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fnord
07-23-2005, 07:58 PM
What is the main difference between Absurdism and Existentialism?

I was reading about Camus, and he maintained himself that he was not an existentialist as his friend/rival Sartre was. However, to me, they seem quite similar. Both philosophies seem to say "life is what it is and nothing more than it seems".

Anyone care to clarify for me?

Sitaram
07-23-2005, 10:24 PM
Sartre and Simone de Bouvier were lifelong lovers, but always had other lovers on the side. The two became best friends for a while with Albert Camus. One day Simone told Albert he could take her to bed if he liked. Albert declined the invitation and Jean-Paul was livid with rage at what he perceived as an insult. From then on, Camus became their arch enemy, and they would say uncharitable things about Camus' work.

This may possibly account with the fact that Camus did not care to be identified with Existentialism.




WOODY ALLEN: That's quite a lovely Jackson Pollock, isn't it?
GIRL IN MUSEUM: Yes it is.

WOODY ALLEN: What does it say to you?

GIRL IN MUSEUM: It restates the negativeness of the universe, the hideous lonely emptiness of existence, nothingness, the predicament of man forced to live in a barren, godless eternity, like a tiny flame flickering in an immense void, with nothing but waste, horror, and degradation, forming a useless bleak straightjacket in a black absurd cosmos.

WOODY ALLEN: What are you doing Saturday night?

GIRL IN MUSEUM: Committing suicide.

WOODY ALLEN: What about Friday night?

GIRL IN MUSEUM: [leaves silently]




http://www.friesian.com/existent.htm



Camus was estranged by Sartre's lack of concern for the French colonials in Algeria, a third of the population, who stood to lose their homes and livelihood with the coming of Algerian independence. Sartre's attitude, indeed, owed nothing to Existentialism but to the extremely doctrinaire Marxism that he eventually adopted. Fixing up "responsibility," evidently, was not good enough. The Existential Void of value had to be filled by Dialectical Materialism. How blind and arrogant this became was evident in Sartre's remark on hearing of Khrushchev's "Secret Speech" denouncing Stalin in 1956. Sartre said that it should indeed be kept secret because it might discourage the "working class." The egotism and paternalism of this is typical of leftist intellectuals, but it hardly seems like the kind of thing that would allow the "working class" to "take responsbility" for their own actions. Grafting Marxism onto Existentialism thus simply rendered Sartre's thought incoherent.






Our theistic Existentialist is Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855). Kierkegaard is an Existentialist because he accepts, as fully as Sartre or Camus, the absurdity of the world. But he does not begin with the postulate of the non-existence of God, but with the principle that nothing in the world, nothing available to sense or reason, provides any knowledge or reason to believe in God. While traditional Christian theologians, like St. Thomas Aquinas, saw the world as providing evidence of God's existence, and also thought that rational arguments a priori could establish the existence of God, Kierkegaard does not think that this is the case. But Kierkegaard's conclusion about this could just as easily be derived from Sartre's premises. After all, if the world is absurd, and everything we do is absurd anyway, why not do the most absurd thing imaginable? And what could be more absurd than to believe in God? So why not? The atheists don't have any reason to believe in anything else, or really even to disbelieve in that, so we may as well go for it!

This is sometimes compared to Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), who said, "The heart has reasons that the mind cannot understand"; but really, if the heart has reasons, then, indeed, there are reasons, and the world is not an absurd place. Pascal is a mystic (like some other mathematicians), not an Existentialist. The precedent for Kierkegaard is really more like the Latin Church Father Tertullian (c.160-220), who, when taunted about the absurdity of Christian doctrine, retorted that he believed it because it was absurd.

fnord
07-25-2005, 03:23 AM
Interesting stuff. I know that Camus identified strongly with the French colonial Algerians, and that his mother lived there for most, if not all, of her life. His sentiments regarding the plight of the French colonials are evident in much of his work, concerning the above-mentioned fight for independance.

