Sunday, January 26, 2014

Notes on Myth of Sisyphus and the Absurd

  • In philosophy, "the Absurd" refers to the conflict between (a) the human tendency to seek inherent value and meaning in life and (b) the human inability to find any.
  • Finding inherent meaning will ultimately fail because the sheer amount of information as well as the vast realm of the unknown make certainty impossible.
  • There is a conflict between what we seek from the universe and what the universe has to offer.
  • Some absurdists state that one should embrace the absurd condition of humankind while conversely continuing to explore and search for meaning.
  • As a philosophy, absurdism thus also explores the fundamental nature of the Absurd and how individuals, once becoming conscious of the Absurd, should respond to it.

Atheistic  Existentialism
There is such a thing as meaning or value:
There is inherent meaning in the universe:
Yes, but the individual must come to the knowledge of God
Maybe, man will never know.
The pursuit of meaning may have meaning in itself:
No, meaning can only be constructed, not pursued.
The individual's construction of any type of meaning is possible:
Yes, thus the goal of existentialism.
Yes, thus the goal of existentialism, though this meaning must incorporate God.
Yes, though it must be personal and face the Absurd; moreover, there is no way to verify whether one's constructed meaning conforms to any inherent meaning
No, because there is no meaning to create.
There is resolution to the individual's desire to seek meaning:
Yes, the creation of one's own meaning.
Yes, the creation of one's own meaning involving God.
Maybe the creation of one's own meaning, but not with regard to the inherent meaning of the universe (if one exists).

  • The absurd nature of Sisyphus lies not only in his torture through hopeless labor but in his passionate nature as well. Sisyphus scorned the gods, hated death and was extremely passionate about life.
  • In climbing the hill, Sisyphus symbolizes each individual. Arms outstretched, he works against time and space so that he can achieve his goal.
  • According to Camus, one's freedom – and the opportunity to give life meaning – lies in the recognition of absurdity.
  • For Camus, suicide is a "confession" that life is not worth living; it is a choice that implicitly declares that life is "too much." Suicide offers the most basic "way out" of absurdity: the immediate termination of the self and its place in the universe.
  • If the absurd experience is truly the realization that the universe is fundamentally devoid of absolutes, then we as individuals are truly free, to define absolutes and universals subjectively, rather than objectively.
  • It is our reach towards our goals, the experiences we gain, the courage it takes to face the absurd and stand tall in front of it – these are the things that matter. 

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