Camus and Absurdity

27 February 2015

Many people believe that the most fundamental philosophical problem is this: what is the meaning of existence? That’s a question that Albert Camus dug into in his novels, plays, and essays.

His answer was perhaps a little depressing. He thought that life had no meaning, that nothing exists that could ever be a source of meaning, and hence there is something deeply absurd about the human quest to find meaning. Appropriately, then, his philosophical view was called (existentialist) absurdism.

What would be the point of living if you thought that life was absurd, that it could never have meaning? This is precisely the question that Camus asks in his famous work, The Myth of Sisyphus. He says, “There is only one really serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide.” He was haunted by this question of whether suicide could be the only rational response to the absurdity of life.

But why did he think life was inherently without meaning? Don’t people find meaning in many different ways?

Take religion. It certainly seems to provide comfort to many people, but this could not amount to genuine meaning for Camus because it involves an illusion. Either God exists or he doesn’t. If he doesn’t, then it’s obvious why he could not be the source of life’s ultimate meaning. But what if God does exist? Given all the pain and suffering in the world, the only rational conclusion about God is that he’s either an imbecile or a psychopath. So, God’s existence could only make life more absurd, not less.

Of course, God is not the only possible source of meaning to consider. Think of our relations to other people—our family, our friends, our communities. We love and care for others in this cruel world, and perhaps that’s why we continue to live. That’s what gives existence meaning.

The problem here is that everyone we know and love will die some day, and some of them will suffer tremendously before that happens. How is that anything but absurd?

Before everyone gets too depressed, let’s think about some possible solutions to the problem. Let’s assume, with Camus, the absurdity of the quest for meaning. Let’s assume that any route we attempt to find meaning in the world will be for naught. They are all dead ends, so to speak. How do we avoid the conclusion that suicide is the answer?

Consider Nietzsche’s approach. Like Camus, he thought that life was devoid of intrinsic meaning. But he thought we could give it a kind of meaning by embracing illusion. That's what we have to learn from artists, according to Nietzsche. They are always devising new “inventions and artifices” that give things the appearance of being beautiful, when they’re not. By applying this to our own lives, we can become “the poets of our lives.” Could this be a possible solution?

The solution Camus arrives at is different from Nietzsche’s and is perhaps a more honest approach. The absurd hero takes no refuge in the illusions of art or religion. Yet neither does he despair in the face of absurdity—he doesn't just pack it all in. Instead, he openly embraces the absurdity of his condition. Sisyphus, condemned for all eternity to push a boulder up a mountain only to have it roll to the bottom again and again, fully recognizes the futility and pointlessness of his task. But he willingly pushes the boulder up the mountain every time it rolls down.

You might wonder how that counts as a solution. Here’s what I think Camus had in mind. We need to have an honest confrontation with the grim truth and, at the same time, be defiant in refusing to let that truth destroy life. At the end of Myth, Camus says that we have to “imagine Sisyphus happy.”

Perhaps my imagination is limited, but I’m not sure I find that thought comforting. Exactly how does confronting the absurdity of his situation give Sisyphus a reason to keep going? Maybe it’s not supposed to be comforting. But maybe it’s all that there is.

So, what do you think? Is life truly absurd? If so, can there be any point in living?

In the end, I guess my own approach to life’s absurdity is similar to Peggy Lee’s, who says that “if that’s all there is, then let’s keep dancing. Let’s break out the booze and have a ball, if that’s all there is…”

Comments (35)

MJA's picture


Friday, February 27, 2015 -- 4:00 PM

The meaning of existence is.

The meaning of existence is.
As for absurdities: I think mankind has made a bit of a madhouse out of is, don't you agree? A funny-farm if you prefer. and sometimes not so funny a farm, the news being all the proof One needs. Perhaps Camus then was right after all. life is absurd, human life anyway. As for an ultimate purpose, my purpose, I am so good that they let me drive the bus. How absurd is that? = 