As to the difference between the philosophies of existentialism and absurdism: I have read and somewhat studied Camus' works, but have only a passing familiarity with Sartre. It seems to me that both philosophies recognize the universe as amoral and essentially absurd. However, existentialists find hope in the concept that nothing is predetermined, while absurdists simply recognize the universe for what it is, and cease to struggle against it. It seems a fine line to draw.

Sitaram
07-25-2005, 05:10 AM
... existentialists find hope in the concept that nothing is predetermined, while absurdists simply recognize the universe for what it is, and cease to struggle against it. ...

This observation seems important.

I like to look for little statements such as this which boil things down to a manageable idea.

simon
08-09-2005, 12:55 PM
Existentialism is the hopeless approach that due to being alone in the universe we are left to deal with terrible consequences and horrors that make life on the whole miserable and often unbearable. Absurdism has an approach that isn't as pitiful, it looks at how absurd it is that though we constantly search for meaning in the universe there ultimately is no meaning. And then nihilism is that there is no purpose, meaning, or any direcetive of any kind in life.

That Woody Allen quote pretty much sums up the most dramatic qualities of the idea, when it is taken to the exptreme of course.

starrwriter
10-27-2005, 02:37 AM
I have much simpler ideas about existentialism and absurdism.

To me existentialism means you are what you choose to do and to believe. Absurdism means you have no choice, like the butt of a cosmic joke.

ThatIndividual
10-29-2005, 06:16 PM
Yea, that's just it. The funny thing about existentialism is just that we all have our own ideas about what it is and no one is right. No two existentialists agreed with one another on the entirity of the meaning thereof, therefore, existentialism is characterized by having no definition. It's the only philosophy that isn't really a philosophy at all. It's irreducible to a set of tenets or beliefs. The only thing that all 'existentialists' have (had) in common is that all of them, yes even sartre, shunned the title 'existentialist.' (It was toward the end of his career that Sartre became opposed to the label. He did champion the label for a while, but eventually realized that he could only be characterized by one title: Sartre.
They all pretty much agreed that people are unique individuals and can't really be categorized. But they didn't all agree on anything else. (Even some of them disagreed about that. For instance Nietzsche thought that most people WERE easy to categorize, but not the individuals. For NIetzsche, individuals are rare conscious beings, not each person. Nietzsche also disagreed about freedom. He didn't think you have the power to create your own self. He was more deterministic. He saw men as trees that could only bear the type of fruit that they could bear. i.e. an orange tree will not grow apples, and likewise, a naturally tone-deaf person could not have written Moonlight Sonate.)

The other common thing is that they all have a distaste for abstractions. They tried to focus on existence as it truly is, or on what has being, rather than things like metaphysics and religions. (Of course they didn't all agree on religious ideas; that goes without saying, as we know that Kierkegaard, Marcel, Jaspers, and others were actually Christians. Some kind of Christians anyway.)

NewWorldOrder
11-04-2005, 03:58 AM
I rather think that most people are not looking for truths but for concept that suits their pre-belief. As for me I don't want to have any pre-belief what is sure is sure is that Religions aimed to manipulate: just read Republic of Platon he justifies that Religion must lie so as people accept more easily the ruling elites.

Today Religion is no more as fashionable but "philosophy" has substitued to Religions. Some philosophy or even pseudo-scientific theories are not more worth than invented myths.

ThatIndividual
11-08-2005, 07:29 PM
"Much I marvelled this ungainly friend to hear discourse
so plainly,
Though his answer little meaning -- little relevancy bore..."

:D

mouaten horr
11-14-2005, 07:33 AM
actually, existientialism cannot be defined coz u have so many types of it. for instance, Gabriel Marcel and Sartre are totally different in using the same terminology.

when i think of existentialism, i see only one common father whose thoughts were alienated later: Soren Kierkegaard

ThatIndividual
11-14-2005, 09:04 AM
exactly. (I'll bet you didn't read the thread)

Logos
11-14-2005, 10:29 AM
I have much simpler ideas about existentialism and absurdism.

To me existentialism means you are what you choose to do and to believe. Absurdism means you have no choice, like the butt of a cosmic joke.

