The human being seeks to give meaning to his existence . Why we are here and what is the purpose of everything around us are questions we all ask ourselves at some point.
However, none of these questions ever find any valid answers, perhaps because existence has no meaning or significance whatsoever. It simply is. This leaves us with an absurd position when trying to give meaning or significance to something that does not have it. This concept forms the basis of the philosophical thought of Albert Camus, journalist, playwright, writer and philosopher of Algerian origin.
Born in 1913, this well-known writer, who would receive the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957, worked throughout his work on concepts such as the aforementioned absurdism, the search for freedom, rebellion against absurdity (including art as a way of manifesting it), morality (an essential element for him), manipulation and personal relationships. In this article I have selected 90 sentences by Albert Camus to familiarize us with his thought.
90 of the best sentences by Albert Camus
Below you can see some of Camus’ best phrases that help to get a clearer idea of his philosophical thinking and to understand his work better.
1. The absurdity arises from the confrontation between the search of the human being and the irrational silence of the world
For Camus, life and existence do not have a meaning or significance that we can find, so when we try to make sense of reality and realize that it acts indifferently to our claims to meaning, the feeling arises that we are committing an absurdity.
2. Any man, just around the corner, can experience the feeling of absurdity, because everything is absurd
The explanations we try to give to life and what happens to us cannot be rationally sustained, since reality is chaotic and without order. That is why we can all feel the absurdity, since there is no metaphysical meaning for what we do or live .
3. Not to be loved is a simple misfortune. The real misfortune is not knowing how to love
The person I love may not be reciprocated, but it is the person who is not able to love who will lead a sadder life.
4. What we do may not always bring happiness, but if we do nothing, there will be no happiness
This reflection pushes us to act in spite of the fact that we can make mistakes and errors, because it is the only way to achieve our dreams.
5. A true friend is one who arrives when everyone else has left
Sometimes we make the mistake of considering a friend who is there when things are going well. It is in the hard, difficult moments , when you will notice who is there and really cares about you.
6. Happy and judged or acquitted and miserable
Camus pushes us to live independently from the judgment of others regarding our actions in order to be happy.
7. Every generation, no doubt, believes itself destined to remake the world. Mine, however, knows that it will not remake it. But his task may be greater. It is to prevent the world from stopping
Camus lived between 1913 and 1960. His generation lived through the horrors of World War I, the rise of fascism and World War II.
8. Don’t walk in front of me, I might not follow you. Don’t walk behind me, I may not lead you. Walk beside me and be your friend
This phrase reflects the notion of equality between people, the need to consider all of us equally and that there is no one above or below.
9. They rule today… because you obey!
A single person cannot direct anything if the others do not give him authority. In the absence of obedience power is lost . We are invited to fight against what we consider unjust.
10. Seeking what is true is not seeking what one wants
The truth may be painful and not conform to our desires and intentions, but that does not mean that it should not be sought. The fact that things are meaningless can be difficult to reconcile, but such a possibility must be explored.
11. I cry out that I don’t believe in anything and that everything is absurd, but I can’t doubt my cry and I need to at least believe in my protest
As much as things may not make sense, they’re still there. What we do to try to understand them and what we do about them is important.
12. If all experiences are indifferent, the experience of duty is as legitimate as any other. One can be virtuous on a whim
Elements such as duty and obligation are taken as absolutes and cause us to do things we don’t want to do or wouldn’t do if it were up to us. If we do things it is not necessarily because we have a duty to do them. We can do them because we want to. Similarly, we do not have to behave in a certain way because we should or others consider it to be the usual or necessary thing to do.
13. I rate as stupid those who are afraid to enjoy
This phrase indicates that we should dare to enjoy life and what it offers us.
14. Success is easy to achieve. What is difficult is to deserve it
Getting something doesn’t mean it’s deserved. It happens with things like power, loyalty or even love.
15. When man subjects God to moral judgment, he kills him in his heart
Camus considered that morality should be far from religiosity , although he considered the latter as a way of trying to give meaning to existence.
16. Man has two faces: he cannot love without loving himself
To love others, it is necessary to love oneself. The person who does not love himself to some degree cannot manifest love.
17. All generosity towards the future lies in giving everything to the present
Fighting against what we consider unfair today is what will make tomorrow’s situation better for those who live it.
18. In the depths of winter I finally learned that within me dwells an invincible summer
No matter how bad we are going through and how much we suffer, there is something good in all of us and hope, even if it is buried, for a better future.
