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Collection « Les sciences sociales contemporaines »

Marcel J. Mélançon, Albert Camus. An Analysis of His Thought. (1983)

Une édition électronique réalisée à partir du livre de Marcel J. Mélançon, Albert Camus. An Analysis of His Thought. Translated by Robert Dole. Ottawa, Canada: Tecumseh Press, 1983, 202 pp. Une édition numérique réalisée par Marcelle Bergeron, bénévole, professeure retraitée de l'École polyvalente Dominique-Racine, Chicoutimi, Québec. [Autorisation accordée par l'auteur, Marcel Mélançon, et le traducteur, Robert Dole, le 20 avril 2010 de diffuser ce livre dans Les Classiques des sciences sociales.]


[1] There already exists a large selection of publications about Albert Camus. More than 1300 titles of volumes, review articles and reports can be counted in the French language alone. Most of them deal with Camus as a man of letters, a man of the theatre, or a philosopher.

It seems that an analysis of his philosophical thought is in order, and that it should be made from the point of view of his metaphysical position relating to God. I believe, indeed, that this position explains Albert Camus's philosophy to a large extent. Is not the absurd, for example, a definition of a world without an Author ? Does not the human condition, as it is described by Camus, present the situation of man without God ? Does not his ethics of revolt propose a behaviour for men deprived of God ? Without wanting to reduce Camus's thought to a system (Camus always refused to let it be reduced to a system), I shall try to analyze it from the point of view of his metaphysical position regarding God.

The perspective of this study will not be that of a man of letters, of a Christian or of a theologian, but rather that of a philosopher. However, considering the influence of Christian thought on Camus, we should take account of certain theological principles conveyed by the religious vocabulary of sin, grace, salvation and holiness.

An observation about the evolution of Camus's thought is called for. Certain themes, such as that of the always-denied immortality, remained constants in his works, from his youth through his adult years. Others, however, underwent an evolution, either as a rupture or as a deepening ; thus the ethics of quantity in Le Mythe de Sisyphe was replaced by the ethics of quality in L'Homme révolté ; the absurd, without being renounced, gave way to revolt. In the case of God, certain questions cannot be avoided : is the position taken in L'Étranger the same as the one adopted in La Chute ? Is there really a question, in all of Camus's work, of a categorical negation of the existence of God ? Or a statement of his impotence in the world ? Has he really made a distinction between the God of the philosophers and the God of the Christians ? Has he really settled on a conclusion ? These are the questions that I shall try to answer.

[2] There are two basic difficulties, namely the absence of synthesis and the plurality of literary genres. Camus has not constructed his thought in the manner of the philosophical treatise, where the meaning of the terms is always the same and the language always technical. The words "absurd" and "world", among others, vary according to the context. The literary genres differ : the novel, the theatre, the essay, journalism. The analyst should be aware that one of his novels can change the thought he expressed in an earlier essay. Or the same thought may be conveyed by different means. This is precisely what we must reveal and analyze.

Moreover, it is impossible to deal with one theme in only one place. The theme of death, for example, is met within the theme of the absurd, while also being found in the metaphysical condition (God is the author of death), in the historical condition (men kill), and in ethics (the attitude towards death). The perspectives are different.

Finally, I have decided to quote frequently from the texts. If reading this study thus becomes more demanding, it is in order to be more precise. However, this work does not claim to be either definitive or exhaustive ; it could, moreover, constitute a work tool for later researchers.

I have adopted the following plan : the first part deals with the absurd, which could be considered the state of the world without God, where three solutions are possible : physical suicide, philosophical suicide, and maintaining the absurd. The second part presents the human condition, or the situation of man without God : it is at once metaphysical and historical. The third part discusses the revolt against the metaphysical and historical condition. The fourth and last part treats the ethics of revolt, by which man proposes to save others in accordance with principles based on human nature.

Retour au texte de l'auteur: Jean-Marc Fontan, sociologue, UQAM Dernière mise à jour de cette page le mardi 4 janvier 2011 13:11
Par Jean-Marie Tremblay, sociologue
professeur de sociologie au Cegep de Chicoutimi.

Saguenay - Lac-Saint-Jean, Québec
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