:lol: I like it, succinct and to the point, though I am a minimalist.

odysseus
11-26-2005, 01:07 AM
fnord

the enemy of me is the absurd. Existentialism is nothing more than loneliness. the absurd is my enemy. the enemy of warrior deep heart of love and freedom. Freedom is the purpose. Purpose driven life- fnord- crushes absurdity. but how in the fnord does one find a vocation of importance!? Where I work people are totally absurd. America is totally absurd. France in sartres time probably is too. It is because male masculinity was seeming to be under attack. It isn't really. Culture is looking for a hero, but they only want to bring said hero down right to the ground. Build him up and tear him down, no more gladiator of today, not in the world today.

i shall crush the absurdity like an empty pop can- fnord-

sales and marketing are absurd. fashion sindustry, and anyone probalby who wants your money, without first creating value. we are so far removed from tribal reality it is not even funny. jump skip a couple ages- agrarian, industrial, and information, to the conceptual. you have to consider effect on the individual.

there is no such thing as average. your senses beat a retreat. sartre was a tart. I don't know what to make of simone. she looked hot enough and I read her "second sex".

how existentially wonderful are certain things of life. if life seems absurd you just need to close your mind down from it because it shouldn't seem absurd- fnord. your sensory systems beat a retreat, don't you find- fnord!

ThatIndividual
11-28-2005, 01:47 PM
I suggest that you read a short story by Camus called "The Guest" from his Exile and the Kingdom. Or perhaps one by Sartre, not as good though, entitled "The Wall." These are quick glimpses into the absurdity that seems to elude your vision. No offense meant whatsoever. I think you will enjoy them... What can one do but laugh? :lol:

Final line of Sartre's "The Wall":

"I laughed so hard I cried."

Xamonas Chegwe
01-05-2006, 08:07 PM
"Why are you laughing?"
"Because I have seen life for what it truly is, a joke; the best joke ever!"
"In that case, why are you crying too?"
"Because it's one ***ing SICK joke!"

The Unnamable
01-06-2006, 02:09 AM
Eugene Ionesco, the Romanian born Absurdist playwright, once summarized the spirit of tragi-comedy like this:

"The fact of being astonishes us, in a world that seems all illusion and pretense in which all human behavior tells of absurdity and all history of absolute futility; all reality and language appear to lose their articulation, to disintegrate and collapse, so what possible reaction is there left, when everything has ceased to matter, but laugh at it all."

starrwriter
01-06-2006, 02:48 AM
Eugene Ionesco, the Romanian born Absurdist playwright, once summarized the spirit of tragi-comedy like this:

"The fact of being astonishes us, in a world that seems all illusion and pretense in which all human behavior tells of absurdity and all history of absolute futility; all reality and language appear to lose their articulation, to disintegrate and collapse, so what possible reaction is there left, when everything has ceased to matter, but laugh at it all."
In addition to Ionesco, I like these two other dramatists from the so-called theater of the absurd:

Friedrich Durrenmatt (best work "The Physicists")
Luigi Pirandello (best work "Six Characters In Search Of An Author")

Shifting Leaves
07-31-2006, 11:13 PM
Unfortuanately existentialism is too big an umbrella to summarize works by all existentialists in order to give you a very specific answer unless I pick one, and I guess Sartre will have to do. In his works (the few I have read, No Exit and a few more plays, also Nausea and a little of Being and Nothingness, which is so somplex to me that it becomes absurd in-itself {haha see my little joke oh I'm so funny} and makes me laugh from the sheer complexity) he seems to be stressing almost complete hopelessness, as in No Exit the message is Hell is other people, the interaction with people we despise is unfortunately necessary in this world, and it destracts from being-for itself or something like that. While Camus' short story The Artist At Work, leads to the same thing basically, but at the end he escapes the drearyness of forced human interaction by creating a painting that has only the word Solitary in the middle of it.

Sartre seems to have given up the chase (in the works I have read), so to speak, while in all of Camus' works (I've read a little more but not much more) there is a turning point wherein the character escapes the absurdity of existence by being in-the world and not... for-the world, i think.

Phew. did the best I could. Admittedly I kind of cosider Absurdism to be a brand of existentialism with subtle but important differences rather than something entirely different.