Gary M Washburn's picture

Gary M Washburn

Saturday, February 28, 2015 -- 4:00 PM

Nietzsche, in a way, did

Nietzsche, in a way, did commit suicide. He got syphilis through highly risky behavior and refused his doctor's advice until it ruined his mind. For a philosopher, certainly, a kind of suicide. The consensus of his friends was that Camus, too, committed suicide. But the consensus of his peers was that he was a brilliant writer, but no philosopher. Perhaps many today cannot appreciate the public mood after the war, especially in Europe. For two thousand years civil and religious authorities, and most philosophies, insisted that harmony, order, and hierarchy were the keys to the good life, but Hitler and Stalin were glaring examples of how tragically wrong this is. The tremendous sacrifices and risks taken to overthrow fascism must have seem poorly rewarded in the aftermath. But the absurdity is not that the suffering seemed to come to nothing but drudgery, it is the misconception of time as extension and quantification. Meaning is moment. The only extension or quantification of it is voided it. Feyerabend explains this in his work The Conquest of Abundance. That Abundance is the worth of time. But the world is only in its numbers, and we only intimate to the worth of time lost the enumeration of it. Moment is anomaly. It is the anomaly worth is to its extension. The world can only discern us and count us up by extension. What is real is that worth is lost to that quantifier. But such anomaly is the worth of time because real in that loss it is freed its response of the conceit of number and of measure by extension, and so that worth live in that freedom as its responsibility of its being recognized. That is, if loss is the realest term of time, that responsibility is its most articulate term. The world as we know it is no part of this dialectic of loss and love. For the world, as the concept of extension, is only discerned us each alone, and the lost enumerator is as anomalous to that count as the freedom enabled through it is. The worth of time is intimated, not explicated. No god can be such loss as we exact of ourselves and emancipate of each other, and neither can any thesis of the world's imposing its paradigm upon us. The dialectic of intimacy is the completest term of time, and it is not possible to be alone there. The early Existentialists never realized this, but considering their times it is not hard to sympathize with their pessimism.

yatesam911's picture


Saturday, February 10, 2018 -- 7:41 AM

It is generally believed and

It is generally believed and supported by records that Camus died in a car accident with his publisher at the wheel. Do you have access to information contrary to this?

yatesam911's picture


Saturday, February 10, 2018 -- 8:03 AM

It has also recently been

It has also recently been discovered that Nietzsche did not suffer from syphilis but was merely briefly misdiagnosed with the condition.

Also, saying engaging in risky behavior is tantamount to purposefully ending one's item life is reductive, uniformed, and insulting.

entrepoid's picture


Saturday, February 28, 2015 -- 4:00 PM

It seems to me that in the

It seems to me that in the conversation in the program that there is a confusion of categories, as if you're not listening to what each other is saying. One fellow is saying that life can have all sorts of meanings, the other is saying that Life is absurd and has no inherent meaning. Why are these two positions supposedly contradictory? If Life doesn't have any inherent meaning, that is precisely what gives the freedom to humans to create meaning. In other words, meaning is something people do, not something people find. In the other sense of the word "meaning", meaning is a function of language, a function of words being symbolic (sometimes). If we are looking at what you are doing Life 'for the sake of' the 'for the sake of' is first, not really necessary as it is a kind of narrative addition, and second, an interpretation requiring an interpreter making the interpretation. As far as saying that this means that ethics is no longer possible, that isn't really true either - an authoritarian given ethics may not be possible but a shared consensual ethics is possible, and is, in fact, the ethical world we live in. Meaning is what people do, not what they find.

Jona's picture


Thursday, December 10, 2020 -- 6:33 AM

As i understand from how

As i understand from how wikipedia explains absurdism the distinction lies in the question of "Objective meaning" (as in a universal meaning outside of the human reference frame). Nihilists, Absurdists and existentialists all agree that there is no inherent objective meaning to the universe, but the difference lies in how they continue after this conclusion.

Nihilists conclude that because there is no inherent meaning it is futile to pretend there is any "true meaning" (True meaning being a reason to live, or a reason to be ethical etc.). The individual should give up trying to construct subjective meaning because you would never be satisfied, only fooling yourself.

Existentialists state that because there is no objective meaning, the individual is free to create their own subjective meaning. Because we are confined to a human reference frame we do not have to worry about any sort of cosmic objective meaning. Rather we can find "true meaning" within our reference frame.

The absurdists sort of take the middle ground of both these stances. Stating that one should accept that there is no way to know whether or not "true meaning" exists. Simply the act of pretending that "true meaning" does exist serves to generate joy and subjective meaning in life. Death will nullify any kind of "true meaning" you attempt to create during your life, but by accepting this fact and pursuing meaning regardless you can still live a subjectively meaningful life.

This is a very subtle distinction, but absurdism goes slightly further than existentialism by accepting that the subjective meaning we create for ourselves is not true meaning, but also accepting that does not mean you shouldn't create your own meaning regardless.

Gary M Washburn's picture

Gary M Washburn

Sunday, March 1, 2015 -- 4:00 PM

That's a step in the right

That's a step in the right direction, but language militates against us. The conceit of time as extension, as duration, as lasting or survival (absurd on the face of it since life as we know it is constituted as a biological commitment to dying--that is, the complexity of a complex organism, such as the human, is the differentiation of each part that maximizes the potential articulacy of our being alive in exchange for the power of immortal replication) is intrinsic eliminativism. A human is a person. But person is a fundamental dynamism of time. It is not a simple self-interest in surviving or 'self-maximizing', as the early Existentialists might put it, but a rigor in conceit that time is its enduring and its replication which, because that conceit or conviction, the predisposition to view time as a pace of undiffering units preserving or conserving its originary ordering motif, is simply so insufficient to its progression that the most real term of it is the loss of that conceit and its being supervened upon by yet a more developed but just as uncompleted set of laws and ordering principles. Time is anomalous to whatever would define it as replication the same. The new paradigm is no truer than its predecessor. It is up to us to see the difference through which its truer meaning is real, for it is only real lost to that conviction in 'presence' replication or extension. The logic of extension is never true of time, but there is no other mode of rigor by which we can make its truer moment real than to pursue that rigor to the extremity through which that incompletion of formal extension is recognizable. But since it is only loss that is its realest term only the freedom that loss means to its other is its articulation. Loss leaves the remainder responsible of the worth of it. That responsibility is love. Neither that loss nor that love is anything worthy of its time alone. Only the act of loss and the response of love in dynamic assault upon the rigor of formalism hermetic between its beginning and its end, antecedence and consequence, cause and effect, is there anything temporal at all. But what we learn in philosophy courses, especially in America in my lifetime, simply excludes the right, let alone the power, to recognize this. Person is the characterology of a rigor of constancy in conviction through which difference anomalous to and undefined within that conviction comes into being through us, but not as an enduring possession so much as an opportunity freed our respondent to find more meaning in it than continuity can express or imply. Time is intimation, not explication. And so long as we are convinced that proper rigor can only replicate the originary there can be no explicit accounting of this. The monism of the West or the collectivism of the East can neither one of them be a venue for the drama of intimacy through which we have a most personal interest in letting my loss be your emancipation of the continuity of time. We are so committed to ontology of the isolating term that we are blind to the participation in giving time is realness and its most articulate term that loss and love is. The Existentialist had an intuition of all this but were entrenched in the monad, and so failed to extricate themselves from the pessimism of that conviction. Camus himself was a lightweight, and was popular at the time and perhaps provocative today because of his fetish for lobbing bombs which he made no effort to clean up after. I might have expected a lot more interest in this theme, as it was so prevalent fifty years ago, but it seems that either the program is not much listened to or, as I have suspected for some time, philosophy, especially in this the most un-philosophical country in the world, is succeeding in its effort to commit institutional suicide. Being a sop to science is no substitute for the humanity it so thoroughly outlaws or denegrates.

yatesam911's picture


Saturday, February 10, 2018 -- 7:23 AM

Science does nothing to

Science does nothing to denigrate humanity. It is a wonderful way to see the beauty of the universe. Time crystals were just created in a laboratory. Science is an excellent companion and to philosophy and, at best, they both inform each other.

matsutoya1's picture


Tuesday, November 6, 2018 -- 12:36 PM

In and of itself science does

In and of itself science does not degrinate. But neither does religion. Both can be used in a way that will be regretted later.
No matter how absurd life can appear to us, that fact that we exist, and being aware that we exist, puts us at a crossroad. Either we immediately recognize that life has no meaning and thus the question never arises, and the accompanying struggles, suffering, and death that are a part of livivg wouldn't bother us either. . . or we ask it. That in and of itself gives us a reason to live that goes beyond mere survival in the moment. And if we realize, as Schopenhauer, Neitzsche, Hegel, etc. did, that all philosophical positions are incomplete and are in an evolutionary process, then life's ultimate meaning will never be entirely clear from an individual rational position. But that does not conclude to no meaning. The overwhelming experience of abandonment though, which Neitzsche had, can lead us to that conclusion.

And our resulting behavior will go against human's search for meaning, ending in Neitszche's insanity, never connecting with the life outside of himself as his original source for meaning (that of relating and away from individuation), or temporarily as in Pegg Lee's case, who became an alchoholic , exacerbating the abandonment experience.

N. Bogdanov's picture

N. Bogdanov

Sunday, March 1, 2015 -- 4:00 PM

At the end you mention the

At the end you mention the ways in which both Camus and Nietzsche deal with the world?s being devoid of intrinsic meaning?with Nietzsche proposing that we project our own subjective meaning into the world, and Camus that we acknowledge our absurd condition and move forward from there. Perhaps the distinction between these two views requires significant knowledge of each author?s philosophy, but I don?t quite see how the one is different from the other. Perhaps the main sticking point is around the projection of meaning, with Camus seeming to say nothing about finding illusions within which to ?take shelter,? while Nietzsche seems to give that a central role. But if that?s the case, I want to know more about these illusions. Don?t we, as a matter of psychological fact, create them for ourselves all the time? Can we ever just move forward? Or is the way in which Nietzsche uses ?illusion? rather particular? In any case, I?m of the opinion that even if there isn?t any intrinsic meaning in the world (a claim I think I agree with), the meaning that I create for myself in certain relationships and actions is more than sufficiently valuable to keep me going.

