Between Nihilism and Transcendence: Camus’s Dialogue with Dostoevsky

SEAN ILLING
THE REVIEW OF POLITICS 77.2 (2015): 217-272

This article examines the influence of Fyodor Dostoevsky on Albert Camus’s political philosophy of revolt. The aim is to clarify Camus’s reactions to the problems of absurdity, nihilism, and transcendence through an analysis of his literary and philosophical engagement with Dostoevsky. The author makes three related claims. First, the author claims that Camus’s philosophy of revolt is informed in crucial ways by Dostoevsky’s accounts of religious transcendence and political nihilism. Second, that Camus’s conceptualization of the tension between nihilism and transcendence corresponds to and is personified by the dialogue between Ivan Karamazov and Father Zossima in Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov. Finally, that Camus uses his novel The Plague to bridge the moral and metaphysical divide between these two characters. In particular, the author argues that Camus offers a distinct vision of revolt in The Plague, which clarifies both the practical implications of revolt and his philosophical rejoinder to Dostoevsky.