Shifting Leaves
07-31-2006, 11:21 PM
Ignore my previous post.. I might be right but I don't feel qualified to give you what I feel to be an appropriate answer... sorry. It seems to boil down to aesthetics in their writing styles rather than of core belief. I like Camus' somewhat more kindhearted approach rather than the dreariness of Sartre, so I haven't read enough Sartre to justify my previous post. Sorry.

Kurtz
08-01-2006, 03:16 PM
A great way to explore this question in more depth is to read "FEAR and TREMBLING" By Kierkegaard. In this story the idea of the "absurd" is the way in which Abraham gets isaac back. By teleological suspension of the ethical, Abraham is able to rise above the universal (ethical). By doing this he is seen as a knight of fatih, and by virtue of the absurd, he feels that by suspending the ethical he will get a new Isaac. The main difference between Knights of faith and Knights of infinite resignation is that the knight of faith is able to hold so tight to his unconditional commitment that despite seeing the sword hanging above his head, he still maintains his ability to put all his faith in his commitment. "Only the man who draws the knife gets Isaac". This is why Knight's of infinite resignation can never be knights of faith.

jon1jt
08-01-2006, 04:17 PM
Kurtz: Sounds like knights of faith is just another way of Kierkegaard's "Leap of Faith" claim or 'Lessing's Ditch,' the abyss of absurdity and the leap "from" reason.

jon1jt
08-01-2006, 04:37 PM
Unfortuanately existentialism is too big an umbrella to summarize works by all existentialists in order to give you a very specific answer unless I pick one, and I guess Sartre will have to do. In his works (the few I have read, No Exit and a few more plays, also Nausea and a little of Being and Nothingness, which is so somplex to me that it becomes absurd in-itself {haha see my little joke oh I'm so funny} and makes me laugh from the sheer complexity) he seems to be stressing almost complete hopelessness, as in No Exit the message is Hell is other people, the interaction with people we despise is unfortunately necessary in this world, and it destracts from being-for itself or something like that. While Camus' short story The Artist At Work, leads to the same thing basically, but at the end he escapes the drearyness of forced human interaction by creating a painting that has only the word Solitary in the middle of it.

Sartre seems to have given up the chase (in the works I have read), so to speak, while in all of Camus' works (I've read a little more but not much more) there is a turning point wherein the character escapes the absurdity of existence by being in-the world and not... for-the world, i think.

Phew. did the best I could. Admittedly I kind of cosider Absurdism to be a brand of existentialism with subtle but important differences rather than something entirely different.

I'm not necessarily convinved that Sartre gave up "the chase" because the character in Nausea is clearly an egomaniac, caught up in innane observations of the external and is pathologically introspective. The cunning way he strives to obtain her, what he thinks privately versus his words and actions, don't come off to me as giving up. There is something dark and deeply disturbing to me about Sartre that I don't like.

Camus is on the other end of the existential spectrum, giving us a more light-hearted view of the absurd, which is devoid of the effects of the cultural, social, and political milieu in which we dwell and that is part and parcel of the self. In one of his books - The Stranger, I think- the character is placed on trial and witnesses testify how unconcerned he was about his mother's death. He's later found guilty and imprisoned awaiting the gallows, where he's confronted by a chaplin, whom he finds reviling and sends away because the chaplin is trying to crack him open. Later,the prisoner is in his cell and "feels" guilt; this is Camus at his best, because this is the crossroads between living life and living the absurd.

Kurtz
08-01-2006, 11:27 PM
jon1jt: Yep, It is the same concept. Abandoing the ethical is the first step towards the absurd.

I almost forgot to mention a short book by Camus (The Stranger). This story is usually thought to deal with Camus' version of the absurd. The split self within the main character (Meursault) is a fascinating look into the world of existentialism. At the beginning of the novel he gives way to his sensual side and usually acts in a unreflecting way. By the end of the book he makes a transition that can only be dealt with in an existential way. A really quick and great read.