Gary M Washburn's picture

Gary M Washburn

Monday, March 2, 2015 -- 4:00 PM

Nietzsche's vision is of an

Nietzsche's vision is of an agon, a deadly competition between rival perspectives. If you want to understand it, the best beginning is actually to look into a work by Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation. Compared to Camus, Nietzsche is philosophically much more substantive, supplying us with extensive explanatory materially and justification. Camus just tells us what he thinks but doesn't give us a lot of reason to agree or meat for critique.
Sartre provides a fascinating gloss on Husserl's intentional object in two books hardly ever read, in which he shows that the certitude intended is imaginary, or an act of imaging. The mole with the pooh on his nose may not known who put it there, but he knows which pooh he means as he tries to find out. But if we only imagine we know which one we mean, then what we mean is up in the air completely. That difference necessitates ideology. Is this absurd? Or selfish? We cannot share the difference except by subsuming one to the other. You cannot know which one I mean and also what I think it means except as a passive submission to my associating them. And so long as we assume ourselves only positively asserted ourselves to each other and not responsible for what we lose in assuming we understand each other, then absurdity or selfishness may be the only alternatives. Compare the use of ideology in Nietzsche and Marx. One is egoistic, the other collective. But what if there an individual motif or demiurge to any collective ideology? And what if the energy of that relation between one and all is the rigor of the individual denied its welcome there but only real in that self-denial in a collective responsibility of recognizing what a loss this is? All of a sudden the enigma is resolved. 

Or's picture


Monday, March 2, 2015 -- 4:00 PM

Isn?t meaning what one

Isn?t meaning what one perceives to be meaning? The meaning of life or one?s personal understanding of it is not static, it changes over time or at times depending on the sunglasses one?s wearing. The absurdity of life, yes or no, could depend on the questions you?re asking yourself that day or be influenced by a specific event or a disease process. So instead of thinking that life is depleted of meaning couldn?t we just think that the meaning of one?s life is a variable, influenced by intrinsic and extrinsic factors and therefore quite unpredictable?  And as such, change is not absurd (life is not absurd), it is simply very difficult to keep under control and/or to get satisfaction from the illusion of having some control over it. I can imagine a Sisyphus happy, one that plays more with accepting an ever changing meaning of existence than one rebelling against its absurdity.

Gary M Washburn's picture

Gary M Washburn

Tuesday, March 3, 2015 -- 4:00 PM

You wouldn't be the first to

You wouldn't be the first to suppose Sisyphus happy in his futility, but you might find it harder to make it out that Camus intended this. The point is, Camus didn't make himself clear, and this opens him to the worst charge that can be made against a philosopher, that he didn't know what he was saying. If you attempt a more comprehensive perspective I think you will find it too overwhelming. Limitless grief or joy just don't lend themselves to perception, let alone expression. But nevertheless we intuit them. We settle for the limited version, though we know it a travesty, because we can only bear so much loss or worth. And so we chip away at our own and each other's cheapened version of being. Camus leaves it at that. What he does not recognize is that a change of mind is the most rigorous, and most real act. And the most articulate response is the freedom this enables that response. We free each other in tiny increments of the offer the world is of our facile knowing it. That offer can never outstrip its own time, and yet is it always unworthy of its time, and of us. Again, Camus would leave it at that, even unrecognized the loss a changed mind is and the freedom this is enabled from the belittling of time the world is of us. But that freedom, which is a kind of responsibility of the worth of its enabling loss being recognized (and not limited to itself and its own perspective) can only suffer extension (the kind of 'extension' that the world is belittling time) in itself being the act of loss its own changing mind is. And so there is act and response become act enabled its response, and so on. It is a dialectic of loss and love that cannot be limited to the world as we know it and can only complete itself in a completed ruin of the world's ability to offer us the belittling of time it is. Camus was too much of his time to see this. But if the dialectic can only grow more completed than the world's devaluation of time then any beginning of that growth is already encompassed all the world is offered us. And where we are proved the world unworthy of its time we are found time more completed than what would extend it. To put it more rigorously, time is only extended by attenuation of its worth. Or better still, the least term of time is all the differing it is. For loss is the realest term of time and love is its freest and most complete articulation.

