I find Camus’ concept of Absurdism to be extraordinarily powerful as a lens for viewing the world.
I’m not sure if this is the academically correct interpretation of Camus’ work, but after reading a few of his books and a few summaries of his philosophy, I think it comes down to this:
- There is no inherent meaning in life
- Live on as if there is, but without pretending #1 isn’t true
It seems like a contradiction, but I don’t think it is. Camus speaks of living on “in spite of” a lack of meaning, and “revolting against” it.
This is to first acknowledge that it is there, this lack of meaning.
My abstraction of Absurdism
I think it’s useful to abstract Camus’ point about the lack of inherent meaning in the universe to something bigger, which is “unpleasant truth”.
There are many things that are difficult to accept in life, and there are many ways to deal with those unpleasant truths.
- You can deny them
- You can accept them and then embrace the negativity that surrounds a cult-like absorption into that acceptance
- You can accept them as true, but live on despite them–almost as if they aren’t true
I like the third option, not only for intrinsic meaning (Camus’ original point), but for many other things.
- The idea that free will exists
- The idea that everyone is equally gifted
These things are not true, but to bemoan them, or to build a philosophy around them, seems counterproductive.
In fact, it seems we should usually be doing the opposite. It seems we should be mostly living as if they are not true, but while never forgetting that the truth is there. And never denying it.
This seemingly dissonant approach accomplishes two things:
- It builds the society we want to have, and wish were true
- It immunizes us against a fundamental belief in true equality that discourages empathy and compassion
As with many things, this hybrid seems best.