Camus and Sartre on the Absurd

Philosophers' Imprint 21 (32) (2021)
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Abstract
In this paper, I highlight the philosophical differences between Camus’s and Sartre’s notions of the absurd. “The absurd” is a technical term for both philosophers, and they mean different things by it. The Camusian absurd is a mismatch between theoretical reasoning and practical reasoning. The Sartrean absurd, in contrast, is our theoretical inability to explain contingency or existence. For Sartre, there is only relative, local absurdity; for Camus, the absurd is universal and absolute. I show how their different understandings of the absurd led to Sartre’s misreading of The Stranger; he misses its main mechanism for generating the feeling of the absurd because he reads the novel through his own conception. In order to draw out their philosophical differences, I will provide a reading of the novel that contrasts with Sartre’s.
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Archival date: 2021-10-29
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