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Camus: The Absurd Reasoning

for Intro Philosophy: Knowledge, Reality, Self in Villanova University

Chris Ma

on 23 September 2014

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Transcript of Camus: The Absurd Reasoning

Camus: Existentialism
and The Absurd Reasoning

His Time, His Life, and
Whether Life is Worth Living

Absurd and Suicide
Absurd and Revolt
Absurdity Strikes...
“Does the absurd dictate death?”
Habit, Hope:
Eluding from Absurdity
The Question of Suicide
Literary Works and Philosophical Works
Albert Camus
(7 November 1913 – 4 January 1960)
Existentialism and Camus
Against "human essence", for human existence;
Against detachment and self-deceiving, for authenticity;
Against irresponsibility, for responsible freedom;
Against ideals of objectivity, for "situatedness";
As human, individual first exists, and then becomes something definite, as a result of their own choices and effort; the self is not a thing, it is a process;
No meaning and value are absolute and in things themselves, as meaning-givers, individuals endow meaning to others and to the world.
Born in Mondovi in French Algeria; University of Algiers; diagosed tuberculosis in 1930.
French Communist Party in 1935; Expelled in 1937, for his action in Algerian People's Party.
Resistance and Combat (1943-1947)
Moral dilemma in Algerian War (1954)
1957 Nobel Prize in literature "for his important literary production, which with clear-sighted earnestness illuminates the problems of the human conscience in our times"
4 January 1960, death in a car accident with Michel Gallimard
The Stranger (L'Étranger) (1942)
The Plague (La Peste) (1947)
The Fall (La Chute) (1956)
A Happy Death (La Mort heureuse)
The First Man (Le premier homme)
"I see many people die because they judge that life is not worth living. I see others paradoxically getting killed for the ideas or illusions that give them a reason for living. " p.4
" This divorce between man and his life, the actor and his setting, is properly the feeling of absurdity. "
"The body's judgment is as good as the mind's, and the body shrinks from annihilation. We get into the habit of living before acquiring the habit of thinking." p.8
The Absurd Reasoning p.8-9
"All those irrational feelings... I can define them practically, appreciate them practically, ... by outlining their universe." p.11 (practically—in practice—I get by)
The Stranger
Non-fiction books
Christian Metaphysics and Neoplatonism (1935)
Betwixt and Between (L'envers et l'endroit, also translated as The Wrong Side and the Right Side) (Collection, 1937)
Nuptials (Noces) (1938)
The Myth of Sisyphus (Le Mythe de Sisyphe) (1942)
The Rebel (L'Homme révolté) (1951)
Meursault, a French Algerian man, experiences death of his mother, sexual encounter with a woman, moral choice of his friend, and a fight which lead to his killing another man in this novel, and none of these incidents have an emotional impact on Meursault. At the end of the novel, he was sentenced to death, and refused a priest's effort to convert him.

"Should I kill myself, or have a cup of coffee?"

"Nothing, nothing mattered, and I knew why. So did he. Throughout the whole absurd life I'd lived, a dark wind had been rising toward me from somewhere deep in my future, across years that were still to come, and as it passed, this wind leveled whatever was offered to me at the time, in years no more real than the ones I was living."
"There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy." (The Myth of Sisyphus, p.3)

The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.
To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
"Let men attach value to words, forms, colors, mathematical theorems, physical laws, and athletic prowess; let them accord value to one another in love and friendship, and the objects, the events, and the men immediately have this value; they have it absolutely." Simone de Beauvoir
The question of suicide is the question of the meaning of life.
"The relation between individual thought and suicide" p.4-5
"prepared within the silence of the heart"
"Rarely is suicide committed through reflection."
"life is too much for you or that you do not
understand it"
the Absurd
"Eluding is the invariable game. The typical act of eluding, the fatal evasion that constitutes the third theme of this essay, is hope. Hope of another life one must "deserve" or trickery of those who live not for life itself but for some great idea that will transcend it, refine it, give it a meaning, and betray it." p.8
However, "all true knowledge is impossible." p.12
The feeling of absurdity can begin "on a street-corner or in a restaurant's revolving door," when "the 'why' arises and everything begins in that weariness tinged with amazement." p.12-13
"it inaugurates the impulse of consciousness."
A wake-up call from the routine.
Two possibilities of what follows:
1) "the gradual return to the chain"
2) the definitive awakening -- suicide or recovery
An "unintelligible and limited universe"
The "nostalgia of unity" and "appetite for the absolute" of human
"What is absurd is the confrontation of this irrational and the wild longing of clarity whose call echoes in the human heart." p.21
The rejection of time, the revolt of flesh (p.13-14);
The strangeness of the world, the denseness and irreducibility (p14);
The revelation of inhumanity in human (p14-15);
The unknownness of death (p15-16);
People desire familiarity and clarity. “Understanding the world for a man is reducing it to the human, stamping it with his seal” (17). Reduces everything to thought. But just because we’re nostalgic for unity does not mean we can achieve it.
"People have played on words and pretended to believe that refusing to grant a meaning to life necessarily leads to declaring that it is not worth living."
Absurd reasoning.
Does life have a meaning?
Is life worthwhile?
Camus keeps these two questions separate.
The feeling of absurdity is not the same with the notion of absurdity. It lays the foundation for it. p.28
Absurdity as Confrontation
Nihilism, Escape, and the Leap
Absurdity is not in man or in the world, but in their presence together (30). An equation. An equilibrium.
Jaspers: a leap to assert the superhuman significance of life;
Chestov and Kierkegaard: a leap to announce the fundamental absurdity as supreme, to give up the desire for clarity;
Philosophical Suicide
Undervaluing one side of the equation: “There can be no question of masking the evidence, of suppressing the absurd by denying one of the terms of its equation. It is essential to know whether one can live with it or whether, on the other hand, logic commands one to die of it.” (p.50)
Revolt and Suicide

“That revolt is the certainty of a crushing fate, without the resignation that ought to accompany it." "That revolt gives life its value." (p.54-55)
"Consciousness of revolt, these rejections are the contrary of renunciation." (p.55)

“Suicide, like the leap, is acceptance at its extreme.” It settles the absurd (54). It’s a form of repudiation.
What We Have Learned...
1. Existentialism: what does it mean?
2. Where does the absurd come from? The confrontation between our desire for clarity and the impossibility of pinning it down.
3. In the face of the absurd, leap, nihilism and suicide are forms of repudiation.
4. Revolt is the constant confrontation, the acknowledgment of and insistence on the impossible.
5. Life does not have a meaning; yet life is worthwhile.
Does absurdity dictate suicide?
"(Life) will be lived all the better if it has no meaning. Living an experience, a particular fate, is accepting it fully." -- Camus
Revolt: Live Without Appeal
"Living is keeping the absurd alive." p.54
"I don't know whether this world has a meaning that transcends it. " But I know that I cannot know. p.51
The absurd man refuses the leap, "all he can reply is that he doesn't fully understand."
Revolt: “constant confrontation between man and his own obscurity. It is an insistence upon an impossible transparency.” (54)
"What counts is not the best living but the most living." (p.60-61) Not the longest time of living, but the most aware, most conscious, freest living.
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