June 18, 2024

There are many philosophical theories but today, We will focus on Absurdism and Existentialism. Two similar philosophical ideas with important distinctions. We should learn these distinctions and see the connections as they are fascinating schools of thought.


Let’s start with absurdism, which is the belief that human beings exist in a purposeless, chaotic universe. While humans search for meanings from an early age, they quickly discover it’s unless – the universe is confusing and chaotic. People must know the term the absurd, it’s defined as ‘the futility of a search for meaning in an incomprehensible universe’ by an author named Albert Camus.


Albert Camus is an important person in terms of absurdism. He studied philosophy, but he saw himself as a writer first. He was inspired by existentialist authors: writing about themes of disillusionment and alienation. All this discussion about existentialism, how are we mere mortals supposed to react to learning this; should we keep looking for a meaning or give up? According to Camus, we must revolt; it’s the only authentic thing to do. Revolting finds the meaning of life, if we don’t care it’s absurd, it’s beating the system.


This idea of revolting comes from Albert Camus’s essay The Myth of Sisyphus, to sum up, the gods condemned Sisyphus to ceaselessly rolling a rock to the top of a mountain, whence the stone would fall back of its own weight. The gods had thought there is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labour. Instead, Sisyphus endures his fate and even became ‘superior’ to it. In philosophical terms, this describes the human condition. Back-breaking labour without purpose. Then you die. We must keep looking for meaning even if the world can give it, as Sisyphus did. Absurdism awakens the struggle between our desire for order and happiness. We are condemned to be free. What other ways can we combat this feeling? 


It is the philosophical theory that focuses on freedom and how the universe is inherently meaningless. Therefore, humans must choose to create their meaning.


Jean-Paul Sartre is the main player in this theory. While he drew inspiration from others, he is one of the most influential Western philosophers of the 20th century. Sartre’s main thought includes ‘existence precedes essence,’ but what does that mean? Well, it highlights that humans make every choice themselves – he believes none of it is left to human nature.  This is related to radical freedom, which means people are responsible for their actions and even their thoughts.  Is radical freedom fair for everyone? It’s strange (or absurd) to believe we are in complete control of everything around us.  Sartre doesn’t account for human constraints. In our society people suffer through systems working against us. In terms of the two, should people pick a school of thought?  


The difference between the two is important. While many get confused that existentialism is all about the value of one’s life, which doesn’t compute with absurdism at all, the pursuit of meaning has a meaning which is not absurd. In life no matter how much meaning you find it doesn’t matter: absurdism says all meaning is impermanent. Absurdism is about embracing the Absurd or meaningless in life and simultaneously rebelling against it and embracing what life can offer us. In juxtaposition to Existentialism is the belief that the universe is inherently meaningless and therefore humans must choose to create their own meaning.  We live in a phony world and these theories help us cut through it.

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Maggie Johnson

Hey! I'm Maggie, I am a grade 12 student

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