Notes from Underground

Who will speak from the insistent vantage of the ontological mystery? Against the best efforts of our contemporary advocates of scientism, positivism, and reductionism, below is a succinct explanation for why religion, poetry, Dostoevsky’s “underground man,” and Camus’s “Sisyphian hero” cannot just cede the field and go gentle into that good night:

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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4 Responses to Notes from Underground

  1. charleyjk4 says:

    Quite strange that Dostoevsky and Camus are lumped together in one blog.Dostoevsky was the First Russian Existentialist.In ‘Crime and Punishment’, he states that the punishment inflicted on a defendant was not effective because the accused morally demanded it.Man was the architect of his fate.
    Camus believed in destiny.He died in a car Accident.

  2. santitafarella says:


    I don’t think Camus was a believer in destiny. Do you have a passage from his writings that supports this reading of Camus?


  3. charleyjk4 says:

    Camus had always been surprised to find himself lumped in the same Camp as Jean Paul Sartre.Existentialism was been brandied about by some to mean those who believed in the concepts of ‘dread’ and ‘anguish’.
    In the myth of Sisyphus,Camus says”If God exists,all depends on him and we can do nothing against his will”.
    Is that not belief in Destiny?.

  4. santitafarella says:


    I think that Camus is suggesting that he believes that the existence of God negates free will. But Camus did not believe in God, and so was free to be Sisyphus, choosing what rock to push up the hill, and choosing his rebellion against the indifferent universe over suicide.

    But reductionist materialism, which is what atheism leads to, is also deterministic.

    In fact, reductionist materialism seems to have become so aggressively deterministic that the only air left for freedom now seems to be a refusal to make the reduction of mind to matter. But if you don’t make the reduction, then you’re back to God. And if God is a trap for determinism (as Camus claims in your quote above) and atheism has shown itself to be a trap for determinism, then we are really fucked, aren’t we?

    I think Camus may have foreclosed on free will on the God side too prematurely. Though I see his argument. And if it is correct, it really puts us in a double bind.

    Time to read Kafka?


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