Camus, Machiavelli and Morality

06 May

Camus brings up morality on p. 130, when Tarrou states his code of ethics: comprehension. On the following page Camus speaks in Machiavellian terms: vice and virtue. However, Camus dissents on Machiavelli’s view of human nature stating: “The evil in the world always comes from ignorance…on the whole, men are more good than bad… but they are more or less ignorant… the most incorrigible vice being that of an ignorance that fancies it knows everything and therefore claims for itself the right to kill.” (131). Thus, it cannot be justified for one to participate in or allow innocent people to die if one has the capacity to understand the problem. One must attempt to fix the problem. Rieux (163) states, “It’s a matter of common decency (not heroism).”

Therein lies the problem: if the masses are ignorant and there are two sides to every fight, then how is one to educate the masses on morality if they are ignorant and could just as easily be persuaded to fight in the name of evil with good intent? Camus’ view on human nature is largely the same as Socrates’: generally, people are ignorant and/or apathetic, however, Camus believes apathy is no excuse for not ‘fighting the good fight.’

It is often hard to tell who is on the right side of history and when all is said and done history books are written by the winners. Socrates, Rawls, and most other moral philosophers argue: morals are not subjective. Although, morality in politics is hard to come by, operationally most nations practice political realism. There is no room for morality when on a quest for power and generally, on a more local level, men operate in the same fashion. Politicians cling to power and make amoral decisions which wind up killing innocent people every day so as to further their careers. Camus believes if one is not willing to stand up and do the right thing, life is not worth living. If people are dying, look to the source of the problem and fight until your last breath: no one has the right to kill (unless killing an aggressor).

Camus’ view poses problems for the ignorant masses willing to fight in the name of narrow nationalism: going overseas to fight a battle unjustly is manifest aggression. War is a cyclical process with both sides thinking the other is an aggressor: one had better be damn sure they are on the right side of history otherwise they risk committing the most incorrigible vice: an “ignorance that fancies it knows everything therefore claims for itself the right to kill.”

1 Comment

Posted by on May 6, 2011 in Uncategorized


One response to “Camus, Machiavelli and Morality

  1. andrewpoli275

    May 8, 2011 at 11:13 pm

    Great analysis Pat. I appreciate how you are able to tie Machiavelli, Socrates, Rawls, and Camus all together. I do like what Camus has to say about humanity; if you can fix the problem then you are more less out of common decency expected to do so and this does not make you hero. I definitely agree that Camus is able to poke a whole in the narrow nationalism.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: