20. Absurdism [SER]

Popularized by French Algerian philosopher Albert Camus and by Danish philosopher Kierkegaard, it is a branch of philosophy in between existentialism and nihilism. The former theory posits that humans possess free will and are therefore able to decide their own fate; whilst the latter theory rejects all forms of moral and religious precepts, as life is deemed meaningless.

On the other hand, absurdism is the belief that we live in a pandemonic and desultory universe. In his renowned essay (The Myth of Sisyphus), Camus asks himself what it is that should stop us from committing suicide, if this is the reality we live in. He does this, using the titular king as an analogy. As a punishment for his misbehavior and reproachable actions, he would chronically need to roll a boulder up a hill, only to watch his actions become fruitless once he reached the summit, and the boulder rolled back down. This action would have to be cyclically repeated, until his demise.

This parable is a microcosm of humanity’s daily experience. Camus therefore ponders why Sisyphus does not end his life. Hence, he asks himself as well, “should I kill myself, or have a cup of coffee?” However, he claims, would not only restituo ad integrum but rather make the universe more absurd.

Another two solutions are proposed by Camus:

  1. Unrestrained devotion to a transcendental, deitic, or religious ideal/ being. One’s belief and devotion in such an ideal or being eclipses the Absurd, and renders meaning to our life. This was first introduced by Kierkegaard, and has been dubbed the “Leap of Faith”, as it involves the acceptance of an unprovable, intangible and thereby empirically absent ideal or being. However, Albert Camus finds himself in opposition to this solution.
  2. Acknowledgement and recognition of the Absurd. By doing so, one would simultaneously be rejecting the depraved religions and challenge the status quo — that is the Absurd — whilst simultaneously accepting its manifestation as inevitable. Camus considers this the only viable solution, and contends that in the process of doing so, one would even be able to create meaning for oneself.

Image Source:

“Sisyphus.” Sisyphus. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Sept. 2015. <http://www.robinsonstudio.com/work/sisyphus&gt;. 

2 thoughts on “20. Absurdism [SER]

  1. I agree, to attempt to challenge the absurd you would necessarily lapse into a Kierkegaardian faith or some form of Christian existentialism. In his short piece “Fear and Trembling” he examines that there are cases where god can ‘teleologically suspend the ethical’ which could ‘explain’ the radical indifference to our lives that the deity might possess. In any case, I would say that embracing the Absurd is better than trying to eclipse it by a transcendent ideal, since it demands a lot to have faith in deities which stubbornly give you nothing to work with.


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