What is the absurd?
When we talk about the absurd in common speech, we get pretty close to what the absurd philosophy is all about. Really, the absurd is born of a comparison.
If a man walks up to you and says he is going to lift his car above his head with his own hands, you would say that is absurd. Why? Because you recognize the futility of his effort. You see the conflict between his means and his reality. He can’t, no matter what, raise that car above his head.
The absurd, then, springs from a comparison between what people are trying to do and what the reality of their existence is. There are absurd wars and absurd politics… there are absurd marriages, absurd jobs, absurd universities, etc. Anywhere the goal (say, for the war on drugs) seems impossible given the reality (there will always be some group of people doing drugs no matter what), we say that is absurd.
The philosophical absurd view of life begins with the idea that life has no meaning (at least, not one that is possible for us to know). Therefore, the absurd sees man’s quest or longing for meaning as futile. Any attempt to create meaning then puts you in conflict with the way the world is. Or, put another way, the absurd is the gap between “the mind that desires and the world that disappoints,” in Camus wonderful phrase.
The great metaphor is still Sisyphus. He rolls his rock up a hill, only to have it roll back down the hill where he has to start over again. He never will get the rock up the hill. It will always roll back. But Sisyphus continues anyway. He accepts his fate. Sisyphus is the absurd hero.
Imagine Sisyphus as happy and there you have the absurd man.
The absurd philosophy, then, is about how to live in an absurd world – a world that has no meaning, and where all of our efforts are ultimately futile. There are some logical deductions one can make from that premise. And we’ve tried to examine a few in past posts, such as we do here.
We aim to explore more of these ideas on our blog.