The Absurd Thrives
“In spite of or in defiance of the whole of existence he wills to be himself with it, to take it along, almost defying his torment. For to hope in the possibility of help, not to speak of help by virtue of the absurd, that for God all things are possible — no, that he will not do. And as for seeking help from any other — no, that he will not do for all the world; rather than seek help he would prefer to be himself — with all the tortures of hell, if so it must be.”
—Søren Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death
In absurdist philosophy, the Absurd arises out of the fundamental disharmony between man’s search for meaning and the apparent meaninglessness of the universe. As beings looking for meaning in a meaningless world, humans have three ways of resolving the dilemma. Kierkegaard and Camus describe the solutions in their works, The Sickness Unto Death and The Myth of Sisyphus:
- Suicide or Escaping Existence: The first solution to the dilemma is simply to end one’s life.
- Religious belief in a transcendent world: Such a belief would posit the existence of a realm that is beyond the Absurd, and, as such, has meaning.
- Acceptance of the Absurd: The absurdist solution is to accept and even embrace the absurdity of life and to continue living in spite of it.
Absurdism is a philosophy stating that the efforts of humanity to find meaning in the universe ultimately fail (and hence are absurd), because no such meaning exists, at least in relation to the individual. The word “absurd” in this context does not mean “logically impossible,” but rather “humanly impossible.”
Absurdism is related to existentialism and nihilism and has its roots in the 19th century Danish philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard. Absurdism as a belief system was born of the existentialist movement, when the French Algerian 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 popular development, especially in the devastated country of France.
Learn more here about Camus and Kierkegaard.