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
No. 1-6
DBonney
DBonney

"In any event, the reasons for rebellion cannot be explained except in terms of an inquiry into its attitudes, pretensions, and conquests. Perhaps we may discover in its achievement the rule of action that the absurd has not been able to give us; an indication, at least, about the right or the duty to kill and, finally hope for a new creation. Man is the only creature who refuses to be what he is. The problem is to know whether this refusal can only lead to the destruction of himself and of others, whether all rebellion must end in the justification of universal murder, or whether, on the contrary, without laying claim to an innocence that is impossible, it can discover the principle of reasonable culpability." (The Rebel, concluding paragraph of Camus' intro)

DBonney
DBonney

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

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."

Aran
Aran

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.

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.