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International Philosophical Quarterly

Volume 51, Issue 4, December 2011

Raymond D. Boisvert
Pages 467-482
DOI: 10.5840/ipq201151449

The Fall
Camus versus Sartre

This essay reads Camus’s novel The Fall as a reductio ad absurdum for two major strands in Western intellectual culture, the hyper-Augustinian “we are all depraved” strand and, more decisively, what I call the “hyper-Sartrean” strand of existentialist humanism. Many commentators have identified Sartre as a target of Camus’s novel, but a detailed exploration of the critique is rarely undertaken. Examining Sartre’s Existentialism is a Humanism reveals an understanding of the human condition as involving a double disconnection: from nature and from other people. Camus’s protagonist is just such a doubly detached individual. With little subtlety, Camus depicts his protagonist, as “Satanic,” i.e., the fallen one, the universal accuser, the friend of destruction, the enemy of connection. Such a “Fall” into self-isolation represents the all too alluring temptation against which Camus wishes to warn us.