Words and Wisdom

Camus was famous for his inspirational and eloquent writing, but Monod was also a gifted wordsmith. While they lived in a different time, their thoughts about a variety matters - the role of writers, the role of science, and what is worth living and fighting for - are timeless.

Here are a few samples from Brave Genius.

What is Worth Fighting For

“[A]fter twenty years of our harsh history, during which I have tried to accept every experience it offered, liberty ultimately seems to me, for societies and individuals, for labor and for culture, the supreme good that governs all others.”

Camus, interview in Demain (October 1957)

“I have always believed that if people who placed their hopes in the human condition were mad, those who despaired of events were cowards. Henceforth, there will be only one honorable choice: to wager everything on the belief that in the end words will prove stronger than bullets."

Camus, Combat (November 30, 1946)

“Each generation doubtless feels called upon to reform the world. Mine knows that it will not reform it, but its task is perhaps even greater. It consists in preventing the world from destroying itself.” 

Camus, Nobel Banquet Speech (1957)

"To save what can still be saved,just to make the future possible: that is the great motivating force, the reason for passion and sacrifice."

Camus, Combat (November 30, 1946)

On the Role of Science

“There’s always the tendency of the layman…of trying to strike from a fundamental scientist some statement about the applications of his work.  This stems, I think, from a basic misconception as to the role of fundamental science, which exists in modern societies in particular: that the object of science is to be applied and create technology, when in fact technology and applications are by-products.  I feel the most important results of science have been to change the relationship of man to the universe, or the way he sees himself in the universe.”

Jacques Monod, BBC interview (February 1,1967)

“Science has molded our whole society, both by technology, of course, but even more by the creation of new ideas and new outlooks at the universe.  The fact that this is not fully understood and recognized by the general public and the governments and the church and the universities and the philosophers is one of the causes of what we might call the neurosis of modern societies.” 

    Jacques Monod, BBC interview (February 1,1967)

On the Role of Writers

“[T]he nobility of our craft will always be rooted in two commitments, difficult to maintain: the refusal to lie about what one knows and the resistance to oppression.”

Camus, Nobel Prize Banquet Speech

“The first thing for a writer to learn is the art of transposing what he feels into what he wants to make others feel.”

Camus, Notebooks 1942-1951

“To risk one’s life, however little, to have an article printed is a way of learning the real weight of words.”

Camus, cited by Jacqueline Bernard (1967)

Chance and the Origin of Humans

“The emergence of Man can only be conceived as the result of a huge Monte-Carlo game, where our number eventually did come out, when it might not well have appeared. And, in any case, the unfathomable cosmos around us could not have cared less.”

Monod, in On Values in the Age of Science (1969)

We are Strangers in the Universe

 “A world that can be explained even with bad reasons is a familiar world. But, on the other hand, in a universe suddenly devoid of illusion and lights, man feels an alien, a stranger.”

Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus

“The scientific approach reveals to Man that he is an accident, almost a stranger in the universe."

Monod, in On Values in the Age of Science (1969)

“[M]an knows at last that he is alone in the universe’s unfeeling immensity, out of which he emerged only by chance.”

Monod, Chance and Necessity