Albert Camus: The Guest
1. Existentialism: Sartre and Camus are the two most important French Existentialists. 2. Do not believe that there is any “essential nature” 3. Believe that our “nature” is constructed by the choices that we make 4. Absurdism: The belief that our desire for meaning is greater than the capacity of the universe to produce meaning. 5. There is no inherent meaning in the world
6. We warp the non-sense of the universe into a meaningful material reality. 7. Human beings inhabit a moral universe in which there are no absolute guidelines 8. Nonetheless, we have an ethical sense that we try to live up to—most of us want to be “good people,” though it is difficult to pin down exactly what this means. (BEING A GOOD PERSON ALSO MEANS DEFINING EXACTLY WHAT THAT MEANS) 9. Life constantly presents us with moral choices without giving us the right answers 10. The various ways that we try to define a moral code and live by it constitute our moral being 11. We define ourselves as moral beings by the choices that we make within the ethical system that we construct. 12. The Guest—one of Camus’ best known statements of his philosophy—an allegory of moral decision making in a hostile world. 13. The setting is Algeria, a French colony in Northern Africa 14. The story was written in 1957
15. Algeria gained independence in 1962
16. The people of the region want self-rule
17. The native people consider the French their enemy and are trying to throw off the Colonial yolk. 18. The French are trying to keep order until such time as they can pull out without losing face. 19. The three main characters cannot act independent of the geopolitical realities. 20. Balducci is a gendarme—a military police officer—trying to keep order among a people who despise his presence. a. How does he deal with this dilemma? Sartre would argue that he fails as an existentialist because he refuses to deal with this conflict within himself. b. he concludes that he must continue in his role because "you can't let them have their way" c. he acts in bad faith or makes an inauthentic choice because he (he ignores his inner moral code d. he looks to others to supply the orders, declining to assess the merits of these orders himself: This passivity is an example of quietism or letting others decide your fate (refusing to choose your own path, based on your particular principles) e. he follows laws set up by others without questioning them: He believes that external forces govern his life, and that he can exercise little or no control over it himself f. he encourages Daru to make an inauthentic choice by suggesting that he should turn the Arab in; in effect, he does not respect the right of Daru to choose his own actions g. in fact, Balducci reduces the Arab and his people to subhumans (he leads the Arab behind a horse (207), and he describes the murdered relative of the Arab as a butchered sheep (209)) 21. Daru is a European who just doesn’t want to get involved. 22. He sees Algeria as the only place he belongs (2575)
23. He is fully aware that his presence is despised by the locals 24. Daru is also faced with an existential dilemma because he has been directed to deliver the Arab to the French authorities, and he does not want to comply. 25. He does not want to get involved—he doesn’t want to be seen as “for” or “against” anybody. 26. However, he is a Colonial teacher who teaches French Geography to Arab children (2574) 27. He IS involved in the colonial enterprise, but he refuses to acknowledge it. 28. The Arab has actually committed a murder, nobody denies this, and he is in the power of the French. 29. He has committed a crime that would merit serious punishment under any system of government. 30. Nobody doubts that he should be punished, only whether or not the French have the right to punish him. 31. DARU’S CHOICE (l’hôte – “guest” and “host”—both are the...
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