière, J (2006) The politics of aesthetics. Continuum, London and New York
- Schnädelbach, H. (1984). Philosophy in Germany 1831–1933 (trans: Matthews, E.). Cambridge, New York: Cambridge University Press.
- Todd, O. (1998). Albert Camus: A life (trans: Ivry, B.). New York: Vintage.
- Vattimo, G. (1992). ‘Disenchantment and Dissolution’ in The Transparent Society (trans: Webb, D.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
- Wilson, C (2004) Dreaming to Some Purpose: An Autobiography. Century, London
- Woodward, A (2009) Nihilism in postmodernity. The Davies Group, Aurora, Colorado
- Woodward, A (2011) Understanding Nietzscheanism. Acumen, Chesham
- Young, J (2010) Friedrich Nietzsche: A philosophical biography. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge CrossRef
- Camus and Nihilism
Volume 50, Issue 4 , pp 543-559
- Cover Date
- Print ISSN
- Online ISSN
- Springer Netherlands
- Additional Links
- Albert Camus
- Friedrich Nietzsche
- Thomas Nagel
- Ashley Woodward (1)
- Author Affiliations
- 1. The Melbourne School of Continental Philosophy, Melbourne, Australia