Another book that brilliantly explores the complicated world of existentialism is "The Brothers Karamozov". If what you are looking for is a good overview of existentialism I suggest you read this book. I would suggest reading it along with "The stranger". There are many complimentary ideas and characters in both works.

white camellia
08-02-2006, 04:26 AM
However, existentialists find hope in the concept that nothing is predetermined, while absurdists simply recognize the universe for what it is, and cease to struggle against it. It seems a fine line to draw.

This observation seems important.

I like to look for little statements such as this which boil things down to a manageable idea.

Nietzsche seemed to have great influence on modern existentialists that it is natural and admirable for him to struggle with all obstacles, accepting both good and bad, because of the will to life which accord with the Dioneysos spirit from the ancient Greek. Camus should be an existentialist as he said to commit suicide means to agree with absurdity, to give up and in his analysis The Myth of Sisyphus, he demonstrated the absurdity of fate as well as the constant struggle. In the field of theatre of the absurd, playwriter Samuel Beckett dealed with the absurd things but never had his characters commit suicide.

jon1jt
08-02-2006, 07:05 AM
Nietzsche seemed to have great influence on modern existentialists that it is natural and admirable for him to struggle with all obstacles, accepting both good and bad, because of the will to life which accord with the Dioneysos spirit from the ancient Greek. Camus should be an existentialist as he said to commit suicide means to agree with absurdity, to give up and in his analysis The Myth of Sisyphus, he demonstrated the absurdity of fate as well as the constant struggle. In the field of theatre of the absurd, playwriter Samuel Beckett dealed with the absurd things but never had his characters commit suicide.

Well said. It spurned me to think how Nietzsche believed that conflict IS the law of reality---from atoms and molecules to germs to humans to entire societies. Self-reflection and mind are the great obstacles of human existence as is language, all of which love to parse the world into subject-object and therein create the notion of conflict. But we are simply energy states, the will to power, but there is no free will in the willing. Like Buddha, Nietzsche felt that "willed actions" perpetuate the illusion of separate consciousness. Cause-effect and our own forward-looking orientation are illusory and contributes to our tragic break from pre-Socratic/Dionysian life. Thinking, morality, doctrine, hamper the natural condition---the unfolding of the Dionysian spirit. Unlike Buddhism which denies the individual, Nietsche uplifts it because it is a portal through which will unfolds. If I can try to tie Nietzsche's contribution to existentialism, meaning, value, is part and parcel of willing---rolling a rock up a hill an infinite number of times (Sissyphus) matters because "I" says so. We write on the world; the world does not write on us.

jon1jt
08-02-2006, 10:38 AM
jon1jt: Yep, It is the same concept. Abandoing the ethical is the first step towards the absurd.

Another book that brilliantly explores the complicated world of existentialism is "The Brothers Karamozov". If what you are looking for is a good overview of existentialism I suggest you read this book. I would suggest reading it along with "The stranger". There are many complimentary ideas and characters in both works.


Kurz--- I read Brothers Karamozov, which was too long but anyway Dostoeyvsky manages to keep the plot intact right up to the end with the murder trial. It exposes the fatal flaw of human beings, our achilles heel, madness as a function of shame. I thought this book was more a psychological piece reflecting Jung's Unconscious and some Freudian theory. The famous dream scene - "The Grand Inquisitor" chapter - Jesus returns and is imprisoned and chooses to remain silent while the king chastises him, and only after does Jesus break his silence by getting up and laying a kiss on the king's cheek leaving him absolutely perplexed. It's the strongest statement against the absurd I've ever read. I don't really see anything "existential" in the book---perhaps someone will be kind enough to enlighten me? By the way, is there even a working definition of the term, "existential"? I read somewhere that both Camus and Sartre vehemently rejected the label.

Kurtz
08-03-2006, 12:02 AM
Kurz--- I read Brothers Karamozov, which was too long but anyway Dostoeyvsky manages to keep the plot intact right up to the end with the murder trial. It exposes the fatal flaw of human beings, our achilles heel, madness as a function of shame. I thought this book was more a psychological piece reflecting Jung's Unconscious and some Freudian theory. The famous dream scene - "The Grand Inquisitor" chapter - Jesus returns and is imprisoned and chooses to remain silent while the king chastises him, and only after does Jesus break his silence by getting up and laying a kiss on the king's cheek leaving him absolutely perplexed. It's the strongest statement against the absurd I've ever read. I don't really see anything "existential" in the book---perhaps someone will be kind enough to enlighten me? By the way, is there even a working definition of the term, "existential"? I read somewhere that both Camus and Sartre vehemently rejected the label.


