The Absurd, Part 1: What Is Absurd Reasoning

Having recently read The Myth Of Sisyphus, I have decided to make a short series about the philosophy it suggests and how it is reflected in art. The author of the book – Albert Camus – was born as an in Algiers in a working class family. Having spent his early years in North Africa, he had various jobs. During World War 2, he was a journalist in French Resistance newspaper Combat. He later moved to Paris and became a famous philosopher and writer. His most famous (and my personal favorite) writings include The Myth of Sisyphus, The Stranger, Exile and The Kİngdom, The Plague. (For the ones interested, the last one on the list is more relevant as ever, for it describes a city during plague outbreak.) Camus was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1957. In 1960 he suddenly died at the peak of his career.

Although many put Camus side by side with Schopenhauer, Kierkegaard and Nietzche, he was more than an existentialist. He defined a concept of absurd. That concept took me a long while to fully grasp so I will try to give an example first: the feeling of nausea the protagonist feels in Sartre’s Nausea is a feeling of understanding the absurd. It is what comes as a result of the conflict of human’s need to unify everything and the universe’s silence towards humans. Human strives for the meaning of life, looks at the universe for the answer but the universe remains indifferent. And even if there is the universal meaning in life, Camus suggests that one simply cannot know it. 

“The only serious philosophical question is whether to kill yourself or not.” That is the question addressed in Camus’s thesis on absurdity of suicide. After a long analysis of examples from Dostoyevski’s novels he comes to the conclusion that the answer is no. Committing suicide would end the absurd itself, when it actually has to be kept alive through continious consciousness and awareness. Therefore, the whole life of a conscious man is a revolt. Absurd man sees the world as it is, just like Antoine Roquentin, and by this act of consciousness revolts against the indifferent universe. Absurd man that knows that there is no meaning is also free; free from any hopes for eternal life after death, better life, or any externally attached meaning.  Therefore, if nothing has any meaning, everything has equal meaning. Absurd man strives for the quantity of experiences rather than quality (a principle described by Camus through the example of Don Juanism). 

In the consecutive parts of the series, I am going to show how existentialism and its child, absurdism, is expressed through different media such as paintings and cartoons.


Albert Camus (1955), The Myth of Sisyphus

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