Albert Camus put forward the philosophy of Absurdism. This, put simply, is the idea that humans will never find inherent meaning in the universe or life itself, as the universe and the amount of available information is too vast for us to be certain about anything. What kind of meaning are we looking for here exactly? Is it a question of why humans exist? Or maybe much more personal than that. Either way, Camus did not accept the idea of Nihilism.
Nihilism is the gloomy thought that life has no meaning at all and is not significant in any way. Essentially a pure nihilistic viewpoint would see suicide as a completely rational act in the light that there is no point in living or being here. While it may sound very grim indeed, you have to entertain the idea of nihilism, as much as you might not want to. You may think everyone was put on this planet for a specific reason. You may think humanity exists for a collective reason. You may even think a god exists who gives humans their purpose, all of this is completely fine and most likely increases your quality of life. But just think for a moment.
No purpose whatsoever, your life and being is simply a cosmic accident that came about out of mere chance of being in the right place at the right time. You could kill yourself now and it wouldn’t make a bit of blind difference in the grand scheme of things. As much as you might not want to accept it, this is a pretty logical view to have. I have to admit that I find even myself struggling to argue against nihilism. So what’s stopping people who have this view from just ending it? Well it seems that even those of us who agree with the idea of nihilism and there being no meaning in life, find ourselves believing that we do have purpose and that we are significant. We value life as something of worth.
Camus argues that many things are in a dualism, that we can’t have happiness without sadness, just like we can’t have light without darkness. While we can and do live with these dualisms, accepting sadness as we know there will be happiness in the future, we cannot live within a paradox. That is, we cannot say our lives are important while also entertaining nihilism. So what do we do? We can go with the opinion that our lives are important, but we’re just taking a step towards a subjective leap of human logic, not a real answer, as we can’t find the answer in this great big universe of information. And if we accept nihilism, the only option is death, which answers no more questions than life does. It would seem Camus saw life as something we can’t win.
This is the absurd, the fact that we’re all living in a limbo of trying and failing to find importance in life, and nihilism.
Camus said the only option we have in living, is to accept the absurd and death, but never to “agree to their terms”. Essentially, don’t think about it, period.
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