I want to make sure I fully understand your criticism before agreeing or disagreeing.
Sure, no problem.
I did read Dan's piece again and your Part I of Misbehaving. If I might start with the first couple Camus' quotes. I am a little confused on what the exact concern is? Is your general idea of "abuse" (or the start of it here) a feeling that DCP misrepresents Camus because Camus' existentialism (if we are allowed to call him that for practical purposes here) does indeed offer a subjective hope and meaning which Dan seems to ignore? That Dan only quotes the despair? Sincere question.
That is the general idea of it, but it gets more specific. Let’s take citation #46 for example, Dan says this:
Perhaps, on second thought, though, I can understand those who might see it as a liberation. "If there is no God," says Dostoevsky's Ivan Karamazov, "that means everything is permitted." Why? Because nothing matters at all. Everything is meaningless. However, this liberation comes at a very, very high price. "If we believe in nothing," said the great French writer and Nobel laureate Albert Camus...
And then quotes this:
If we believe in nothing, if nothing has any meaning and if we can affirm no values whatsoever, then everything is possible and nothing has any importance. There is no pro or con: the murderer is neither right nor wrong. We are free to stoke the crematory fires or to devote ourselves to the care of lepers. Evil and virtue are mere chance or caprice.
But immediately after this, Camus starts a new paragraph that adds:
We shall then decide not to act at all, which amounts to at least accepting the murder of others, with perhaps certain mild reservations about the imperfection of the human race. Again we may decide to substitute tragic dilettantism for action, and in this case human lives become counters in a game. Finally, we may propose to embark on some course of action which is not entirely gratuitous. In the latter case, in that we have no higher values to guide our behavior, our aim will be immediate efficacy. Since nothing is either true or false, good or bad, our guiding principle will be to demonstrate that we are the most efficient-in other words, the strongest. Then the world will no longer be divided into the just and the unjust, but into masters and slaves. Thus, whichever way we turn, in our abyss of negation and nihilism, murder has its privileged position.
This comes from Camus’ introduction to The Rebel, and is Camus explaining in just a few words how one can’t really be nihilist, because even if you embrace that title, murder still takes a privileged position.
So Dan quotes a portion of Camus who is setting nihilism up for failure, but isolates a passage that takes the important context of how an absurdist view of life sweeps away nihilism and tosses it aside, to focus on Camus’ characterization of nihilism.
Let’s say a Christian who is summarizing an atheist viewpoint before explaining where that viewpoint falls into error:
Christian Author wrote:
If God’s blessings is conditional to how one behaves, which is the main lesson we learn in Deuteronomy, doesn’t this turn God into some kind of Santa Claus who rewards the nice with presents and the naughty with coal? When we grow up, don’t we stop believing in Santa Claus? If there are people who are virtuous but lack blessings, this gives us strong evidence that God does not exist.
Of course such ideas show a profound lack of context of the biblical canon as a whole, the conditional theology we find in Deuteronomy is just one strands in an entire web of complex and interrelated ideas, the atheist merely wishes to build a straw man for him to skewer.
Now lets say I’m speaking at reason rally, and I choose to read a prepared essay, where I mention Christian Author by name and say, “ Even those Christians who do know what the bible says know the silliness of their position, as award winning Christian Author clearly and poetically states…‘If God’s blessings is conditional to how one behaves, which is the main lesson we learn in Deuteronomy, doesn’t this turn God into some kind of Santa Claus who rewards the nice with presents and the naughty with coal? When we grow up, don’t we stop believing in Santa Claus? If there are people who are virtuous but lack blessings, this gives us strong evidence that God does not exist.’”
I’m taking Christian Author’s words out of context, because Christian Author is just setting up his opponent’s viewpoint before addressing it, but I fail to mention that in my speech.
Dan essentially did the same thing with Camus.
We always have to understand that with the existentialists (or the existentialists and Camus for this point) without God there is indeed no meaning and life is indeed absurd even after subjective meaning is asserted or affirmed it remains so.
But the problem is, this doesn’t accurately reflect any atheist who falls into the Existentialist canon, and it surely does not begin to represent Camus. I’m pretty confident Camus would say that the absurdist rebellion is as objective as you can get,
There is also something anxiety ridden, even sickening to really come to grips with, there is no God and life is absurd, celebrating that fact is indeed misguided.
Again, Camus would strenuously disagree with that:
page 101 of The Rebel wrote:
In the eyes of the rebel, what is missing from the misery of the world, as well as from its moments of happiness, is some principle by which they can be explained. The insurrection against evil is, above all, a demand for unity. The rebel obstinately confronts a world condemned to death and the impenetrable obscurity of the human condition with his demand for life and absolute clarity. He is seeking, without knowing it, a moral philosophy, or a religion. Rebellion, even though it is blinf, is a form of asceticism. Therefore, if we rebel blasphemes, it is in the hope of finding a new god. He staggers under the shock of the first and most profound of all religious experiences, but it is a disenchanted religious experience. It is not a rebellion itself that is noble, but its aims, even though its achievements are at times ignoble.
While there may be anxiety and a sickness for some people, Camus sees it as something that is profound and important, something that is worthy of being celebrated.
This seems to me Dan's point - and I find it confusing why Dan would have to point out, elaborate or even care that Camus develops an idea that Camus and Sisyphus say f*** you to the Gods after that sickening fact has come to grips?
If Dan wants to be intellectually honest and use Camus as a foil, he needs to accurately represent Camus’ beliefs. He doesn’t. He knows better.
The quote that you expand further from the Rebel doesn't seem to me important. The key phrase to me is the next paragraph after Dan's quote "We shall then decide not to act at all, which amounts to at least accepting the murder of others". This is classic from existentialist writing.
No! That would be the anti-thesis to Camus, he wants to act, he wants an objective reason to act in the absurd world. What you described isn’t classic existential writing, it is a classic mischaracterization of it that is wildly popular.
I find it hard to believe someone who has a bachelor's degree in philosophy and is as well read as we all agree Dan is somehow doesn't understand the creation of meaning and authenticity that follows in existentialist writing.
I find it very easy to believe, I consider Dan to be philosophically naïve and profoundly shallow when it comes to reading literature and philosophy.
No devil's advocate just attempting to really understand the exact criticisms?
Well, I hope I was able to clear some things up.