Existentialism, Albert Camus, and The Stranger Albert Camus (1913 - 1960), a French philosopher of the absurd, novelist , and dramatist
History of Algeria • French become involved because of political disagreement with the Ottomans • Evidence of human presence since 4000 B. C. • Settlers include African civilizations, Romans, Arabs, Turks, Europeans • The Turks win control of the area and allow pirates to monitor as representatives of Ottoman Empire • French army lands in 1830 and begins colonizing the area • French colonizers face rebellions and a large Muslim population • Both groups want equal rights
Conflicts in Algeria Left: Place de la republique, Algiers, 1899 • French settlers have ruling rights, excluding natives, Muslims, and others from power • French force Muslims to pay higher taxes • French hold the majority of farmable land • French government decides to grant French citizenship to Algerian Jews but not Muslims • Furthers separation between different groups • Conflicts last until the mid 1900 s
Algeria in the early 1900 s
Life in Algeria for Albert Camus • Born November 7, 1913 in • Begins writing stories and essays reflecting his life in Algeria with the common themes: • Poverty, racism, corruption, Mondovi, Algeria • Father dies in WWI before mistreatment of women Camus is a year old and mother is physically disabled • Grows up in poverty • Receives a scholarship to • attend school • Contracts tuberculosis which stays with him for the rest of his life • Receives a degree in philosophy in 1936 from University of Algiers • • Vulnerability of human life • Never-ending status of world Works as a playwright and actor, eventually becomes journalist for Alger-Republicain in 1938 Moves to France at start of WWII and joins resistance movement Awarded a Nobel Prize in Literature in 1957 Dies in automobile accident in 1960
A Poem by Stephen Crane A man said to the universe: “Sir I exist!” “However, ” replied the universe, What is the relationship like between the man and the universe? “the fact has not created in me a sense of obligation. ” What does “obligation” mean? What does this poem say about our role in the world?
What is Existentialism? 1. “a philosophical theory or approach that emphasizes the existence of the individual person as a free and responsible agent determining their own development through acts of the will” 2. “A body of ethical thought centering about the uniqueness and isolation of individual experience in a universe indifferent or hostile to man, regarding human existence as unexplainable, and emphasizing man’s freedom of choice and responsibility for the consequences of his acts”
What is Existentialism? • The word first appeared in 1941 • Individuals must not allow their choices to be constrained by ANYTHING -not even reason or morality. One has the ultimate freedom to choose.
Death: According to Existentialists • Simply put: Life is short, then you die. • According to Sartre, death is an absurd birth…it is nothing but the wiping out of my existence as a conscious being • What’s the point of anything if everyone dies?
Moral Individualism • No standards for what’s right and wrong • No single standard for moral decisions • I decide what’s moral. • I’m responsible for the consequences of my actions.
The Stranger • • Published in 1942 – smack in the middle of World War Two Also called The Outsider Camus’ first novel Focuses on the philosophies of absurdity and existentialism Takes place in Algeria First-person POV (Meursault) Separated into two parts (first part leading up to a major incident; second part after the incident)
Discussion points: 1. Existence is absurd and true meaning in life is impossible. 2. Day to day existence is filled with anxiety and fear. 3. The idea that I am born into a particular time, place, family, and economic environment is absurd. 4. When I am born, I am undefined without any prior essence or preconceived personality or soul. 5. In life, I must make choices regardless of what’s best for others. I can only choose what’s best for me.