This is a slice of my philosophical, lay scientific, musical, religious skepticism, and poetic musings. (All poems are my own.)
The science and philosophy side meet in my study of cognitive philosophy; Dan Dennett was the first serious influence on me, but I've moved beyond him.
The poems are somewhat related, as many are on philosophical or psychological themes. That includes existentialism and questions of selfhood, death, and more. Nature and other poems will also show up here on occasion.
Friday, November 30, 2012
Existentialist or absurdist? Understanding Camus
Albert Camus/From Wikipedia
consistently rejected the label of “existentialist” for himself, preferring
that of “absurdist.”
thought that, in part, there was a jealousy dynamic involved. He didn’t want to
be under the “umbrella” of the same descriptive label as was Jean-Paul Sartre.
This parallels why I see Igor Stravinsky not wanting to be called a
“neoclassicist”; that label was already hung on Sergei Prokofiev; see here for more on that.
That said, it’s
arguable that there are differences between Camus and Sartre, and that, as
well, Camus knew his own writing better than anybody else, and should be
allowed for his own labeling. (Exactly the same argument applies to Stravinsky
vs. Prokofiev and, in fact, I have a similar blog post up.)
Wikipedia has a very good page on absurdism. The best part is that it offers a
nice comparison chart of basic issues versus both secular existentialism
(Sartre) and religious existentialism (Kierkegaard), as well as against
absurdism because it sees more grays and fewer blacks-and-whites in life. But,
it’s not nihilistic, which, well, sees all blacks!
existentialism in general, absurdism says life may have meaning, not that it
necessarily does. But, more “positively” than secular existentialism, it also
says that the universe may have inherent meaning, but we can never know that.
That said, I’m
not sure how much Camus believed that, and he wasn’t the only literary or
philosophical absurdist, to be sure. Personally, I’d nuance that statement to
say, “I don’t think the universe has inherent meaning, but I can’t prove it
both types of existentialism, absurdism says, don’t expect any guarantees, even
on an individualized attempt to create personalized meaning out of life.
In turn, in
that book, he first articulates the philosophy of revolting against the absurd,
which finds its ultimate articulation in “The Rebel.”
Here is where
Camus and Sartre parallel each other on the issue of “authenticity.”
For Sartre, it’s
about being authentic by creating an authentic meaning for life. For Camus, it’s
about the authenticity of one’s revolt.
And, as a
result, Camus tells us that a life without hope is not necessarily a hopeless
And, along with
Camus’ general terseness of writing, that’s part of why I admire him as an
author in general and definitely hold him on a higher level than Sartre. A play
like “No Exit” aside, Sartre simply doesn’t seem to have a visceral grasp of
modern absurdity the way Camus does.
thoughts on and interpretation of Camus, not necessarily agreeing with what I
have written, see this site from Swarthmore. For some of Camus’ pithier
insights, see this page of quotes.
And, go here for my thoughts on Camus' birth centennial.