Laura Maguire's picture

Laura Maguire

Tuesday, March 3, 2015 -- 4:00 PM

Good question N. - what is

Good question N. - what is the difference between the solutions offered by Nietzsche and Camus? You're right that the difference has to do with the role illusion plays for each. As you mentioned, Camus rejects the idea of taking shelter in illusion, unlike Nietzsche.
However, Nietzsche is not talking about the kind of illusion that we create for ourselves in an unconsious way, but rather a more self-conscious kind of illusion. It's something like an artistic illusion. 
When you look at a still life, for example, you know that there's no bowl of fruit (or whatever) in front of you, but you engage with the illusion that there is. Something similar happens when we read novels, or go to the movies. We know it's all an illusion, but we get great pleasure from suspending disbelief and getting lost, even if just temporarily, in the illusion. We have emotional reactions to the illusion, even though we know it's not real. We're not really fooling ourselves in the same way we do with the unconscious illusions (belief in God would be an example of that for Nietzsche).
Nietzsche offers this perspective in The Gay Science. See especially section 299, "What One Should Learn from Artists."

Laura Maguire's picture

Laura Maguire

Tuesday, March 3, 2015 -- 4:00 PM

Or, that's not intrinsic

Or, that's not intrinsic meaning - the kind of meaning to be discovered in the world. You might wonder why we need this kind of meaning at all. What's the big deal if the only kind of meaning there is in the world is the kind that we create/impose? I think this is a very good question! Why must the meaning exist independently of us? Camus seems to think that we humans constantly search for this intrinsic meaning and that the world is silent in response to our search, and that it is this combination that is absurd. Perhaps you think we're doing something else?

Gary M Washburn's picture

Gary M Washburn

Tuesday, March 3, 2015 -- 4:00 PM


Language is not idiolect. We can only exchange as much foolishness as we do without ever doubting we understand each other, or at least the words, if not the reasoning, if we influence each other in what language can be and do. Even stupidity requires a kind of rigor, though this may seem hard to find on the face of it. We are not alone.
I have been doing a lot of reading in that obscure period between the "fall of Rome" (it didn't fall, it got left behind) and the early feudal era. In Bede it soon becomes extremely evident that a central theme of Christian propaganda was convincing us that this life amounts to punishment that only faith in another life can sustain us. No doubt Camus was simply echoing this ideology, probably without recognizing its source in his own prejudices.
I suspect "CAPTCHA" may be causing problems posting.

Joseph LeFevre's picture

Joseph LeFevre

Thursday, March 5, 2015 -- 4:00 PM

Can the issue of the meaning

Can the issue of the meaning of life receive any valid perspective from the old fashioned notion of "human nature?"  Anecdotally, people who seem to find their lives "meaningful" are those who are happily discovering new empirical truth, creating art/music, promoting justice, assisting others to prepare for those activities, etc.  While these "meanings" are personal choices, what they all have in common is that they are revealing aspects of reality in new ways.  Is there any sense to therefore saying that at least part of human meaning is participating in the revelation of reality? 

Gary M Washburn's picture

Gary M Washburn

Friday, March 6, 2015 -- 4:00 PM

Condolences, I suppose, to

Condolences, I suppose, to those who just show up at work on time ready to do enough as expected to keep the paychecks coming.
The problem is that we can only express the worth of time in terms of its depreciation, even deprecation. We can say nothing of how good it is to be alive that doesn't feel like a lie (because, as real and true as that worth is, it is the lie of it). This is, quite simply, that we can only express the moment of it (the differing it is) in terms of an extension that attenuates or evaporates the worth of it. In a logical form, it is the quantifier which elicits the conviction (conceit?) that contradiction founds certainly (via the excluded middle). But how much or how many is the worth or moment of time? The worth of time is not measured in duration or the unity of its expanse, but in how freed it is of such a count. In physics it has become clear that an externally regulated universe ordered by mathematical symmetry and tempo is impossible. There must be anomaly. We are a highly evolved mode of that anomaly the worth of time is. But there is no enumerating it. It is not one, or some or any or all, or even none. Person is the count of time driven to such extremity in rigor that the very meaning and power of drops out of the logic of it, leaving the qualifier as the only realness and meaning of it. This is why being and nothingness are not opposites, but mere contraries. Not the end of the story but its beginning. Sartre intuited this (though he never got to explicit understanding). Camus did not, and didn't try. He was too full of himself to push the matter to that extremity where it becomes clear how unalone he is. The idea of Western Individualism, the solitary soul in the face of a starkly lonely universe, is a rhetorical gimmick used by very specific power centers to bend us to their designs upon us, to enslave us. The truer origin comes from two facets of European (certainly Anglo-Saxon) history rendered invisible by the record of that history. The Reformation was motivated by a nostalgia for that hidden history, but by then it was too late and the result was the naked soul, from which Camus derives his mode of angst. I could elaborate, but this is enough for now. The gist of it is that Medieval communities were not communal, and Feudal covenants were personal and not hierarchical, as the history would cause us to believe.