I can see where you would get the impression that it is a more Freudian work than existential, and while you are right in the respect of intepreting it as a psychological thriller/murder mystery, I think you are overlooking several important existential factors. One important factor that deals directly with character development is that all of the brothers (Dmitri,Ivan, Alyosha) possess the divided parts of the self. The latter was a very important deal in existential literature at the time. If you refer back to Kierkegaard, especially "SICKNESS UNTO DEATH" you will see just how important the definition of the self is to existentialism. For instance each brother describes his divided self by two terms. Dmitri the eldest son (the one who suffers the greatest) has Sodom and Madonna, Ivan, has the insect/angel, and Alyosha's are vauge but in a close reading it becomes clear that his two sides are simply light/dark. One of the high points of the novel for me was the way each character tries to solve their existential problem of the self. In my opinion Dmitri can be directly compared to Camus's "THE STRANGER". One way in which they are similiar is that they are both sensualist. This is evident by Dmitri spending his money on girls, vodka, sweet meats, and chocolate (both before and after the death of Fyodor), This is directly compared to Meursault's foray with Marie. On the madonna side of the self both Dmitri and meursault beleive strongly in truth and justice, and only through great existential suffering are they both able to make sense of their lives and become an individual.

Another brilliant existential move on Dostoevsky's part is that each main character (Fydor, Dmitri,Ivan, Alyosha) has a female existential double. They are as follows:

1. Fyodor/Madame Hohlakov
2. Dmitri/Grushenka
3. Ivan/Katerina Ivanova
4. Alyosha/Liza

There are oodles of quotes throughout the book that illuminate this idea. It is probably most notable in the relationship of Dmitri/Grushenka. But I assure you it is there for all the others as well.

Man, I can go on and on about the existential ideas and themes present in the book. But for now I will stop.

One impotant thing I would like to add has to do with the "Grand inquisitor"

Though it reads like a dream, I assure you it is not. It is a story Ivan tells to Alyosha while the are dining. The argument that the chapter presents is called an antinomy. The main thing to remeber when dealing with an antinomy is that it can only be solved by a third choice. Here is a quick break down of the inquisitor.

Jesus(Christian) represents the pure being and his teaching are largely right. He teaches that humans should be individuals and leave the sensual behind. This basically means to live an asetic life on nothing but roots and tubers found in the desert/ esentially every man should know his way without mediation. (an existentialized version of this is found in the character of Father Ferapont).

The Grand Inquisitor (Roman Catholic) The Inquisitor agrees with Jesus, but says that even though it is the right way, he can not expect people to be held to the rigourous life of ascetism. The Inquisitor himself is able to lead a life of indiviadual purity. He also knows that for the peasents this life is not possible because he believes people are weak and need leadership and food (the latter is important because it shows that Dostoevsky sees that Russia is moving towards communism). Basically the inquisitor tells Jesus that he(Jesus) is asking from everbody what only a handfull of rare asectic people can lead. This is the mistake the inquisitor condems upon Jesus. The Inquisitor's job and that of the Roman Catholic church is to change Jesus's Christianty to a religion that normal people can lead.

So, what is the third choice, the thing that will save them from the antinomy? It is positively the Russian Orthodox Church. Though it is vague here is the proof.

Alyosha- "But.... that's absurd!" he cried flushing. "Your poem is in praise of Jesus, not in blam of him-as you meant it to be. And who will believe you about freedom? Is that the way to understand it? That's not the idea of it in the Orthodox church...... That's Rome, and not even the whole of Rome, it's false-those are the worst of the Catholics, the inquisitors, the Jesuits!.....

