Date of Award

1997

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Political Science

First Advisor

Cecil Eubanks

Abstract

This essay traces the critical development of the idea of creativity through the intellectual relationship of Simone Weil and Albert Camus. Members of the French Resistance during the Second World War, Camus and Weil never met. Camus became enamored of her work after her death and is largely responsible for its publication. Camus recognized in Weil a markedly distinct, but kindred, spirit. Despite the apparent conflict between her Christian mysticism and his existential orientation, they both sought the preservation of the specifically human in a world which, in valuing a mechanistic form of reason, tended to objectify the human. Their respective political theories embrace the human creative capacity as a dignified response to this objectification. Creativity emerges as a basic reorientation toward political phenomena. The present essay argues that their emphasis on the creative moves beyond their critiques of totalitarianism and reveals a shared need to assert a positive, non-dogmatic vision of political action. Creativity embodies a temperament, extant in the work of the artist and in a reconceived notion of labor, that both Weil and Camus believed could be usefully applied to the problems of modern politics. For both Weil and Camus, politics is the province of individuals. Their analyses of political reality share concerns with preserving the creative potential of individual human beings, creating and preserving home, and reconciling an individual sense of freedom to a collective sense of justice. The difficult ethic requires a willingness to approach political problems imaginatively and with flexibility. Creative politics relies upon a nearly Greek conception of limits, in the person of the other, and in a community's laws, traditions and mores. Respect for the other and for communal institutions engenders respect for others' communal traditions. The emergent form of citizenship encourages individuals to find their place in the community. The emergent form of political rule creates and preserves a community in which this exploration is possible. Weil and Camus make a suggestion about the possibility of ethics in the aftermath of total war. Their work is a prelude to the formulation of a self-consciously creative form of citizenship.

ISBN

9780591723977

Pages

382

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