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Macaulay's avatar

What're your thoughts on Absurdism (efforts of humanity to find meaning in the universe ultimately fail)

Asked by Macaulay (773 points ) December 15th, 2009

Albert Camus spent his life defying nihlism (life w/o objective meaning). In a nutshell, Camus saw the meaningingless of life as an aspect that granted us humans freedom from inessential human desires. Camus said that “fate is not a punishment.” He also believed that our lives cannot be shaped by anything outside of our immediate experience (i.e. disregard religion, hope, pride).
Furthermore, Camus sought to understand human desires. “There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide.” (If life is meaningless, why not kill ourselves; if there’s a meaninging to life, would man not die defending it?)
I see the philosophy of Absurdism to be empathically optimistic. What about you?

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25 Answers

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

There is a lot in your details that doesn’t flow – it’s making it hard for me to grasp it all at once though I have no problem understanding Camus’ perspectives, in general – as a post-modernist myself and someone interested in a post-Hegelian dialectic kind of philosophy, the question of suicide is always of interest to me, if only to escape a kind of circularity at the end of history. Are you saying that Camus wanted meaning in life or that he fought against it?

CMaz's avatar

“I see the philosophy of Absurdism to be empathetically optimistic.”

I concur.

Cruiser's avatar

You presented you question in general terms ie…“humanity” and “ultimately fail”. I think the world is full of examples of where people have succeeded in finding meaning in their universe. When you consider the vast numbers of devout Christians, Muslims, Buddhists etc. who have found the meaning of their universe within their religions, the human nature of humanity has done a pretty good job at synthesizing meaning in their universe. Just because a big bang theory would blow holes in almost everyone of their meanings does not mitigate the “success” of that persons quest.

Harp's avatar

The search for “meaning” is a by-product of belief in the reality of the self. Where there’s self, there’s the need for some kind of narrative to define the relationship of the self to the world. Along with the self there’s also the illusion of agency, and so a need to define the parameters of choice, i.e. values.

Since the search for meaning is based on a false assumption—the reality of the self—there will be nothing to find. There’s certainly the possibility of “creating one’s own meaning”, coming up with a rationale of one’s own for why life is a better choice than suicide. There’s the possibility of suicide, whereby one tries to solve the problem by destroying the self. But both of these “solutions” ignore the actual nature of the problem, which is the illusory nature of the self.

The most satisfactory outcome, then, is to see the self for what it is: a very compelling illusion, but an illusion nonetheless. With the piercing of that illusion, the need for meaning falls away. And that is indeed a profound liberation. With it goes the sense of separation from the world.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Harp your last paragraph – well put and I agree

wundayatta's avatar

I am in the world. I play hard. I seek disaster. Not on purpose, but in effect. Things are too mysterious to me to understand. One day, perhaps, I will feel like being happy. When that day comes, then I’ll be happy. Right now, I seek turmoil. I’m good at that.

Pandora's avatar

Please don’t take this the wrong way because I mean no disrespect. These are just my thoughts and I do not know how to phrase my answer without sounding like a douche. My thoughts is that it would be absurd to waste my short life pondering such things. I would have no proof one way or another. I would have better luck beating my head against wondering why I can’t seem to win the lottery. This is right up there with ” I don’t know who I am and so I must take a sebatical to find myself”!

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Pandora but that kind of thing can be totally good for some people

Pandora's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Are you stalking me? LOL
Yes sebaticals can be a healing experience. However what I mean is that people sometimes waste their lives looking for something deeper and they just keep coming up with one theory after another and they miss the everyday joy of just living because its not profound enough. What would be wrong in just being and taking each day as it comes?
Of course that is just how I choose to live. I wasted so many years in search of answers I will never find and I do not intend to waste anymore of my time.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Pandora yes I’m stalking you. no, I’m not.
I am sorry you didn’t find any ‘deeper meaning’ but it is possible for others, I think
in any case it’s a worthy quest
you must have thought so or you wouldn’t have gone on it

Pandora's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir Wrote out a whole thing and then went to another link to see how you get to whisper and I lost what I wrote. But it was some good stuff. =D
Ahh, never mind. LOL

Pazza's avatar

All will be revealed the day we die. Though we may not be able to receive the answers if we’ve ceased to exist.

Blondesjon's avatar

What is absurd is not realizing that philosophy and religion are simply tools we use to alleviate our fear of death.