There are plent more existential themes. if you are curious to learn more I can keep going. ;)

jon1jt
08-03-2006, 03:44 AM
One of the high points of the novel for me was the way each character tries to solve their existential problem of the self. In my opinion Dmitri can be directly compared to Camus's "THE STRANGER". One way in which they are similiar is that they are both sensualist. This is evident by Dmitri spending his money on girls, vodka, sweet meats, and chocolate (both before and after the death of Fyodor), This is directly compared to Meursault's foray with Marie. On the madonna side of the self both Dmitri and meursault beleive strongly in truth and justice, and only through great existential suffering are they both able to make sense of their lives and become an individual.

You presented many terrific ideas that I want to read your comments again. For now, let me focus on one aspect of your reflection which perhaps we can open up some. You said that Meursault believes strongly in "truth and justice." His neighbor is a seedy character who beats women, kicks his dog, and so on, and is the antithesis of truth and justice, no? When Marie tells Meursault that they should call the cops and report him for beating his girlfriend, Meursault answers, "I don't like cops." Much later in the book we're told he shoots the thug on the beach after the lyrical display of watching the sunlight bounce from the knife as it sweeps down on him. There is no justice in his consideration, just impulse. It's been a while since I've read that book, but I don't exactly recall Meursault appealing to justice in court either, he leaves it all up to his lawyer who doesn't care about him. Where is truth and justice in this book? Dmitri, on the other hand, is hedonistic, and/or reckless, however way you want to see him. But I don't see him as epitomizing justice or searching for truth in any significant way either. And what exactly is "the existential problem with the self?" You say "tries to solve" as if the self has a choice in the matter or handle on the "problem," when, in my mind, the solution emerges from the wellspring of existence itself. Look forward to your remarks and others. Thanks.

Kurtz
08-03-2006, 05:22 PM
You presented many terrific ideas that I want to read your comments again. For now, let me focus on one aspect of your reflection which perhaps we can open up some. You said that Meursault believes strongly in "truth and justice." His neighbor is a seedy character who beats women, kicks his dog, and so on, and is the antithesis of truth and justice, no? When Marie tells Meursault that they should call the cops and report him for beating his girlfriend, Meursault answers, "I don't like cops." Much later in the book we're told he shoots the thug on the beach after the lyrical display of watching the sunlight bounce from the knife as it sweeps down on him. There is no justice in his consideration, just impulse. It's been a while since I've read that book, but I don't exactly recall Meursault appealing to justice in court either, he leaves it all up to his lawyer who doesn't care about him. Where is truth and justice in this book? Dmitri, on the other hand, is hedonistic, and/or reckless, however way you want to see him. But I don't see him as epitomizing justice or searching for truth in any significant way either. And what exactly is "the existential problem with the self?" You say "tries to solve" as if the self has a choice in the matter or handle on the "problem," when, in my mind, the solution emerges from the wellspring of existence itself. Look forward to your remarks and others. Thanks.

Very good point. To many people it might seem that Meursault is an unapologetic, non-reflecting, sensual individual. While this is true for the first half of the book, I dont think it is the same for the second part. During the trial a public official makes a passing remark where he says that if Meursault repents and accepts christianity he will be saved. Despite this temptation, Meursault holds true to his beliefs: instead of taking the seemingly easier (false truth ) and more rewarding path (to some people). Furthermore, he also feels that he should be punished for his actions, and refuses to try and escape, or avoid justice. I think that this once again proves that Meursault possesses the existential problem of the self just like Dmitri. Meursault is also a base and non-reflective individual in the first part of the book. When we get to the second half we seemingly find a very different Meursault. He becomes reflective, and it is only through this reflection that he can supress his sensual side and solve his problem of the self. Another point about truth is that before the trial he questions the need for a lawyer claiming that "the truth should speak for itself".