Bryan Van Norden's picture

Bryan Van Norden

Friday, March 6, 2015 -- 4:00 PM

Your post does a good job of

Your post does a good job of raising many interesting questions.  It is what an old friend of mine, the late Ken Knisely, referred to as a "Think Bomb."
What do you think of the protagonist of Camus' novel, The Stranger?  Does he illustrate a Sisyphean approach to life, or has he surrendered to the absurdity of the universe and thereby failed to give his own life meaning? 

Gary M Washburn's picture

Gary M Washburn

Saturday, March 7, 2015 -- 4:00 PM

I did not weep at my mother's

I did not weep at my mother's funeral. She always liked my brother best.
The stranger is time. But it is not trying to be. It is rather over the barrel of the facile term human language, and the side of life it records and regulates, is. There is no facile term of time. Meursault is a straw-man, not a real one, meant to draw fire away from the real issue, that Camus is not a serious thinker. It is not what we possess or bring into the world that defines us, it is what loss our departure from it is to it. Time is a community in contrariety. It is the infinitesimal which Rationalism, in the calculus, supposes reduced the anomaly it is to negligible. But the mathematical/geometric/logical fact of it is that there is as much to that infinitesimal outside the calculation as within it. And even its inclusion is nominal (cf. The Analyst, by George Berkeley). But this means that what we are not privy to of each other has a double meaning and motive. It is secret, hidden its motivation while public in its meaning, or as yet unknown (though unhidden) of its meaning yet intimate (though never public) of its motive. But if that difference suffers the dynamic the community in contrariety is, then the secrecy is loss only to itself and the unhidden is loss only to all the differing time is. But if we do endure a while in life the difference acts upon us and through us and through each other and something more real than just persisting in the count of time gets articulated. You see, person is the real differing that comes through us as we diligently serve the idea of constancy. And like the infinitesimal, that differing is never more within the calculated duration than it is outside it, where number fails to count it.   
This is intended as a rigorous approach, though I have yet to convince publishers of this. I regard Eastern thought as lacking in rigor. That is, putting up obstacles to understanding to make the author more secure in his conceit of correctness and pertinence. But I would like your view on Weber's take on Chinese thought. Sources rate him very highly, but I only see a cursory scholar with implacable prejudices.
The loss of the secret is not worth crying over, but the loss of the unhidden is so worthy there can be no calculus of it.

Dinis's picture


Wednesday, March 18, 2015 -- 5:00 PM

The meaning of life is to

The meaning of life is to stay alive. We nowadays have it easy, the ones who struggle to survive don't have these concerns.

Truman Chen's picture

Truman Chen

Sunday, April 19, 2015 -- 5:00 PM

I think something important

I think something important being left out of the discussion is Camus' deeper argument that to commit suicide would be a logical contradiction. In The Rebel, which is his political extension of his ontology presented in An Absurd Reasoning, he writes:
"Every solitary suicide, when it is not an act of resentment is, in some way, either generous or contemptuous. But one feels contemptuous in the name of something. If the world is a matter of indifference to the man who commits suicide, it is because he has an idea of something that is not or could not be indifferent to him. He believes that he is destroying everything or taking everything with him; but from this act of self-destruction itself a value arises which, perhaps, might have made it worth while to live. Absolute negation is therefore not consummated by suicide."
The point is that man cannot negate all value, since, as Camus put it, "To breathe is to judge." It is inescapable and to live or not to live is itself a value judgment. The only problem comes in the universe's indifference to our automatic and inavoidable value-giving. The confrontation between this human impulse and the universe's indifference is the Absurd that we must learn to live with. Just my two cents!

16gatfal's picture


Tuesday, January 5, 2016 -- 4:00 PM

You claim that if God exists

You claim that if God exists than He must be "either an imbecile or a psychopath", but this in itself is an idiotic statement.  There are numerous possibilities.  According to the Bible, man kind was given free will and because of this humans sin.  With freedom, there are consequences.  Man himself is responsible for evil; it is not God's job to fix everything. If God made everything perfect, then there truly would be no purpose.  What purpose does perfection serve?  There would be nothing to accomplish or work for.   It is with imperfection that we are given a fulfilling life.  Sartre himself said that "even if God exists, that would change nothing" and I agree.  No matter what, life is a journey of finding oneself.  To me, the Bible presents life as a test.  Will you live for yourself or for something bigger than yourself?  This is a major reason why people are atheists. They want to live for themselves and answer to no one.  I find that to be a very lonely life.  

