Albert Camus, Meursault, and “gay marriage”

One of the themes of Luchino Visconti’s 1967 adaption of Albert Camus’ The Stranger (a film I recently watched) is, about a perceived conflict between the liberty of the individual and the integrity of society. We can also turn to the story and to one scene in particular, and find a good parallel to the question of whether the marriage of non-heterosexual couples should be legally recognised: the issue of ‘gay marriage’/ ‘marriage equality’.

lestrangerCamus is one of my favourite public figures of conscience. Visconti’s Lo Stranero is a very faithful adaptation. His interpretation of Meursault as a benign sensualist is sound; and if anything the film is perhaps too faithful1Camus’ estate placed limits on artistic licence and selected the script writer; and in several scenes of the film Meursault narrates lines directly from the book which are jarringly flowery coming from the voice of the film’s typically direct and concise character.

This is the story of the trial-by-character of the Algerian Frenchman, Meursault who inexplicably kills an Arab on a beach in Algiers. Many have read The Stranger during a ‘coming of age’ period of their lives where they appreciate the social rebellion embodied in Mersaults’ apparent amorality, yet, as one of those amorphous stories that can be seen from a different light when read again, today I will be exploring it in parallel to contemporary debates about marriage.

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The Negative Association between Religiousness and Children’s Altruism – A Critical Analysis

An orthodoxy of social science is that studies of ethics should be descriptive and not prescriptive; they should describe what is without evaluating what ought or oughtn’t be. But approaching this ideal – which not all aspire to – is no easy task, especially when important cultural values are involved.

A good illustration is a recently published academic article, ‘The Negative Association Between Religiousness and Children’s Altruism across the World’ (you can read it here). In addition to being intended as descriptive it is also critical: it compares the judgements and practices of children of faith and non-faith using the standards of ‘pro-sociality’ and ‘altruism’. As its title suggests, religiousness was found to be inversely correlated with altruistic behaviour; in addition, some religious children were found to display greater punitive tendencies than the non-religious. But these contentious findings rely on a number of assumptions. Exploring them provides a good opportunity to examine problems of the relation of values to science. Continue reading