Albert Camus was born on November 7, 1913, in Mondovi, a small village near the seaport city of Bone in the northeast region of French Algeria.
In 1957, the Nobel Prize in Literature was warded to Albert Camus whose “clear-sighted earnestness illuminates the problems of the human conscience…” Camus’ work exemplifies our capacity to impose meaning vis-à-vis the desolation of human existence.
Now, What is the Absurd?
Absurdity refers to the meaninglessness of human existence that derives from its lack of ground or ultimate purpose. We are searching for meaning of life but unfortunately we are faced with life’s meaninglessness.
The absurd surely refers to our failure to find meaning in our life and existence. Man endlessly seeks for meaning, however in the end the world is revealed, to the clear-sighted man, as without determinate purpose or meaning. The absurdity of our situation is caused by the gap between our longings and the ‘real’ in our condition.
Absurdity in The Myth of Sisyphus
Sisyphus was punished by the gods for eternity to roll a rock up to a mountain. However, whenever he reaches the top, the stone would be roll back down to the bottom. Sisyphus has to roll up again to the top of the mountain. Sisyphus continually accepts the struggle even without any hope of success. It is a situation that seems helpless and even suicidal for him. Albert Camus claims that Sisyphus is the ideal absurd hero and he must be considered happy. So long as he accepts that there is nothing more to life than this absurd struggle, then he can find happiness in it.
Three Ways of Solving Absurd Dilemma of Human Life
There are three choices in facing the absurdity of life as:
- Commit Suicide
- Belief in Transcendent or Spiritual Being
- Face the Absurd
For Camus, the first and the second solutions are a type of avading the problem and not is not real solutions.
Suicide is introduced by Camus in The Myth of Sisyphus. The choice and decision of committing a suicide is indeed a concern for an existentialist philosopher. The basic questions arises whether life is worth living? To answer it, negatively makes suicide the proper logical alternative. It is in this sense that suicide becomes a philosophical problem. Suicide as a solution to absurd would be a defeat; it is a denial of the very condition of man’s existence. Now, in Camus’ opinion, “Suicide means surrender to absurd, a capitulation. Human pride and greatness are shown neither in surrender nor in the sort of escapism indulged in by the existential philosophers…”
Camus rejects suicide because he believed that we cannot solve the problem of absurd by negating its existence. For him, suicide deals with absurdity simply by suppressing both; human being and the world. Suicide is a way of evading the problem and thus a cowardly solution to the absurd.
Hope in Transcendent Being/Religion
For Camus, “Traditional theological and philosophical standards that give meaning to the life of man are no longer intellectually available to modern man…” Hope is found in alleged solution to the absurd which lies beyond knowledge. It may be God or history or any reason, but such solution similar with suicide does not solve the problem, it eliminates it by arguments for which there is insufficient evidence. For him, this is referred to as “philosophical suicide”.
Now, by appealing to transcendental idea or being, man simply escapes the problem of the absurd. This was considered similar to the Kierkegaardian “leap of faith”.
Facing the Absurd
The last solution is to face/embrace the absurd, suggested by Camus, too. The choice to live with the absurd is valid and authentic choice. Since absurd is unavoidable, the only proper response to it is full and courageous acceptance. He believed that by only living in the face of their own absurdity can human beings achieve their full stature.
Revolt is the feeling that helps in the acceptance of absurd. It refers to the refusal of suicide and search for meaning despite the revelation of the absurd. It is the opposition against any perceived unfairness and indignity in the human condition.
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