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  • Albert Camus grew up surrounded by violence.

  • His homeland of Algeria was mired in conflict between native Algerians

  • and colonizing French Europeans.

  • He lost his father in the First World War,

  • and was deemed unfit to fight in the second.

  • Battling tuberculosis in France and confronting the war's devastation

  • as a resistance journalist, Camus grew despondent.

  • He couldn't fathom any meaning behind all this endless bloodshed and suffering.

  • He asked: if the world was meaningless,

  • could our individual lives still hold value?

  • Many of Camus' contemporaries were exploring similar questions

  • under the banner of a new philosophy called existentialism.

  • Existentialists believed people were born as blank slates,

  • each responsible for creating their life's meaning amidst a chaotic world.

  • But Camus rejected their school of thought.

  • He argued all people were born with a shared human nature

  • that bonded them toward common goals.

  • One such goal was to seek out meaning despite the world's arbitrary cruelty.

  • Camus viewed humanity's desire for meaning and the universe's silent indifference

  • as two incompatible puzzle pieces,

  • and considered trying to fit them together to be fundamentally absurd.

  • This tension became the heart of Camus' Philosophy of the Absurd,

  • which argued that life is inherently futile.

  • Exploring how to live without meaning

  • became the guiding question behind Camus' early work,

  • which he called hiscycle of the absurd.”

  • The star of this cycle, and Camus' first published novel,

  • offers a rather bleak response.

  • "The Stranger" follows Meursault, an emotionally detached young man

  • who doesn't attribute much meaning to anything.

  • He doesn't cry at his mother's funeral,

  • he supports his neighbor's scheme to humiliate a woman,

  • he even commits a violent crimebut Meaursault feels no remorse.

  • For him the world is pointless and moral judgment has no place in it.

  • This attitude creates hostility between Meursault

  • and the orderly society he inhabits,

  • slowly increasing his alienation until the novel's explosive climax.

  • Unlike his spurned protagonist, Camus was celebrated for his honest philosophy.

  • "The Stranger" catapulted him to fame, and Camus continued producing works

  • that explored the value of life amidst absurdity

  • many of which circled back to the same philosophical question:

  • if life is truly meaningless,

  • is committing suicide the only rational response?

  • Camus' answer was an emphaticno.”

  • There may not be any explanation for our unjust world,

  • but choosing to live regardless is the deepest expression

  • of our genuine freedom.

  • Camus explains this in one of his most famous essays

  • which centers on the Greek myth of Sisyphus.

  • Sisyphus was a king who cheated the gods,

  • and was condemned to endlessly roll a boulder up a hill.

  • The cruelty of his punishment lies in its singular futility,

  • but Camus argues all of humanity is in the same position.

  • And only when we accept the meaninglessness of our lives

  • can we face the absurd with our heads held high.

  • As Camus says, when the king chooses to begin his relentless task once more,

  • One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

  • Camus' contemporaries weren't so accepting of futility.

  • Many existentialists advocated for violent revolution

  • to upend systems they believed were depriving people of agency and purpose.

  • Camus responded with his second set of work: the cycle of revolt.

  • In "The Rebel," he explored rebellion as a creative act,

  • rather than a destructive one.

  • Camus believed that inverting power dynamics

  • only led to an endless cycle of violence.

  • Instead, the way to avoid needless bloodshed

  • is to establish a public understanding of our shared human nature.

  • Ironically, it was this cycle of relatively peaceful ideas

  • that triggered his fallout with many fellow writers and philosophers.

  • Despite the controversy,

  • Camus began work on his most lengthy and personal novel yet:

  • an autobiographical work entitled "The First Man."

  • The novel was intended to be the first piece in a hopeful new direction:

  • the cycle of love.

  • But in 1960, Camus suddenly died in a car accident

  • that can only be described as meaningless and absurd.

  • While the world never saw his cycle of love,

  • his cycles of revolt and absurdity continue to resonate with readers today.

  • His concept of absurdity has become a part of world literature,

  • 20th century philosophy, and even pop culture.

  • Today, Camus remains a trusted guide for moments of uncertainty;

  • his ideas defiantly imbuing a senseless world with inspiration

  • rather than defeat.

Albert Camus grew up surrounded by violence.

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Is life meaningless? And other absurd questions - Nina Medvinskaya

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/11/17
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