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An Introduction to Existentialism and Camus' The Stranger

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Anne Miller

on 25 September 2013

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Transcript of An Introduction to Existentialism and Camus' The Stranger

Existentialism and Albert Camus
What is Existentialism?
Existentialism: the study of existence from the first-hand perspective of human beings

that tends to emphasize our personal, or
subjective experiences
, our
freedom and responsibility
, and our
Where did existentialism come from?

1. Dinosaurs. In the late nineteenth century, the Western world was rocked by the evolutionary theory and the discovery of fossils. Culture began questioning the authority and truths of the Church. (Dinosaurs are not in the book of Genesis.)
2. Science. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the scientific world view became dominant - that everything can be measured, reduced to its parts, and understood logically.
3. War. But with these technological advances came two world wars that ravaged European "civilization." While civilization had been seen as the opposite of brutality and barbarity, World Wars I and II showed the superficial nature of supposedly civilized nations. People had trouble making sense of the brutality and devastation.
Existentialist ideas emerged as a way to cope with changing reality. If God and science can't give us the truth, then what can?
Others may become born-again Christians, or other religious types
Others may look into the reality of life, determine that there is no objective meaning or purpose, and choose to make the most of their lives anyway. Most existentialists would call this behavior courageous.
Key Existentialist Ideas
The focus should be on the individual over the group
Human life goes beyond what is rational and logical
There is no fixed definition of a human being
The only perspective to think about the universe is from the human perspective.There is no such thing as complete "objectivity"
We are ultimately alone in a universe that doesn't care about us
People have different responses to this question.

Some became nihilists, or people who conclude that life has no meaning. Self-destructive tendencies may come with this mindset. These people tend not to give a crap about anything. You probably don't want to get into a car with one of them for the obvious reasons.
Existentialists tend to believe that...
Where does Camus fit in?
While Camus is often put in the existentialist camp, he rejected the label. He is often called an "absurdist" today - which is kind of a branch off the existentialist tree. He believed in the meaninglessness of the universe and that the fact of death makes life essentially meaningless. He also believed that no authority is legitimate over the individual, and that the absurdity and inhumanity of the godless modern world must be combated by brave, non-conformist individuals
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