Albert Camus: “Man Is The Only Creature Who Refuses To Be What He Is.”

Albert Camus famously remarked that "man is the only creature who refuses to be what he is." (Photo / Tom Driggers/ 'airborne')

What do you think Camus meant by this? Please explain your answer.

Comments (6)
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JohnZambis
JohnZambis

Editor

I believe Camus could be referring to the social constructs that we as human beings implicitly and explicitly agree to be shackled by. Social-cultural pressures that may have made more sense in the Bronze age still affect our interpretation of contemporary behaviors.

For instance, a lot of modern society's views on men and women descend from the bible. In Hebrew, a husband was referred to by the term 'owner'. This permeates through the Bible and the Quran. Both books have over 4 billion adherents today. The biblical arguments for why men should be considered an 'owner' may have made sense for a desert-based society in 1000 BCE. It doesn't make sense for 2017. However, we continue to live by the expectations set by the Bible and other ancient books.

rocknrolla6900
rocknrolla6900

My interpretation of Camus' quote is thus: "man" continues to attempt to be what he believes that others expect him to be rather than what he may be, in an attempt to fit in and be accepted into the societal norm. Very few have been strong enough to stand on their own and not feel the need to conform or fit in, so to speak.

Aran
Aran
Updated on

I think this quote is congruent with the mantra of existentialism: existence precedes essence ( proposed by Sartre), meaning humans encounter the absurdity of life then, through free will, create their own values and meanings, and consciously decide what they should be, beyond predetermined dispositions, traits and attributes imposed by nature or society.
I think this existential attitude gradually developed in the post-Neolithic revolution, when man, on the one hand, surged up to attain god-like status, but on the other hand was domesticated, a situation which does not conform to human biology and psychology.
Perhaps, in the Paleolithic era, humans considered themselves to be on a par with other species. I think this worldview is still alive in the remaining hunter-gather and nomadic groups of humans who might not suffer from existential angst and dread as intensely as urban Western humans.
So, when considering the essence of this quote, whether it is descriptive or prescriptive, I think Camus primarily points to humans of Consumerist/Capitalist societies, who always crave for something, be it material or spiritual.

Yossarian Johnson
Yossarian Johnson

Editor

Very thoughtful answer @Aran.

"Camus primarily points to humans of Consumerist/Capitalist societies, who always crave for something, be it material or spiritual."

DBonney
DBonney
Updated on

Here is the sentence in context, without which your respondents could not possibly interpret Camus' meaning.



Yossarian Johnson
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JohnZambis
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JohnZambis
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William James
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JohnZambis
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