22schmad's picture


Sunday, January 10, 2016 -- 4:00 PM

With the term absurd, Camus

With the term absurd, Camus did not apply a negative connotation. He didn't believe in God or that there was any meaning to life, but he didn't see it negatively and did not intend for anyone to see it negatively either. He simply observed and interpreted an absence of a universal meaning when it came to the idea of religion or spirituality. He dismissed the idea of God and turned to creating one's own definition of the world, which in his case, was that there was no reason for life--that we are just here to exist--and once we accept that, we are not only free from existential angst through looking for meaning/struggling to create meaning, but also free to live whatever kind of life we wish to live, because there is no pressure to fulfill the meaning bestowed upon us by a God or whatever else. Camus believed that once we accept that there is no meaning, the conflict between a desire for meaning and not finding one is resolved. This view is seen through his "Myth of Sisyphus" when he describes Sisyphus as "stronger than his rock" once he has accepted his fate and stops longing for another one. 

pepesoria's picture


Wednesday, April 11, 2018 -- 3:35 PM

Hahahaha...why rush to switch

Hahahaha...why rush to switch rocks?

Looper's picture


Thursday, December 14, 2017 -- 6:15 PM

The meaning of life is simply

The meaning of life is simply to enjoy the fact that you can contemplate it. We will each get our answer soon enough. Or sooner, that's up to the individual.

pepesoria's picture


Wednesday, April 11, 2018 -- 3:33 PM

The hubris to think one can

The hubris to think one can glean the mood of Sisyphus, much less his motivations. All we do is project our own norms, mores, and psycho-scars on this (or any) character.

loganfarris's picture


Wednesday, March 6, 2019 -- 12:40 PM

I suppose nobody here wants

I suppose nobody here wants pity from a Christian, but I sympathize with those who struggle to find meaning in the world alone. I myself frequently became depressed before I found God, because I too recognized the futility of living in a world that continued regardless of my contributions. King Solomon, the wisest king of the Bible fits in quite well in this discussion.

3 What do people gain from all their labors
at which they toil under the sun?
4 Generations come and generations go,
but the earth remains forever.
5 The sun rises and the sun sets,
and hurries back to where it rises.
6 The wind blows to the south
and turns to the north;
round and round it goes,
ever returning on its course.
7 All streams flow into the sea,
yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from,
there they return again.
8 All things are wearisome,
more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
nor the ear its fill of hearing.
9 What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
10 Is there anything of which one can say,
“Look! This is something new”?
It was here already, long ago;
it was here before our time.
11 No one remembers the former generations,
and even those yet to come
will not be remembered
by those who follow them.

Mark my words, those who try to derive meaning from within themselves will quickly find that there is nothing inside you that gives yourself meaning. You and I are self-serving and cold, unwilling to bend our backs to help strangers when we ourselves are struggling. The 20th century makes it clear that there is no limit to human depravity, and furthermore Hitler's regime successfully demonstrated how a supposedly morally upright, humanistic civilization desired nothing more than blood. Hitler was charismatic and intelligent, and he repeated whatever phrases that successfully riled up the crowds. What the people secretly desired was made known by their cheers, and Hitler weaponized those unspoken and selfish desires to give himself a platform.

From this, I argue that humanity is much darker and cruel than the exterior of modern civilization lets on. When push comes to shove, we are not the compassionate loving creatures we claim to be, at least in the right situation. This is why I put my faith in Jesus. He was able to prove that strength of character didn't need to be derived from terror, but through an unbroken spirit and heart full of love. That is how I found meaning. For you, I'm not so sure.

ibaconi's picture


Tuesday, April 23, 2019 -- 8:35 PM

Poetry flows best in pain.

Poetry flows best in pain.
The art of music
The art of pain

Where is God?
Where am I?
What I say makes sense to me
What does God think?
Where am I?
Am I high when I’m down?
Is this why I drink?

Happy alone?

I’ve a lonesome friend…
A lone friend rather.
Maybe that’s right.
I try to break in
I see in at times

I’ve pretended me there
But I’m so far away now
By friends?

Is God lonely?
Who is his friend?
What do they do?

What would he ask?
“How are you?”

“What do you think?”
“Is that new?”

What wouldn’t he know?
Why would he care?
Would he?
Is he?
Where is he?

Pain flows in poetry, best?
The music of art
The pain of art.

I died before, now I’m here
I’ve been painting me
But I can’t get it right.
I know what matters
But I don’t know why
I think she disagrees…
I think I disagree.
Do you see?
Are you me?


Sorry, don't know what came over me...

Jefferson's picture


Thursday, May 2, 2019 -- 2:43 PM

I agree with loganferris.

I agree with loganferris.
The meaning of existence is not self evident. It is only when you die to self through the serving of others that your existence becomes meaningful.

bbil23's picture


Thursday, January 2, 2020 -- 1:04 AM

I think the story of pushing

I think the story of pushing the rock up the hill is relevant to the lives that most of us live. We wake up, we go to a job we don't want to go to, come home to houses we will likely never own, and then we rinse and repeat.

