I have read most of the books by Albert Camus thoroughly. I know that Camus' theory is absurdity but I want to know his take on morality. I mean, what were the moral and aesthetic ideas that Camus was interested in?

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Jean-Philippe Deranty provides a survey of aesthetic perspectives of six existentialists: Albert Camus, Simone de Beauvoir, Gabriel Marcel, Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Jean-Paul Sartre.

This ontological aspect of existentialism ties it to aesthetic considerations. Existentialist thinkers believe that, under certain conditions, freedom grants the human being the capacity of revealing essential features of the world and of the beings in it. Since artistic practice is one of the prime examples of free human activity, it is therefore also one of the privileged modes of revealing what the world is about.


This ontological approach to art underpins some of the most distinctive features of existentialist aesthetics. Because it views art in terms of “revelation,” it favors representative art and is suspicious of formalist avant-gardes. And because it grounds expressive capacity on the notion of human freedom, it demands that artistic representation be strongly informed by ethical and political concerns.

For all of them an ontological focus on existence brought a focus on freedom which motivated interest in artistic practice and moral expression in terms of political involvement.

Regarding Camus in particular Deranty mentions the relation of artistic activity with freedom.

Camus offers a concise formulation for a central principle of existentialist aesthetics: “To write is already to choose” (Camus 1951 [The Rebel], 271).

Artistic activity can be viewed as ethical or moral activity grounded on existential freedom.

Artistic activity as an existential choice is a privileged mode of assuming and realising the paradoxical nature of being human. In Camus’ words, artistic activity is one of the key attitudes to face the absurd. Camus’ celebration of art in The Myth of Sysiphus (1942b, 127), which crowns artistic expression as the ultimate form of “joy,” would ring true for the other existentialists despite their noted differences on the question of the absurd.

Although artistic activity can be viewed as a moral approach to the absurd, the efforts made are expected to fail to realize the artist's desires.

But there is an inherent fatalism in artistic activity. Expressive activity can only ever be an attempt at expression, and it is structurally doomed to fail because there is too much to reveal in the world. The means of expression are finite, and they operate in a twisted manner, just as much through direct designation as through ellipse and allusion. This leads Camus to conclude that creative activity, like all free activities, is in the end only another absurd attempt at dealing with the absurdity of human life (1942b [The Myth of Sisyphus], 130).

Deranty, Jean-Philippe, "Existentialist Aesthetics", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2019 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2019/entries/aesthetics-existentialist/.

  • Gosh, are those people ever negative! Anyway, one quote that is perhaps relevant: "Against the ruin of the world, there is only one defense: the creative act." (Kenneth Rexroth) So, if it is the only good response, there's no point in dissing it.
    – Scott Rowe
    Commented Oct 7, 2022 at 13:21

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