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← Is life meaningless? And other absurd questions - Nina Medvinskaya

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Showing Revision 4 created 09/21/2020 by lauren mcalpine .

  1. Albert Camus grew up surrounded
    by violence.
  2. His homeland of Algeria was mired
    in conflict between native Algerians
  3. and colonizing French Europeans.
  4. He lost his father in the First World War,
  5. and was deemed unfit
    to fight in the second.
  6. Battling tuberculosis in France
    and confronting the war's devastation
  7. as a resistance journalist,
    Camus grew despondent.
  8. He couldn’t fathom any meaning behind
    all this endless bloodshed and suffering.
  9. He asked: if the world was meaningless,
  10. could our individual lives
    still hold value?
  11. Many of Camus’ contemporaries
    were exploring similar questions

  12. under the banner of a new philosophy
    called existentialism.
  13. Existentialists believed people
    were born as blank slates,
  14. each responsible for creating their life’s
    meaning amidst a chaotic world.
  15. But Camus rejected
    their school of thought.
  16. He argued all people were born
    with a shared human nature
  17. that bonded them toward common goals.
  18. One such goal was to seek out meaning
    despite the world’s arbitrary cruelty.
  19. Camus viewed humanity’s desire for meaning
    and the universe’s silent indifference
  20. as two incompatible puzzle pieces,
  21. and considered trying to fit them
    together to be fundamentally absurd.
  22. This tension became the heart
    of Camus’ Philosophy of the Absurd,
  23. which argued that life
    is inherently futile.
  24. Exploring how to live without meaning
  25. became the guiding question
    behind Camus’ early work,
  26. which he called
    his “cycle of the absurd.”
  27. The star of this cycle,
    and Camus’ first published novel,

  28. offers a rather bleak response.
  29. "The Stranger" follows Meursault,
    an emotionally detached young man
  30. who doesn’t attribute much
    meaning to anything.
  31. He doesn’t cry at his mother’s funeral,
  32. he supports his neighbor’s scheme
    to humiliate a woman,
  33. he even commits a violent crime —
    but Meaursault feels no remorse.
  34. For him the world is pointless
    and moral judgment has no place in it.
  35. This attitude creates hostility
    between Meursault
  36. and the orderly society he inhabits,
  37. slowly increasing his alienation
    until the novel’s explosive climax.
  38. Unlike his spurned protagonist, Camus
    was celebrated for his honest philosophy.

  39. "The Stranger" catapulted him to fame,
    and Camus continued producing works
  40. that explored the value of life
    amidst absurdity
  41. many of which circled back
    to the same philosophical question:
  42. if life is truly meaningless,
  43. is committing suicide
    the only rational response?
  44. Camus’ answer was an emphatic “no.”

  45. There may not be any explanation
    for our unjust world,
  46. but choosing to live regardless
    is the deepest expression
  47. of our genuine freedom.
  48. Camus explains this in one
    of his most famous essays
  49. which centers on the Greek myth
    of Sisyphus.
  50. Sisyphus was a king
    who cheated the gods,
  51. and was condemned to endlessly
    roll a boulder up a hill.
  52. The cruelty of his punishment
    lies in its singular futility,
  53. but Camus argues all of humanity
    is in the same position.
  54. And only when we accept
    the meaninglessness of our lives
  55. can we face the absurd
    with our heads held high.
  56. As Camus says, when the king chooses
    to begin his relentless task once more,
  57. “One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”
  58. Camus’ contemporaries
    weren’t so accepting of futility.

  59. Many existentialists advocated
    for violent revolution
  60. to upend systems they believed were
    depriving people of agency and purpose.
  61. Camus responded with his second
    set of work: the cycle of revolt.
  62. In "The Rebel," he explored rebellion
    as a creative act,
  63. rather than a destructive one.
  64. Camus believed that inverting
    power dynamics
  65. only led to an endless cycle of violence.
  66. Instead, the way to avoid
    needless bloodshed
  67. is to establish a public understanding
    of our shared human nature.
  68. Ironically, it was this cycle
    of relatively peaceful ideas
  69. that triggered his fallout with many
    fellow writers and philosophers.
  70. Despite the controversy,

  71. Camus began work on his most lengthy
    and personal novel yet:
  72. an autobiographical work
    entitled "The First Man."
  73. The novel was intended to be the first
    piece in a hopeful new direction:
  74. the cycle of love.
  75. But in 1960, Camus suddenly died
    in a car accident

  76. that can only be described
    as meaningless and absurd.
  77. While the world never saw
    his cycle of love,
  78. his cycles of revolt and absurdity
    continue to resonate with readers today.
  79. His concept of absurdity has become
    a part of world literature,
  80. 20th century philosophy,
    and even pop culture.
  81. Today, Camus remains a trusted guide
    for moments of uncertainty;
  82. his ideas defiantly imbuing
    a senseless world with inspiration
  83. rather than defeat.