The Contemporary Relevance Of Albert Camus

3167 words - 13 pages

The Contemporary Relevance of Albert Camus

ABSTRACT: After 350 years of continual social transformations under the push of industrialization, capitalism, world-wide social revolutions, and the development of modern science, what reasonably remains of the traditional faith in divine transcendence and providential design except a deep-felt, almost 'ontological' yearning for transcendence? Torn between outmoded religious traditions and an ascendant secular world, the contemporary celebration of individuality only makes more poignant the need for precisely that religious consolation that public life increasingly denies. People must now confront the meaning of their lives without the assured aid of transcendent purpose and direction. The resulting sense of absence profoundly marks the contemporary world. Confronted with the theoretical problems posed by the absence of absolute values, and the historical problems posed by contemporary social movements, Camus dramatized the urgency of developing guides to humane conduct in a world without transcendence. He continued to believe that only when the dignity of the worker and the respect for intelligence are accorded their rightful place can human existence hope to realize its highest ideals, and our life find the collective meaning and purpose that alone can truly sustain us in the face of an infinite and indifferent universe.

Celebrating individuality, our age invites us to express our feelings and realize our goals. It promotes happiness, while seeking to accommodate traditional moral values. But the focus on personal existence only makes the realization of death's inevitability more threatening. Torn between an outmoded religious tradition and a secular world on the ascendency, our celebration of individual satisfaction only makes more poignant the need for precisely that religious consolation that public life increasingly denies. The remarkable phenomena of fundamentalist religious revival in an age that makes its existence so anachronistic is only thus made intelligible.

Central to this condition Albert Camus found the "death of god:" the realization, sometimes only subliminally, that, in Nietzsche's words, the "Christian god has ceased to be believable," at least for intelligent humans marked by the spirit of modernity. After 350 years of continual social transformations under the push of industrialization, capitalism, world-wide social revolutions, and the development of modern science, what reasonably remains of the traditional faith in divine transcendence and providential design except a deep-felt, almost "ontological" yearning for transcendent meaning?

Individuals must now confront the meaning of their lives without the assured aid of transcendent purpose and direction, while the daily effort to make "both ends meet" condemns most to a life of "repetition," a la Kierkegaard, under the rule of habit and social conformity. The more we struggle to achieve individuality, the more...

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