This statement has been attributed to Albert Camus in various places on the internet. For example, this one:

a picture of Camus alongside a black area with "Always go too far, because that's where you'll find the truth. - Albert Camus - AZ Quotes" written

However, his Wikiquote page doesn't contain this quote. So did he actually say it? If he didn't, then who would likely say it?


Almost certainly not.

While the quotation is attributed to Camus on many sites, two factors make the attribution dubious:

  1. No source is ever provided.
  2. The quote is at odds with Camus's well-documented philosophical positions.

First, the absence of a specified source is in itself suspicious. Any quotation attributed to an author should be easy to track down to a source in that author's writings. If the quotation is free-floating, with no specific citation ever provided, the chances of that quotation's actually originating from that author are vanishingly small. Such synthetic quotes are long attested. Here are some well-known examples:

  • The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco. (Mark Twain never said it.)
  • Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana. (Not by Groucho Marx.)
  • It is never too late to be what you might have been. (George Eliot? Nope.)

These examples predate the internet, but dubious attributions certainly spread thick and fast over that medium. The "Camus" quote, for example, turns up everywhere from Goodreads to Pinterest. Yet the absence of an actual citation to any of his works is a giveaway that the attribution is dubious.

Second, Camus resisted philosophical labels, but is generally regarded as an existentialist and an absurdist. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy says:

Although he forcefully separated himself from existentialism, Camus posed one of the twentieth century’s best-known existentialist questions, which launches The Myth of Sisyphus: “There is only one really serious philosophical question, and that is suicide”. And his philosophy of the absurd has left us with a striking image of the human fate: Sisyphus endlessly pushing his rock up the mountain only to see it roll back down each time he gains the top.

Absurdism stresses the gap between human longing for certainty and the contingency of our experience that makes such certainty impossible. In his best-known philosophical work, The Myth of Sisyphus, Camus writes:

De qui et de quoi en effet puis-je dire: «Je connais cela!» Ce cœur en moi, je puis l’éprouver et je juge qu’il existe. Ce monde, je puis le toucher et je juge encore qu’il existe. Là s’arrête toute ma science, le reste est construction. Car si j’essaie de saisir ce moi dont je m’assure, si j’essaie de le définir et de le résumer, il n’est plus qu’une eau qui coule entre mes doigts. ... Entre la certitude que j’ai de mon existence et le contenu que j’essaie de donner à cette assurance, le fossé ne sera jamais comblé. Pour toujours, je serai étranger à moi-même. En psychologie comme en logique, il y a des vérités mais point de vérité.


Of whom and of what indeed can I say: "I know that!" This heart within me I can feel, and I judge that is exists. This world I can touch, and I likewise judge that it exists. There ends all my knowledge, and the rest is construction. For if I try to seize this self of which I feel sure, if I try to define and summarize it, it is nothing but water slipping through my fingers. ... Between the certainty I have of my existence and the content I try to give that assurance, the gap will never be filled. Forever I shall be a stranger to myself. In psychology as in logic, there are truths but no truth. (p. 7, emphasis added)

This passage summarizes Camus's philosophy pretty well. The only certainty is existence, and knowledge ends there. The idea that "existence precedes essence" is of course definitive of existentialism, but Camus goes further in noting the "gap" between the certainty of existence and the impossibility of any certainty about it. Camus rejects outright the possibility that we can escape our limited existence and arrive at any kind of objective knowledge; hence, "there are truths but no truth."

Camus goes on to say, with regard to philosophical statements, that "Ils ne sont légitimes que dans la mesure exacte où ils sont approximatifs"; i.e., "They are legitimate only in precisely so far as they are approximate". This suspicion of any and all truth-claims was fundamental to Camus's outlook. Given this epistemological stance, it is not feasible that he would endorse, let alone utter, a statement as banal as "Always go too far, because that's where you'll find the truth". The idea of the truth would be ridiculous to Camus.

Edit. OP asks in a comment:

Just for the sake of the argument, let's assume the quote is actually Camus'[s]. I wonder if we can interpret "the truth" in here as "there are truths but no truth", and "go too far" as "far enough that you see the absurdity of the world"? Would that interpretation be... too far?

Camus would not make that argument. Absurdity is the human condition, not the human truth. That is to say, we find ourselves trapped in absurdity by virtue of our efforts to make meaning of our existence, by virtue of trying to find the "truth" about it. To say that the absurdity is the truth would reify what is existential to what is essential. Camus had his quarrel with the existential label, but in this case he would likely agree that absurdity is existential rather than essential, and so can't be described as an objective truth. That said, this particular extension of your question is better addressed on Philosophy Stack Exchange.


Possibly, this is a misrepresentation of something Camus wrote in L'Homme révolté:

Si l'individu, en effet, accepte de mourir, et meurt à l'occasion, dans le mouvement de sa révolte, il montre par là qu'il se sacrifie au bénéfice d'un bien dont il estime qu'il déborde sa propre destinée.

My translation:

If the individual then accepts to die, and happens to die in the act of revolt, he thereby demonstrates that he sacrifices himself for a good [cause] that he considers as gong beyond his own destiny.

This quote does not mention "truth" but I have been unable to find anything that comes closer to the requested quote.

  • If this is really the source, then the quote has been going too far :( – Ooker Dec 14 '20 at 16:20

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