The March Philosophy Book of the Month is Final Notice by Van Fleisher. Discuss Final Notice now.

The April Philosophy Book of the Month is The Unbound Soul by Richard L. Haight. Discuss The Unbound Soul Now

The May Philosophy Book of the Month is Misreading Judas by Robert Wahler.

Discussion of The Stranger

We choose one book per month to read and discuss philosophically as a group.

January 2019 Philosophy Book of the Month: The Runaway Species: How Human Creativity Remakes the World by David Eagleman and Anthony Brandt

February 2019 Philosophy Book of the Month: The Fourth Age: Smart Robots, Conscious Computers, and the Future of Humanity by Byron Reese (Nominated by RJG)

March 2019 Philosophy Book of the Month: Final Notice by Van Fleisher

April 2019 Philosophy Book of the Month: The Unbound Soul: A Visionary Guide to Spiritual Transformation and Enlightenment by Richard L. Haight
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Scott
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Discussion of The Stranger

Post by Scott » March 22nd, 2010, 3:29 pm

The April book of the month will be Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl. Please use this thread to discuss the March book of the month, The Stranger by Albert Camus. If you have not read the book, read it before reading this thread because this thread will contain spoilers.

What do you think of this book? Did you enjoy reading it? Would you recommend it?

I like this book a lot. It is a short book. And I like when I think I get more out of reading a short book than I would out of spending even more time reading a longer book.

The narration style seems very matter-of-fact, which makes it interesting, in my opinion, in light of many of the major events being told.

I think the story highlights the foolishness in trusting governments or mobs of men with the power of capital punishment. When alternative means such as life in prison would provide equal protection to society from criminals, I think those who support execution are being too trusting of governments, bureaucracies and mobs of men too not misuse the power either out of corruption or foolishness. I think this story is an example of that. In fact, the story almost reminds me of South Park in the way it so vividly mocks confidence in the institutions of society and confidence in the judgment of governments, bureaucracies and mobs of men.

I also like the demeanor of the main character. It seems almost like an indifferent observer rather than a participant in the events unfolding before him. I find it appealing.

What do you think?
Last edited by Scott on August 7th, 2011, 5:28 am, edited 1 time in total.
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WorldWill
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Post by WorldWill » March 22nd, 2010, 9:59 pm

I really enjoyed this book AFTER I read Camus' first major essay: The Myth of Sisyphus. The Stranger is a very powerful illustration of what Camus means by the "absurd man." I do not consider it an approach or message about politics as a book on the author's metaphysics and a message of the importance of human life. The main character is indifferent to social norms by acting almost like a Don Juan, the past, future, and hope have no meaning for him. He lives in despair without resignation, he faces the inevitable struggle of life by confronting man's attempt to clarify the world with the a priori concept of an already irrational world. Thus it leads to the absurd. Camus despised capital punishment because it implied that someone-who is imperfect-had the right to decide whether another imperfect person had the right to live. The Stranger is a short, simple outline of Camus' statements. It is not really meant to be "depressing," but a beacon of absurdism. I would really advise mixing the Myth of Sisyphus with The Stranger, and a step up from that would be The Plague.

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Post by pjkeeley » March 22nd, 2010, 11:47 pm

I suspect aplasticfeast hasn't read the book. If he has, he certainly hasn't understood it. Although Camus' philosophy is grounded in a rejection of God, The Outsider (or The Stranger, as it is sometimes translated, though The Outsider is considered a better translation) is not particularly concerned with God, nor the rejection of God. Moreover, I don't see how it can be considered depressing. Meursault certainly isn't a depressed character; this is clear from the enjoyment he finds swimming in the sea early in the novel. And his final monologue is truly awe-inspiring; a pursuasive defence of the value of human life, despite the grim condition some of us find ourselves in. This is Camus' notion of the absurd, as WorldWill mentioned. Meursault represents Camus' absurd man; a Rebel (against society, God, and the absurdity of the human condition). That is how I regard Meursault.

What truly makes Meursault an outsider is his indifference. He has little patience for the concerns of the society in the time and place in which he lives, and this shocks the authorities and the public (ironically, more than the killing itself). He is thus on trial not for murder, but ultimately for the lack of emotion he shows at his mother's death. Meursault simply cannot fake feelings he does not have, even knowing that it will cost him his life. Authenticity is a key concept in existentialist writing; another common theme is execution and the notion of being condemned to death, because it provides a potent metaphor for awareness of our own mortality.

I will have to read The Outsider again. It is one of my favourite books, and one which I think everyone should read in their lifetime. It is certainly short enough and concisely written enough for anyone to read. The accompanying essay, the Myth of Sisyphus, is harder to penetrate but is well worth the time if you want to further understand the philosophy Camus outlines in the character of Meursault. It is positive and life-affirming, but ultimately realistic, which is not the same as being depressing. aplasticfeast could not be more wrong about this book.

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Post by Vulcanised » March 23rd, 2010, 9:58 am

aplasticfeast it only gets depressing when he becomes aware of his situation. He permeates a controlled despair. Meursault,is a killer who cares about practically nothing. He is fickle reckless and careless up until the end. A first person narrative which is objectivism in an aesthetic world.