But for me, and maybe it's the same for the guy with the boulder, I understand that no matter what I'm here and there are things i dont necessarilywant to do. But we have to. And maybe that's enough. Maybe it's better to be here for no reason at all than to not be here at all.

naturalreality's picture


Sunday, October 11, 2020 -- 12:19 PM

I find this article and

I find this article and subsequent commentary both interesting and disturbing to a certain degree.
The article appears written in 2015, hardly an ancient document yet all the same clearly dated to some degree due to the ridiculous advancements of the "modern" world most notably Donald Trump and COVID-19, both major players on the world stage.
Most interesting, in light of climate crisis, clearly a existential threat even way back in 2015, I see very little progress in philosophical thought in detaching itself from an anthropomorphic point of view. What good is a philosophy or the use of such in any discussion if it does not deal directly with the proper placement of humans in fundamental reality?
A few things are very clear.
As a species we decided some time past that we are separate from Nature. Not so true of indigenous cultures, but the vast majority of us conduct our daily lives under this very deadly premise.
Our Western-skewed lives, our societies, our cultures and our civilizations are built on this entire premise.
To us, our economies , our philosophies and religions, Nature is an externality, not a centrality, and certainly not a "higher" being of any sort.
The story we tell ourselves about fundamental reality is finally becoming unhinged.
Witness the rise of Donald Trump.
Trump is a living, walking, breathing example of Camus' Absurdist philosophy.
Like Camus' Sisyphus we can surmise that Donald Trump is some wacky form of happy.
This is what happens when we allow our philosophies and beliefs to become unglued from fundamental reality.
It will not end well for a species bent on such illusions .Like a Leviathan-Nietzshe we will drive ourselves insane attempting to believe the illusion . Our technocrats preach: More! More! is the answer!
In what can one have faith?
Some commenters point out religion and Jesus as an example.
True to a certain degree, but Jesus was no ecologist and man-made climate disaster wasn't exactly an issue back in the day.
That story too needs expansion.
Coronavirus has been an excellent opportunity to reexamine our world and its inter-connectedness. Few it appears will pause to take in the lessons.
Our existence relies implicitly on Nature.
Our air, our water, our food, as well as our collective megalomania and technological follies are all derived from Nature and depend upon Nature. Why not our philosophical faith as well? Is this because we are "separate" and of a "higher" order than other life forms?
Thus, the conclusion that is disturbing.
Humans cannot continue on the road we are traveling, telling ourselves the same old lies, the same old story.
The facts are all against us.
One commenter noted:
"The meaning of existence is not self-evident.
It is only when you die to self through the serving of others that your existence becomes meaningful."
Is this not a description of how an ecosystem operates?
Yet, is this not, as well, a Christian preaching?
But is it not, as well, a teaching that has many forms in many cultures around the world since humans first began gathering in societies?
Humans now need more artists, "preachers" and indeed more philosophers that embrace and embody this universal truth that expresses fundamental reality in a grim honest truth - fear, death, the conditions of all life - yet proves that the interconnectedness of life is what is not only necessary but in essence gives something nasty, brutish, and short a larger context and true "meaning".

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Sunday, February 13, 2022 -- 12:47 PM

It occurs to me that, insofar

It occurs to me that, insofar as his life and time was turbulent, Albert's views on all of that would have been influenced.
Other products of adversity may also come to mind: Kafka? Nietzsche? Kant, perhaps? Kant was obssessed with order and structure, it is said. Nietzsche and Kierkegaard were both sufferers, who became towers of philosophical thought and strength. Or, is strength too strong a word? Giants come in all shapes. And sizes. You can call me crazy---or a fool. Anything but late for dinner, please. Is intellect incidental? Yes. Accidental? Certainly. Lucky? Probably so. Sartre wrote of le nausee, nausea. We are products of our environment. D'autrement, we create that through contextual reality.

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Will's picture


Sunday, October 30, 2022 -- 8:01 AM

In your paragraph commencing

In your paragraph commencing ‘Take religion” you’ve set up the logical fallacy of the false dichotomy in making a conclusion “the only rational conclusion about God is that he’s either an imbecile or a psychopath.”
Ironically, given the header ‘Camus and Absurdity’ your conclusion fits neatly into the category of absurd and which, it is reasonable to conclude is the product of an atheist worldview that has given very little, if any time, to considering the evidence, for which there are copious lines, for the existence of the merciful forgiving gracious God who created spirits and humans endowed with freewill.

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alicebobby's picture


Monday, January 22, 2024 -- 10:51 PM

To survive is the ultimate

To survive is the ultimate goal of existence. These days, we have it easy; those who fight just to survive don't worry about spend elon musk money these things.

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