19. In man there are more things to admire than to despise
In spite of the brutality and cruelty that human beings are capable of manifesting, there are many more positive and admirable aspects within people: love, loyalty, perseverance, effort, art, the search for freedom and justice…
20. In politics it is the means that must justify the end
Using any means to achieve a certain objective is not acceptable. Wanting to achieve a certain result does not exempt you from the guilt of the means used to do so, especially when you are playing with lives.
21. Totalitarian tyranny is not built on the virtues of totalitarians but on the faults of democrats
The rise of totalitarian and fascist powers is due not to the fact that their ideology is correct but to the fact that certain aspects of democratic procedures are not correctly applied and leave aside part of reality, causing suffering that in some people generates reactance.
22. Stupidity always insists
There will always be people or situations that act irresponsibly and without considering the impact of their actions on themselves or others, even repeating past mistakes.
23. The only way to deal with this world without freedom is to become so absolutely free that your mere existence is an act of rebellion
Even though we are forbidden, we must live no matter how much we are judged. To live free can mean being persecuted, but it is necessary if we want to live and not just survive .
24. People are never convinced of your reasons, your sincerity, your seriousness or your sufferings, unless you die
Camus states in this sentence that the intentions and motivations of each person will be continually questioned by others.
25.What is the man? But there, stop because we know. Man is that force that always ends up expelling the tyrants and the gods
The human being, as a seeker of freedom and rights, always ends up rebelling against abuse and coercion.
26. The need to be correct, the sign of a vulgar mind
For Camus, we must be free . Being politically correct and striving to be so means limiting one’s freedom.
27. Charm is the way to get the “yes” answer without having asked a clear question
In this sentence the author expresses that the ability to seduce and persuade implies the capacity to establish a deep influence on others.
28. No man is a hypocrite in his pleasures
We can be hypocrites in our actions, thoughts or intentions. But when it comes to pleasure and joy, we are sincere and free.
29. For most men, war is the end of loneliness. For me it is infinite solitude
In war, sides are established, sides in which those who join can feel part of something. However, deep down it means that the other is not significant , that he or she is no longer human and is an enemy regardless of what that person previously meant. In war we are alone.
30. A man without ethics is a wild beast released into this world
The fact that we are free does not mean we can do what we want when we want. It is necessary to act ethically and take into account that our actions affect others.
31. Innocent is the one who does not need to explain himself
The one who is not guilty has nothing to justify himself for no matter how much others pretend to do so.
32. The great Carthage led three wars: after the first one he still had power; after the second one he was still habitable; after the third one he is no longer on the map
War destroys us and weakens us progressively.
33. A free press can be good or bad, but without freedom the press will never be anything but bad
The author indicates the need for freedom so that the truth can be sought without being alibied or censored by political or economic interests. Censorship implies that the professional cannot fully reflect his or her perception.
34. Man is the only creature that refuses to be what he is
For the author, the human being is the only being that is repressed and is repressed in his instincts and in the expression of his nature.
35. To create is to live twice
Creativity is a way of expressing freedom and rebelling against the absurdity of the world. In addition to expressing ourselves, it gives life to what we carry within us in a way that is palpable to the rest of the world.
36. One cannot take the side of those who make history, but in the service of those who suffer from it
There is a lot of talk about the great figures in history and when a particular event is talked about people tend to think about those figures. However, those who really suffered the consequences and lived and participated in the change are often unknown and forgotten people.
We do not remember the child who died of hunger because of the approval of a certain policy, the doctor who saved the lives of hundreds of war wounded, the civilians who were bombed for something in which they had no decision-making power, or the ordinary soldier who died defending the ideas of others.
37. If man fails to reconcile justice and freedom, he fails in everything
Freedom and justice must go hand in hand to shape a society that can be free as a whole, not just for some subjects.
38. You cannot gain experience by doing experiments. You cannot create the experience. You must experience it
The experience is only acquired through experience. We must live if we want to have experience. This phrase encourages us to live and not just theorize about what things mean.
39. Rarely will we trust someone who is better than us
The perception of inequality often generates distrust if the other is seen as superior.
40. Duty is what you expect from others
Duty is nothing more than someone’s expectation of what they expect others to do.
41. Fall is a second spring, where every leaf is a flower
This sentence can be read in two ways: on the one hand it can refer to the process of maturing with age , while on the other hand it can refer to the period of peace before a conflict.
