I think you have a very good hold on your knowledge of Camus. I must say that out of the existentialist writers he is the one I have studied the least. And in so many words, I think that it is a person like Mersault that the existentialist are trying to correct. I guess the best way to shed more light on our conversation and more importantly the original question of the thread, (which I think our conversation has led us back to in a certain way). Is by looking closely at the main existentialist writers (Pascal, Sartre,Dostoevsky,Kierkegaard, Heidegger, and Nietzsche) and what they have in common (which I think is a good definition of existentialism).Originally Posted by jon1jt
1. All of the above mentioned agree that there is no human nature. This was originally stated by Pascal ("Custom is our nature"). And more importantly by Nietzsche when he called humans the "undetermined animals with no fixed horizons". This point is important to all existentialist because it means that human nature can change and in doing this the world can rapidly change (this might seem a contradiction, but what it means by that there is no human nature is that it is very capricious and is never constant or more importantly universal). It states that history is more important than having a fixed eternity outside of time, and in saying this it also means that an Individual should try to get heaven on earth in the here and now.
2. The Ethical side of the existentialist states that the individual is higher than the universal. This idea is extremely evident and important within Kierkegaard’s “Fear and Trembling”. It is precisely this idea that allows an Individual to become a Knight of Faith (this is a person with an unconditional commitment which is rooted in the temporal, and it is something that can be taken away at any moment, this is what makes a Knight of Faith what he is and separates him from the knight of infinite resignation, To quote Kierkegaard “Only the one who draws the knife gets Isaac.) You must remember that in Kierkegaard terms if a person does not have an unconditional commitment he is stuck in lower immediacy (this is where I think Meursault would fall). Therefore his attempts to define himself and become an Individual are rooted in the absurd in an almost nihilistic way. The important thing to remember is that even though he is reflective and almost it seems peacefull at the end; it is a bad idea in both Kierkegaard and Nietzsche (we all know how Nietzsche saw the idea of peace and acceptance).
Also the quote by Nietzsche you added in your last post is absolutely correct. This is exactly what makes me think that Meursault found truth (remember the individual is higher than the ethical, therefore there is by default no concrete thing such as a universal truth). In saying this, I have always thought in existential terms when I read “The Stranger”. I think by embracing the existential thought that “truth is subjectivity” is the one way in which I can see that Meurault does indeed have the divided parts of the self and therefore is subject to an existential dissection similar to that of Dmitri in the “Brothers Karamazov” (Keep in mind that though I am comparing Dmitri and meursault, I do believe that Dmitri, aided by his indulgence with both sides of the self, was able to realize his positive self only when he separated the two parts and went down into despair.
Upon this test with his self he was able to derive meaning from this world in the form of his unconditional commitment, Grushenka. The latter I feel is the way in which Meaursault was not able to accomplish. This is the reason why I think he is stuck in lower immediacy, and in large part is the only reason he is not on the same level as Dmitri.
3. Another belief that the existentialist share is that the involved point of view reveals reality and is more basic than what you get from detached theory and reason (once again “Truth is subjectivity)
4. And finally, All Believe that a supernatural, supreme being is no longer alive (God is Dead) or necessary, but it opens up other possibilities of understanding the divine and the sacred. They all have their separe views on this idea.