The role of ascesis in the life and work of Albert Camus

Lamb, Matthew (2010). The role of ascesis in the life and work of Albert Camus PhD Thesis, School of History, Philosophy, Religion & Classics, The University of Queensland.

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Author Lamb, Matthew
Thesis Title The role of ascesis in the life and work of Albert Camus
School, Centre or Institute School of History, Philosophy, Religion & Classics
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2010-08
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Dr Michelle Boulous Walker
Dr Marguerite La Caze
Total pages 210
Total black and white pages 210
Subjects 22 Philosophy and Religious Studies
Abstract/Summary The challenge nowadays is how to approach the early life and work of Albert Camus without slipping into the usual clichéd arguments that refer to him as an ‘existentialist’ or to his work as espousing a ‘philosophy of the absurd.’ This has resulted in two misunderstandings of The Stranger and The Myth and Sisyphus which the current study aims to bring into question. The first misunderstanding is predicated upon the idea that Camus’ novels are somehow an illustration of the philosophical concepts articulated in his essays. The second misunderstanding is that, guided by such a ‘philosophy of the absurd,’ the early Camus preaches an ‘ethic of quantity,’ which is at once nihilistic, hedonistic and solipsistic. The first position fails to consider the novel as a work of fiction. The second position fails to examine how this fictionality leads Camus to resist the imposition of philosophy. In this context, The Myth and Sisyphus is perhaps better understood as a (discursive) work accompanying a (non-discursive) ethic; more precisely, it is a work of ethics that operates against, in resistance to, and through a criticism of, philosophy. It is a work that consciously avoids setting up a ‘philosophy of the absurd,’ and which makes it an ethical point not to do so. Camus achieves this through rehabilitating an ancient ethical practice, which he refers to as an ascesis. In order to trace the contours of this rehabilitation, the current study approaches Camus’ early life and work through the (overlapping) interactions between four structuring motifs: the body, ethics, fiction and mimesis.
Keyword Ethics
Control of the imaginary

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