42. In a man’s attachment to his life there is something stronger than all the miseries in the world
The desire to live is one of the most powerful forces. Living, even in the most adverse circumstances, is always worthwhile.
43. I have seen people do wrong with a lot of morals and I see every day that honesty does not need rules
Being honest doesn’t mean doing what the world tells us to do. We must be ethical, but not blindly follow what social morality dictates.
44. Sad people have two reasons to be sad: they ignore and despair
For Camus, the sadness is due to the despair caused by ignorance.
45. Who needs pity but those who have no compassion for anyone!
Generally those who do not show mercy are those who have lived through concrete situations that have made them perceive reality in a certain way.
46. Men cry because things are not as they should be
Human beings try to make sense of a reality that they do not have and that they cannot control or understand, which generates their frustration.
47. What is a rebel? A man who says no
Being a rebel means refusing to accept what is stipulated and not acting according to what is preestablished if this goes against our principles.
48. If the world were clear, art would not exist
Camus sees art as a form of rebellion against absurdity, of expressing our anxiety and anguish in the face of its indetermination.
49. All men’s misfortunes come from not speaking out
The existence of conflicts is due to the lack of understanding between people, caused mainly by the use of ambiguity and the non-expression of what is really thought.
50. There is nothing more despicable than respect based on fear
Authority based on fear is not true authority, but its enforcement.
51. Disease is the most fearsome tyrant
When we think of a tyrant we usually think of a person, but other elements of life are equally fearsome . Such as illness.
52. I was told that it takes a few dead people to reach a world where one would not kill oneself
Camus criticizes the idea that the end justifies the means, especially when the means totally contradict the end.
53. Artists think according to words and philosophers according to ideas
Art and thought focus on different aspects of the same reality.
54. For every free man who falls, ten slaves are born, and the future is darkened a little more
The loss of people who illustrate an ideal such as freedom means that the rest of the population loses inspiration and ends up abandoning its quest.
55. The instant I am no longer a writer I will have stopped being a writer
The person who expresses himself is much more than a person who expresses himself. If it were only that, he would not be able to express anything because he would have no content.
56. Giving oneself is only meaningful if one possesses oneself
This phrase reflects that a person cannot give himself up if he does not own himself, if he does not consider that he has something of his own to give up.
57. Judging whether or not life is worth living is the fundamental answer to the sum of philosophical questions
For Camus the main philosophical problem is whether life is worth living.
58. Everyone insists on his innocence at all costs, even if it means accusing the rest of the human race and even heaven
Most people are lenient with themselves and do not consider themselves responsible for what happens, attributing all the aversion to others.
59. Myths have more power than reality. The revolution as a myth is the definitive revolution
The idealization of a virtue, a person or an objective is a greater source of inspiration than reality, since it allows us to observe a utopia of perfection to which we can aspire.
60. All modern revolutions have resulted in a strengthening of the power of the state
Most revolutions, whether successful or not, have led to power being even more powerful if it changes hands.
61. I still believe that this world has no higher meaning. But I know that it does make sense in one way or another.
There is no purpose behind reality, even though it can sometimes be organized and interpreted rationally.
62. Who could affirm that an eternity of happiness can compensate for an instant of human pain?
Again Camus expresses his belief that the end never justifies the means.
63. It is not a question of knowing whether by pursuing justice we will succeed in preserving freedom. It is a question of knowing that, without freedom, we will accomplish nothing and lose both future justice and ancient beauty
Freedom is the basis of justice , and without it it is not possible to establish the latter in the future nor to appreciate the beauty of our past by limiting the options.
64. Freedom is only the opportunity to be better
Camus defends the importance of freedom to develop and express oneself, giving the opportunity to improve our lives and the world.
65. All the specialists in the Passion tell us: there is no eternal love if it is not opposed. There is no passion without struggle.
Achieving love and/or our dreams and goals means striving to overcome the difficulties that arise. Nothing is free: we have to put in our effort. In love, moreover, the struggle to maintain it stimulates its continuity.
66. Two men who live the same number of years are always given the same amount of experience by the world. It is up to us to be aware of them
Two people who live the same years will experience the same thing, although the experience may be different. Simply each person must be aware of what they are living through and give it its due importance.
67. To feel one’s own life, its rebellion, its freedom, and as much as possible, is to live as much as possible
The author encourages us to live life intensely in this sentence.
