Monolith x James R Ford

Blundell Protest

Absurdism is a philosophical perspective which holds that the efforts of humanity to find meaning or rational explanation in the universe ultimately fail (and, hence, are absurd) because no such meaning exists, at least to human beings. The word absurd in this context does not mean “logically impossible,” but rather “humanly impossible”.

Absurdism implies a tragic tone and feelings of frustration that arise out of the contradiction between the human quest for the meaning of life and its inaccessibility.

Absurdism is related to existentialism and nihilism and as a philosophical position was born out of the Existentialist movement when the French philosopher and writer Albert Camus broke from that philosophical line of thought and published his manuscript The Myth of Sisyphus. The aftermath of World War II provided the social environment that stimulated absurdist views and allowed for their development, especially in the devastated country of France. The Myth of Sisyphus is a philosophical essay by Albert Camus. It comprises about 120 pages and was published originally in 1942 in French as Le Mythe de Sisyphe; the English translation by Justin O’Brien followed in 1955.

In the essay, Camus introduces his philosophy of the absurd: man’s futile search for meaning, unity and clarity in the face of an unintelligible world devoid of God and eternity. Does the realization of the absurd require suicide? Camus answers: “No. It requires revolt.” He then outlines several approaches to the absurd life. The final chapter compares the absurdity of man’s life with the situation of Sisyphus, a figure of Greek mythology who was condemned to repeat forever the same meaningless task of pushing a rock up a mountain, only to see it roll down again. The essay concludes, “The struggle itself … is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

According to Absurdism, humans historically attempt to find meaning in their lives. For some, traditionally, this search follows one of two paths: either concluding that life is meaningless and that what we have is the here-and-now; or filling the void with a purpose set forth by a higher power, often a belief in God or a religion. However, even with a spiritual power as the answer to meaning, another question is posed: What is the purpose of God? Kierkegaard believed that there is no human-comprehensible purpose of God, making faith in God absurd.

For Albert Camus, in The Myth of Sisyphus, suicide is not a worthwhile solution because if life is veritably absurd, then it is even more absurd to counteract it; instead, we should engage in living and reconcile the fact that we live in a world without purpose. People may create meaning in their own lives, which may not be the objective meaning of life but still provides something for which to strive. However, he insisted that one must always maintain an ironic distance between this invented meaning and the knowledge of the absurd lest the fictitious meaning take the place of the absurd.

Camus introduced the idea of “acceptance without resignation” and asked if man can “live without appeal,” defining a “conscious revolt” against the avoidance of absurdity of the world. In a world devoid of higher meaning, or judicial afterlife, man becomes absolutely free. It is through this freedom that man can act either as a mystic (through appeal to some supernatural force) or an absurd hero (through a revolt against such hope). Henceforth, the absurd hero’s refusal to hope becomes his singular ability to live in the present with passion.