Camus was a philosopher who debated absurdity and the meaning of life. His basic premise is that human life is absurd. According to him, the choices we make as humans about the lives we lead are verging on the ridiculous. He theorises, however, that the combination of human beings and the universe are what make both absurd. While Camus has some valid points within this topic, the only solution appears to be abolishing the application of reason to the universe, which is impossible to do due to the intrinsic connection between human beings and reason and, therefore, absurdity seems impossible as well.
Camus’ ethical theory begins with three main principles. The principles are: “ God is Dead,” “ Life is Absurd” and “ Life is Meaningless” (Kundert). Using these principles as a basis, Camus attempts to answer, in particular, whether suicide is a feasible solution to the absurdity of human life; he actually concludes that suicide is not acceptable. On a larger scale, Camus is trying to discover whether or not there exists a place in existentialism for a statement of “ While everything is permitted, not everything is acceptable” (Kundert).
Camus introduces the principle of “ Life is Absurd” by providing instances of life situations which he considers absurd. As Matthew Kundert quotes in his essay, “ Absurdity and the Meaning of Life,” Camus used the following passage to illustrate his point:
“ Rising, streetcar, four hours in the office or the factory, meal, streetcar, four hours of work, meal, sleep, and Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday and Saturday according to the same rhythm—this path is easily follow most of the time. But one day the “ why” arises and everything begins in that weariness tinged with amazement” (Kundert).
Although, when put in such a way, it is possible to view the absurd in what Camus has demonstrated, he appears to be only speaking about the lives of some people, and certainly not all people. There are many people all around the world whose lives do not match this simple, conventional suggestion of a routine. For example, some people choose to only work for one week a month, freelance, in order to fund the rest of the month in which they may travel or socialise or partake in hobbies. Furthermore, there are people who live on the streets and never work. Not everyone’s life fits into this stereotype of a human being that Camus has created.
Of course, it could be argued that this is not the point that Camus is trying to make. After all, a person who works for one week then travels for three could still have their life choices questioned. Camus may ask why, for example, they choose to travel around. If viewed through the perspective of Camus, all human actions can be deemed absurd.
Beneath the suggestion that the lives of individual human beings are absurd, Camus believes that the place of humans within the universe is also absurd. Alone, he theorises, the world is not absurd as it ought to work well and naturally on its own. Nor does he believe that human beings, alone are absurd. Rather, Camus believes it is the combination of man and the universe that turns both into forces that are absurd (Kundert).
In the modern world, it is clear to most people that the universe does not adhere to a set of guidelines. It is unpredictable and irrational. Reason and rationality are the result of following the rules of logic, but the universe does not do this in any way obvious to humans. Even science, which claims to make sense of the universe and its workings, is, arguably, a set of predictions rather than solid mathematical equations. Scientific study can make predictions that, in general, are extremely accurate in terms of what the universe is likely to do next and what the causes will be. However, occasionally science is proved wrong and this is what highlights that it is purely prediction, however often accurate it may be. Therefore, connecting reason to something as vast and unpredictable as the universe can, indeed, be viewed as absurd. In this way, Camus does seem to have a valid point.
With this in mind, the universe, therefore, only becomes absurd when reason is applied to it. The application of reason is something that has been exercised by man and, therefore, Camus’ theory that the combination of man and the universe is absurd becomes believable once again. Within metaphysics, however, there are clear theories about gravity and why, for example, objects fall to the floor rather than float around in the air. The rules of physics are fairly solid and have been for a great number of years now. However, humans have not invented or altered these rules; they have simply observed them and are not making predictions about these rules changing or applying them to inappropriate subjects.
Camus makes clear that he believes that the absurdity is created when reason is applied to the universe. However, what seems strange and unanswered is why Camus accepts that he, and the people around him, do live and will continue to live this life of absurdity. On face value, the obvious answer to the situation appears to be to abolish reason or, at the very least, to not apply it to the universe. As the reason is causing the absurdity then it could be removed and, in turn, the absurdity would be removed.
However, Camus would not consent to abolishing reason. He would argue that human beings and reason are fundamentally linked and, presumably, this is why Camus does not suggest abolishing reason or choosing not to use it. Camus would have a valid point once again. As humans are inherently programmed to reason, it would be impossible to abolish it. If humans stopped using reason they would never grasp any concepts and their lives would, arguably, be meaningless.
While Camus’ suggestion that life is absurd does seem valid in many ways, there is no real solution to it. The abolition of reason regarding the universe seems the only way to break the pattern of absurdity, but Camus would argue this impossible as human beings need reason and would not function without it. Therefore, if there is no way of getting rid of the absurdity that Camus speaks of, it is possible to conclude that such absurdity does not truly exist.
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Kundert, M. “ Absurdity and the Meaning of Life.” MOQ. Web. 16 Feb 2012.
http://www. moq. org/forum/Kundert/AbsurdityandtheMeaningofLife. html