68. Happiness is the greatest of conquests, the one we make against the destiny that is imposed on us
Human beings must constantly strive and fight throughout their lives if they are to achieve happiness. We have to fight against fate and what is imposed on us to do what we really want to do.
69. Like great works, deep feelings always declare more than they consciously say
When we talk about a deep feeling, the words we use are often not able to express the great value we place on it or the sensations it causes us. It goes beyond consciousness or rationality . And this is without taking into account the possibility that we may voluntarily restrict their expression.
70. Any form of contempt, if it intervenes in politics, prepares or establishes fascism
Fascism involves the imposition of a way of thinking based on the supremacy of the latter in relation to the others, which are despised. Hatred and contempt for different ways of being or thinking is its basis.
71. Genius: the intelligence that knows its boundaries
Genius is not having an above-average intelligence, but being aware of one’s own limitations and acting on them.
72. For an absurd spirit reason is vain and there is nothing beyond reason
Absurdity as the search for meaning for something that has no meaning. A solely rational explanation to reality is sought, and yet the being itself knows that reason is not enough to explain something that cannot be explained.
73. Friendship can be turned into love. Love in friendship… never
For Camus the passage from friendship to love is a path of no return. Whoever loves someone cannot stop loving them and transform them into something of lesser intensity.
74. When, by profession or by vocation, one has meditated much on man, it happens that one experiences nostalgia for the primates. They do not have thoughts of second thoughts
Human beings tend to use ambiguity and double meanings, as well as act and speak with ulterior motives such as seeking benefits for oneself.
75. I have always believed that while the man who has hope in the human condition is a madman, the one who despairs of events is a coward
In this sentence the author reflects that it is better to be hopeful in an unwise way than to give in to despair.
76. I understand why the doctrines that explain everything weaken me at the same time. They free me from the burden of my own life, and yet I must carry it alone
By adhering to a specific theory or belief, we are able to establish a framework for action while at the same time making us less responsible for our actions, as they all have a certain meaning. But this prevents us from becoming totally responsible for what happens in our lives and from fighting with less energy to change things.
77. Man’s attention span is limited and must be constantly spurred on by provocation
We need to stimulate the human being so that he can attend to the different aspects of reality and act, or else he will remain stagnant.
78. The only truly serious philosophical problem is suicide
Whether life is worth living is one of the main problems that philosophy must face, and the answer is yes for Camus.
79. I rebel, then we are
Rebellion and non-conformity with reality and its absurdity is what allows us to fight for what we believe in and to elaborate ourselves.
80. It was in Spain that my generation learned that one can be right and be defeated, that strength can destroy the soul, and that sometimes courage is not rewarded
This phrase makes clear reference to the Spanish Civil War and to the victory and establishment of the Francoist side in spite of the Republican resistance.
81. To be king of their moods is the privilege of the most evolved animals
The management of emotions is a characteristic of animals with greater intellect and freedom.
82. Blessed is the heart that can bend because it will never break
Flexibility and the acceptance that there may be other points of view mean that we can remain whole and adapt to the circumstances.
83. Sometimes I think about what future historians will say about us. A single sentence will be enough to define modern man: he fornicated and read newspapers
This sentence criticizes the tendency to limit oneself to surviving and focusing on oneself without contributing anything to the world around us.
84. It is not the child’s suffering that upsets, but the fact that it is not justified
It is not the fact of suffering but the fact that this fact has no meaning that causes frustration, anger, indignation and rebellion.
85. How hard, how bitter it is to become a man
Growing and maturing as a human being involves learning and understanding different aspects of reality in all its rawness and cruelty, or the equally painful fact that we do not understand them.
86. No one realizes that some people expend tremendous energy simply to be normal
Many people suffer and make great efforts and sacrifices in order to fit into the concept of normality. They try to adjust, for which they restrict part of their being or make excessive efforts to this end. Both people who excel and those who do not achieve what others demand.
87. An intellectual is a person whose mind looks at itself
Camus’ idea of intellectuality assumes that the person is capable of successfully observing and analyzing himself without the need to judge others.
88. Man needs to exalt justice to fight injustice, and create happiness to rebel against a universe of unhappiness
The human being must fight against what he considers aversive, through the exaltation of his opposite.
89. Every time a man is chained, we are chained to him. Freedom must be for everyone or for no one.
In this sentence Camus expresses the need for all of us to be free , not just a few.
90. All great deeds and all great thoughts have a ridiculous beginning
As ridiculous as it may seem, something big may eventually emerge that will change the world for the better.