I am currently reading The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus. In it, he gives a fair outline of his philosophy.

Camus says that absurdity isn't just the scrutiny of a single fact; it's the paradoxes that lie in 'bare fact and certain reality'. He also asserts that Absurdism 'lies in neither of these elements compared; it is born of their confrontation'.

He is quick to point out that unlike other philosophers who have mystified the subject matter of their philosophies, he places 'The Absurd' very much within man's realm.

It must be noted here that Camus denies the existence of a 'higher reality'. At the same time, he feels that conflict between 'what is' and 'what should be' is the source of man's helplessness.

In regard to this, he says the following:

If helplessness has its place in the indifferent landscapes of history, it has none in a reasoning whose exigence is now known.

So here goes my question. Camus has put The Absurd in man's realm; however, from what I'm getting out of his book, it looks like a true understanding of this absurd is unattainable to man. Aren't these two things at odds with each other?

So it seems that 'the absurd' can't be pinpointed. Camus just wants us to accept it as a truism.

But can one arrive at the contents (and I'm using the term very liberally here) of the absurd? The friction between 'what is' and 'what should be'? The self-contrasting nature of our world? Since the absurd is wherever the mind goes, can one establish it more concretely, especially through the faculty of reason?

  • Are you asking if this can be arrived at by PURE reason? If so, no. What is, is empirical and What should be is also empirical and subject to opinion. From pure reason, we can't see a priori that they need ever contradict, we can only see this contradiction via observation, and some people (the enlightened in the Eastern sense) supposedly don't have a sense of "what should be" and therefore see no contradiction because the second pole of that pair doesn't exist for them. Also, are you reifying The Absurd? It almost sounds like you're treating it as an existing thing, which it isn't. – R. Barzell Oct 23 '15 at 16:32

I think the allegory of Sisyphus very accurately displays the premise.

Of course we consider the absurd with reason. What else is there?


Albert Camus, the French absurdist, wrote an essay entitled The Myth of Sisyphus, in which he elevates Sisyphus to the status of absurd hero. Franz Kafka repeatedly referred to Sisyphus as a bachelor; Kafkaesque for him were those qualities that brought out the Sisyphus-like qualities in himself. According to Frederick Karl: "The man who struggled to reach the heights only to be thrown down to the depths embodied all of Kafka's aspirations; and he remained himself, alone, solitary." The philosopher Richard Taylor uses the myth of Sisyphus as a representation of a life made meaningless because it consists of bare repetition. James Clement van Pelt, co-founder of Yale's Initiative in Religion, Science & Technology, suggests that Sisyphus also personifies humanity and its disastrous pursuit of perfection by any means necessary, in which the great rock repeatedly rushing down the mount symbolizes the accelerating pace of unsustainable civilization toward cataclysmic collapse and cultural oblivion that ends each historical age and restarts the sisyphean cycle.

  • I didn't ask the question in the context of what different philosophers had to say about the myth. What I have asked is pertaining to Camus' philosophy and where in the picture he places 'the absurd'. – Sampark Sharma Oct 23 '15 at 14:06
  • As a reason for a man to commit suicide? To lose his faith in his ability to withstand the world difficulties? – John Am Oct 23 '15 at 14:08
  • Absurd is concrete enough. It's a situation without meaning, an ineffective struggle, a deadlock. – John Am Oct 23 '15 at 14:12
  • In the first half of the book, Camus doesn't directly address suicide. Instead, he goes on to instate a meaningless universe full of contradictions and absurdities. So this absurd in question pretty much holds for the state of the entire world. – Sampark Sharma Oct 23 '15 at 14:12
  • The world can be seen by such perspective, it is real for a number of persons or to everybody in some contexts. – John Am Oct 23 '15 at 14:13

It's actually the lack of reason or logos (it's useful to note here that the title of Camus MA thesis was: Neo-Platonism and Christian Thought) that the absurd is arrived at; as Camus makes quite clear in his introduction; and he writes there that he was attempting to resolve the problem of suicide:

without the aid of eternal values [ie logos etc] that perhaps are temporarily absent or distorted in contemporary Europe.


I'm also struggling with this question, so let me (even though a bit late) review my interpretation. The absurd can be viewed as a relation, or an experience, between man's assertions (or logos) and the seemingly indifferent universe. What I think Camus does most, is showing empirical evidence of absurd experiences to which everyone can relate. If we were to theorise about the absurd, then we enter a more difficult explanation. It seems to me that Camus describes the absurd as contradictory. The fundamental basis of this definition, in my interpretation, would be the multitude of contradiction found in logic. Now it is arguable of these contradictions are part or not part of logic, but it seems to me that for Camus that there is a direct logical relation between these logical contradictions and the absurd. So can the absurd be arrived at through logic, yes and no. It can be arrived at via logic, but only by taking premises which are non-logical. Hope this helps and if you have some comments on this, please send them, they might help me also!

  • If you have references to people taking similar positions this would support your answer and give the reader a place to go for more information. Welcome! – Frank Hubeny Jun 3 at 13:09

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