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Post by joel » March 23rd, 2010, 3:44 pm

I didn't get that there was anything of a murderer in Meursault's character. I agree that he was a sort of dispassionate observer. I have never heard the translation 'outsider' but it does seem to fit the theme of the book better than the stranger. He wasn't emotionless as his emotions showed when dealing with his wretched neighbor, his observations of the dog and his other more personal relationships. He wasn't a soulless man but maybe a man that only realized the value of life when he was about to lose it. He couldn't pray for forgiveness because the concept was alien to him. I like much of pjkeeley's take on the book. Either way it was a very affecting book that despite its lack of flourish powerfully conveyed the emotions and ideas without ever forcing the reader.

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Albert Camus, Selected Essays and Notebooks, Penguin, 1970

Post by RonPrice » March 23rd, 2010, 7:29 pm

Albert Camus presents the world as meaningless in this book, therefore, its meaning is rendered by oneself; it is the individual person who gives meaning to a circumstance. Camus deals with this matter and Man's relationship with Man via considerations of suicide in the novels A Happy Death and The Plague and in non-fiction works such as The Rebel and The Myth of Sisyphus. Camus has influenced my writing over the decades and I am now a man of 65. Here is a prose-poem I wrote about Camus. It is a work that has a strong connection with The Stranger, but indirectly.-Ron in Tasmania
---------------------------
UNPRECEDENTED DIGNITY AND EASE

It is by a continual effort that I can create....My deepest, most certain leaning is toward silence and everyday activity. It has taken me years of perseverance to escape from distractions....It is how I despair and how I cure myself of despair.-Albert Camus, Selected Essays and Notebooks, Penguin, 1970, p.276.

I tend toward ‘the work’ every minute
and can sit vacant staring at the garden
or some inane bit of TV or some vacuous
act for only so long without a feeling of
great emptiness invading which I must fill
with my ‘planned program’.* If this cannot
be done, I fill my own mind with my own
thoughts or some Passage. But, generally,
in a chaos of reading, silence and creation
I keep out a distracted, frenetic passivity
and a mountainous world of trivia as far
away as I can until necessity intervenes.

And then, then.... some holy simplicity,
some rest, plain mysterium, a feeling of
the numinous, a nothingness, an idiosyncratic
something that is incommunicable, gliding on
a sea of faith with reason resting in the wings,
the burning desire to seek enjoying a low
flame, quietly flickering, in a free zone
of some unprecedented dignity and ease.

Ron Price
Australia
For Philosophy Discussion Forum
married for 46 years, a teacher for 32, a student for 18, a writer and editor for 14, and a Baha'i for 54(in 2013)

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Post by Algol » March 24th, 2010, 3:48 am

The Stranger is a really good book because it speaks of an average, everyday person in the world with a frame of mind similiar to most, who commits a capital offence without any pre-determination.

(it's been a while since I've read it) but (I believe) the main character of the book disarms a friend by pleading for the weapon the friend has aimed at one of two Arab men who stabbed him. The "hero" gets the gun and conceals it in his pocket.

He and his injured friend return to a shore house where thet're girlfriends are. After resting,(I think) the "hero" wakes up and heads outside, tired, and wearing his jacket. The water on the ocean captures his attention and he notices someone stretched out on the beach, holding his body up by his arms. The "hero" begins to approach the figure, hypnotised by the sun-light dancing on the rises of the water. He gets close enough to the figure to be able to notice that it is one of the two men who had attacked him and is friend a little while ago. The Arab man is smiling at him. Feeling in his jacket pockets, the "hero" (protagonist) feels the barrel of the gun he had confiscated from his bleeding friend earlier. The "hero" pulls the gun and lets several shots rip through the air toward the ocean reflecting the sun.

The first half of The Stranger is meant to present the protagonist as an every day kinda person who may or may not have been in a state of depression after losing his mother. He has a girlfriend, so he's not a lonely psychopath.
The books purpose is to illustrate how unstable society can be at any moment, and how those around you are only as they are to you so long as nothing unusual or scandalous is known about your conduct.

A few hours before the murder, the killer wrestles the idea of using the gun on one of the Arab men from his friends mind. Then, just after waking and in a sleepy state (maybe half-asleep, possibly with the threatingly strange occurrence still running through his mind) he walks outside, recognizes the previous threat which he and his friend faced smiling at him, the "hero" shoots at the ocean, passing through the darker man in front of his veiw.

The second half of the book shows that after one solitary event, committed in a possible state of delerium, life can change unalterably into a state of ruin due to circumstances which may or may not have been the perpetrator's complete fault. (He really could have been delirious at the time. Look at his actions when clear headed, taking the gun from his friend.)
The people who he thought were somewhat close to him began to distance themselves. Society as a whole was now his enemy. He was now a complete stranger from what he had been to life and others. The feeling of complete powerlessnes, which the "hero" chooses to ignore eventually, surrounds the "hero's" mind, all the way to his stunning pronouncement of execution. This was after his lawyer assured the "hero" that the case would be more lenient then first anticipated.

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Post by Sisyphus17 » September 30th, 2010, 4:46 am

I know it's half a year away from April, but I enjoyed this book. I quite identified and sympathized with the plight of the main character, Meursault and his indifference towards certain things in life. I agree that this novel has authenticity as one of its main themes. The authenticity of feeling in particular, and living life expressing feeling which actually exists within us and not showing emotions we do not actually feel, even if not abiding with societal norms brings harm, as in the case of Meursault.

Meursault's actions in not expressing the "appropriate" emotions at his mother's funeral, as well as not showing the appropriate amount of remorse for the accidental murder of the Arab men were seen to be appalling. It was his reaction of indifference rather than the act of murder itself which was viewed in disgust in light of society's view of what constitutes morality. He was harshly condemned for it, and his indifference silently mocks society's hypocrisy.

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