Albert Camus on political murder: a sign of the times in which we live

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Virginia Tech


This essay is a study of Albert Camus' response to three questions that were especially relevant vis-a-vis the social and political chaos that prevailed in Europe during and after the two world wars. Though indeed, these questions are in many respects timeless. Namely, the three questions this essay seeks to answer are the following: 1) Is suicide the answer to the absurd?; 2) In the context of the absurd is murder permitted?; and 3) Upon what principle can we build a code of conduct to which man ought to adhere in the arena of politics?

To answer these questions this essay concentrated on two of Camus' major works—The Myth of Sisyphus and The Rebel. In doing so, no attempt was made to develop a concise system of political thought. Instead, emphasis was placed on developing an exposition of Camus' main thought and of his major arguments. In this sense, this essay seeks to present the thought of one man who was intimately involved in the social and political events that dominated Europe for a span of some thirty five to forty years. And, one step further, this essay seeks to present his response to the despair and anguish that followed in the wake of the two world wars.

Since the overall thrust of this essay was directed at developing normative answers to questions, the extent to which they can or ought to be applied is itself a normative question. In this sense, this essay came to no scientifically supportable conclusions. Nevertheless, the conclusions this essay does reach show clearly that the thought of Camus is one we ought not to overlook if we are to gain a better understanding of how men have acted and perhaps how they ought to act.