The Incomprehensible Man: The Stranger and Living Absurdly

Essay completed 28 November 2016

In The Stranger, Albert Camus characterizes the absurdity of the human condition. Meursault, the novel’s protagonist, lives his life detached from everything around him. Even the death of his own mother does not seem to affect him. External stimuli and his basic, internal needs are his only sources of motivation. Morality does not concern Meursault, who describes his friend Raymond’s abuse of his girlfriend in the same passive, detached tone he uses to recount what he ate for breakfast. Meursault’s moral indifference brings him into conflict with society, particularly in the second part of the novel when he is tried for the murder of an Arab man, a crime for which he never shows remorse. After my first reading of The Stranger, I thought Meursault perfectly represents Camus’ philosophy of living absurdly. Continue reading “The Incomprehensible Man: The Stranger and Living Absurdly”

What is to be Done: Responses to Determinism in Notes from Underground

Essay completed 12 October 2016

In Notes from Underground, Fyodor Dostoevsky is responding to the idea of rational egoism with the character of the Underground Man. The Underground Man is unable to justify his motivations for acting in light of the principle of rational egoism, which holds that the motivations of all human behavior can be traced back to self-interest. The utopian intellectuals to whom Dostoevsky is responding in the novel believe that eventually humanity can eliminate all crime from society. Under rational egoism, human transgression does not come from evil or sinfulness because all actions can be traced back to social pressures or injustices. There is no reason to punish or take revenge, as people are not responsible for their actions. This idea consumes the Underground Man leading him to agonize over the proper response to a life bound by determinism. Continue reading “What is to be Done: Responses to Determinism in Notes from Underground”