Or is it just a coincidence that we are the only species on the planet that employ philosophy, religion, and psychology?

phillis's avatar

I think we’re the only species capable of it, Blondesjon. I do agree that these things are tools to alleviate fear of death to a large extent. But some of these are utilized to explain things that are definitely aligned with life, not death. Why Dogs Smile and Chimpanzees Cry (1999) is a good example of that, even as it touches on both our points. Some people ask why simply to for the plasure of learning and the joy of exploration, don’t you think?

mattbrowne's avatar

There’s nothing wrong with trying to find meaning.

Blondesjon's avatar

@phillis . . . I agree completely but I always bear in mind that “why?” is a luxury. Throw us back into the hourly survival game and and the importance of “why?” drops exponentially. I think a lot of our philosophical dilemmas exist because we now live so far removed from nature that we tend to view it as unnatural.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

Jeez, I don’t know. According to answers we saw here earlier today, was Albert Camus even qualified to be a Professional Philosopher? Did he have a four-year degree and a proven account of hours spent in the study of other philosophers? How can we take his word for anything in this regard without a full examination of his bona fides? (Is a license now required, as well as a four-year degree studying every self-declared philosopher who has gone before—even some of those who apparently practiced without licenses or valid credentials?)

On the face of it, it seems nearly impossible in any sense to “defy nihilism”, doesn’t it? I mean, how do you “defy meaninglessness and nothingness”? Talk about boxing with shadows—yikes!

On the other hand, having talked to and read works by people who had a Catholic school education, it is impossible to say that religion does not have a direct and immediate effect on their lives. The busted rulers and bruised knuckles would be evidence to the contrary of that assertion. And pride, the part that goeth before a fall—and leads to a whole lot of stupid fights—is certainly relevant, even if truly meaningless in the face of the universe.

But I guess I disagree with the question’s implication that “life must not be meaningless, or else we’d kill ourselves” (at least the way I read it, and not being overly familiar with Camus): I do think that life is essentially meaningless. But that’s still not a good reason to commit suicide! I enjoy my life; I don’t want to lose it—but I don’t think that my life has any particular “meaning” to anyone apart from myself.

If I lose the enjoyment of my life, then I probably would revisit the relevance of suicide. For now, meaningful or not, I like what I have and I’m not throwing it away.

phillis's avatar

Indeed – it IS a luxury. But we are also compelled to do it. We are, in fact, hardwired for it; it’s how we learn, which is an intrinsic part of human survival. We marvel at how animals can scavenge to survive, how they teach others of their species to use tools (i.e. chimpanzees poking sticks in termite mounds to “catch” termites, which are full of proteins). Humans do it, too.

There are (for now) isolated pockets of survivalists who do nothing but live off the land. The Discovery Channel has at least two such shows where a survivalist is dropped off in various harsh terrains, miles from civilization, to see how they survive and eventually extricate themselves from the situation.

In every case, everything survivalists display is not innate intelligence, or instinct. These skills and strategies had to be learned. It is not human nature to merely survive. We
explore, which facilitates learning. Depending on the conditions at a given time, a person might be learning how to shelter himself from harsh elements, or learning how to play the cello. That was my point, and also why I agreed with yours. We are both right.

Pazza's avatar

@Blondesjon
Religion is bullshit end of.
Philosophy is just putting fancy words to reasoned thoughts.
An who needs a phycologist?.... I phyco analyse myself on a daily basis, cost me f@#kall.

As for animals, they don’t have the language dialogue to come up with the shit we do, so who knows, in a couple of million years maybe sheep will be preying to the God of wool in the winter.

An death isn’t a problem for me, I only fear torture, and the loss of my family, oh an sharks, an wasps, spiders, rabbid squirrels, an heights!

An an empty sugar bowl…...

Blondesjon's avatar

@phillis . . . We are indeed. <sigh> If only the world’s leaders were as enlightened as you and I.

phillis's avatar

I could introduce a whole new way of life for Obi-Wan-Obama. But he’d have to give up his entire way of doing business. And all his cronies. And whatever else smarminess infiltrated. I mean, damn…..I love a polished image as much as anybody, but what did he have to sacrifice to get it? Nothing’s free.

HasntBeen's avatar

@Harp stole my post. Ossifer!!

CyanoticWasp's avatar

@HasntBeen, he probably cribbed it from some of your answers at AB…

HasntBeen's avatar

He’s my long-lost sock puppet! Dang, I wondered if I left him in the wash :)

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