Albert Camus’s Forgotten Lesson on Liberty

FREEDOM, Misc / Thursday, November 7th, 2019

By Gary M. Galles

The birthday of Albert Camus, the 1957 Nobel Laureate in Literature, is November 7.

His defense of liberty against tyranny in World War II and its aftermath was inspirational. For instance:

  • “The real passion of the twentieth century is servitude.”
  • “Political utopias justified in advance any enterprises whatever.”
  • “The welfare of the people…has always been the alibi of tyrants…giving the servants of tyranny a good conscience.”
  • “The tyrannies of today…no longer admit of silence or neutrality…I am against.”
  • “The only conception of freedom I can have is that of the prisoner or the individual in the midst of the state. The only one I know is freedom of thought and action.”
  • “Absolute domination by the law does not represent liberty, but without law there is no freedom.”
  • “Freedom is not a gift received from the State.”
  • “Freedom is not a reward or a decoration…It’s a long distance race, quite solitary and very exhausting.”
  • “Freedom is nothing else but a chance to get better, whereas enslavement is a certainty of the worse.”
  • “Liberty ultimately seems to me, for societies and for individuals…the supreme good that governs all others.”
  • “Is it possible…to reject injustice without ceasing to acclaim the nature of man and the beauty of the world? Our answer is yes.”
  • “We have to live and let live in order to create what we are.”
  • “The aim of art, the aim of a life can only be to increase the sum of freedom and responsibility to be found in every man and in the world. It cannot, under any circumstances, be to reduce or suppress that freedom.”
  • “Without giving up anything on the plane of justice, yield nothing on the plane of freedom.”
  • “More and more, when faced with the world of men, the only reaction is one of individualism. Man alone is an end unto himself.”
  • “There are things about Albert Camus I take issue with. But it would be a shame to lose his wisdom and inspiration because of differences unrelated to their validity.”

With time and energy both scarce, paying attention to those we have learned to consistently expect insight from makes a great deal of sense. It increases the chances that the time will be well spent. It expands our insights. But we cannot stop there. We can also learn from and be inspired by those who are fellow travelers only in part.

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