Book Review: The Rebel by Albert Camus, Part II: Metaphysical Rebellion

Part II: Metaphysical Rebellion

What is metaphysical rebellion?  Just like the slave rebels against the slave because the slave is rebelling against the constraints of the situation, the metaphysical rebel is doing the same thing.  He’s rebelling against the creation, the condition of which he finds himself.  The metaphysical rebel is always a blasphemer.  Just think of all previous rebels (e.g., the Founding Fathers rebelled against the conventional English society, Jesus rebelled against the Jewish/Roman society, Marx rebelled against the capitalist society).  But they blaspheme in the name of order.  By rebelling, you are going against the metaphysics of the culture.  In ancient Greece, they were fated to die.  Epicurus rebels and says “well then, let’s enjoy life.”  By blaspheming, you are trying to find a new god.

In modern times, the best rebel is Sade.  After this, Camus talks about the rebels in art and poetry, but I’m not really familiar with it.  However, one thing that he brings up is the rebellion of Ivan in Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov.  Ivan rejects God on a moral plane.  He puts God on trial.  That’s true rebellion!  Later, Nietzsche rebels against the whole notion of Christianity.  Nietzsche takes a look at the meaningless world and he affirms it.  From Nietzsche, only man can find his own meaning by asserting (and affirming) the absurdities of the world.  To be truly free is to get rid of purpose, a telos.  However, a Nietzschean rebellion doesn’t go far enough:

Nietzschean asceticism, which begins with the recognition of fatality, ends in a deification of fate.

Nietzsche starts on the right path by replacing God with man.  But all he does is he just replaces God with Fate.  That’s what the Greeks did, but it’s not true rebellion; it’s simply nostalgia.  But for Nietzsche, he doesn’t reject evil.  He accepts is as part of the human circus.  It’s something to avoid, but also as a remedy.

For Marx, nature is to be subjugated in order to obey history; for Nietzsche, nature is to be obeyed in order to subjugate history.  It is the difference between the Christian and the Greek.

In art, the surrealist is the rebel by finding a solution to an endless anxiety.  (I’m not an artist so I’m not sure what Camus is saying.  What endless anxiety is the surrealist escaping from?)

The reactionaries made use of the tragedy of existence to reject revolution–in other words, to preserve a historical situation.  The Marxists made use of it to justify revolution–in other words, to create another historical situation.  Both make use of the human tragedy to further their pragmatic ends.

The enemy of surrealism is rationalism.  The rebel in art is getting away from Kant.

In history, there’s an insane drive to find order in history.  Schopenhauer is the rebel for Hegel.  This then leads to part three.

About shaunmiller

I have just completed a visiting position as an assistant professor at Dalhousie University. My ideas are not associated with my employer; they are expressions of my own thoughts and ideas. Some of them are just musings while others could be serious discussions that could turn into a bigger project. Besides philosophy, I enjoy martial arts (Kuk Sool Won), playing my violin, enjoying coffee around town, and experimenting with new food.
This entry was posted in Book Review, Camus, Ethics, Existentialism, History, Values. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Book Review: The Rebel by Albert Camus, Part II: Metaphysical Rebellion

  1. Pingback: Metaphysical Rebellion | monochromist

  2. Pingback: The Rebel

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