Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Camus, Mathewes, and Arendt

Recently rereading The Stranger.  I read it almost 30 years ago.  Reading it again I am struck by what a great writer he is.  I think I agree with Mathewes that his thought and writing will ultimately have a greater, and positive, effect, than the writing of Sartre.  There's a power to his writing that Sartre frankly lacks.  In this I agree with the Religious Studies professor Charles Mathewes at UVA.  I read Arendt's work on Eichmann and have almost finished her work On Violence.  I'm not sure what I think of her exactly.  I thought the book on Eichmann was interesting, but I wonder just how original it was.  I'm going to start reading Mathewes' book Evil and the Augustinian Tradition and see if anything is interesting there.

In the meantime, I encourage those who haven't read Camus in a number of years, to give his books another look.  I plan on rereading The Plague and The Fall as well.  I am struck by the fact that Camus was criticized by Sartre for presenting such an 'apolitical'  or even 'natural' view of evil in 'The Plague' as opposed to believing evil is contingent on social organization -- at least this is the gloss Mathewes puts on the final separation between Sartre and Camus.  I have to side with Camus here.  He was right to see evil as a recurrent force irrespective of the modes of social control, ownership of the means of production etc...

Those who see the answer in Anarcho-Syndicalism(e.g., Chomsky) or some other arrangement are not seeing the irremediable quality of evil.  This kind of idealism may be moving, but it is flatly incorrect.  I therefore side more with Foucault than with Chomsky in their debate: the best we can do is expose institutional evil but that it is naive to think that some other social arrangement will not be prone to precisely the same evils; it will take other forms, but it will be there.  Does this make me a horrible pessimist?

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