What is the existential problem of the self? Wow, this is a complicated question to answer. In my previous post I highlighted the different types of self and the female existential doubles and their correlative division of the self. within these divisons of the self, there are several existential choices that can seemingly solve the problem of the self. The most important way is a more Kierkegaardian method. The negative relation of a self relating to itself is extremely important. The way in which the self is defined only by repressing the other half of the self is the negative relation (this is not the self). If the relation relates to its whole self (instead of just supressing half) this is the positive relation (spirit/passion) and in this positive relation the true self is found. This is why it is important for a character to relate to both sides of the self instead of just repressing the negative and/or positive side. This is the reason why Father Zossima bows down to Dmitri during the discussion. Zossima sees that Dmitri will suffer and even more so will suffer in the right way (relating to both sodom/madonna, Insect/Angel etc..). This is even more obvious when we look at Ivan's self. Ivan is clearly in despair from trying to supress one side and/or merge the sides. In this way he is not relating to his whole self (like Dmitri, Grushenka, Meursault). He is trying to cleans his self and he realizes that it is impossible to get both sides of the self togethor and sinks into despair (remeber what happens to him at the end)

Another way to solve the problem of the self is to have an unconditional commitment. This is the way in which the self relates itself to itself by virtue of another (does not have to be a person). Several examples that promote this idea are Dante and Beatrice, Kierkegarrd and Regina, Martin Luther King Jr and civil rights, etc.... An unconditinal commitment gives the Individual an identity and it is through this identity that the problem of the self is solved. An unconditional commitment is also what seperates the Individual from the lower immediecy (moods, urges, feelings, base emotions) and is the starting point for Knights of Faith anf Knights of infinite resignation. This character in the "Brothers Karamazov" is Alyosha. He has an unconditional comitment to zossima and even forgets Dmitirs problems when Zossima dies. It is also important to notice that upon Zossimas death, Rakitian (who is an existentialized devil) tempts Alyosha with sausage, Vodka, and Grushenka (also remeber the tempation of Christ in the "Grand Inquisitor"). This is also one way to see the divided self within Alyosha. If you remeber he accepts all three temptations and it is only by relating to his whole self (light/dark) is he able to perform a miracle and relate his self to his whole self by his unconditional commitment.

jon1jt
08-03-2006, 05:52 PM
Very good point. To many people it might seem that Meursault is an unapologetic, non-reflecting, sensual individual. While this is true for the first half of the book, I dont think it is the same for the second part. During the trial a public official makes a passing remark where he says that if Meursault repents and accepts christianity he will be saved. Despite this temptation, Meursault holds true to his beliefs: instead of taking the seemingly easier (false truth ) and more rewarding path (to some people). Furthermore, he also feels that he should be punished for his actions, and refuses to try and escape, or avoid justice. I think that this once again proves that Meursault possesses the existential problem of the self just like Dmitri. Meursault is also a base and non-reflective individual in the first part of the book. When we get to the second half we seemingly find a very different Meursault. He becomes reflective, and it is only through this reflection that he can supress his sensual side and solve his problem of the self. Another point about truth is that before the trial he questions the need for a lawyer claiming that "the truth should speak for itself".


So many interesting points Kurtz I don't know where to begin! Before I forget, one that leaps out at me is your claim that Meursault has "beliefs" which intimates he is guided by some inner moral compass in his "refusing to try and escape or avoid justice." He is no Socrates. He is an individual stripped of moral and ethical compunction. Or more simply, he lacks a conscience. While I don't see him as detached, aloof, ambivalent, I see him as a spectator, but not necessarily actively calculating or engaged in the world. He's on the periphery. I see your point about the second part of the book, which is his journey toward the interior. This is deliberate of Camus, who, in my mind, wants us to see how "codes" shake the foundations of the self thereby making Mersault "human." It's a lengthy process. First he needs to be wrested from the doldrums of his true nature and the trial places him front and center. As far as his claim to the lawyer that "the truth should speak for itself," I see this statement in the sense of a Platonic form, something outside human reason and unattainable, and equally dissatisfying as getting to Kant's "thing in itself"? Besides, just because the truth should speak for itself doesn't mean it will, ever. Who said it must or will ever be spoken from the mind of a human being? There is no truth, just perspectives of truth. I hate to take credit for that line, I think that was Nietzsche. :D Interesting stuff, this Camus gives us, huh?

Kurtz
08-03-2006, 11:41 PM
So many interesting points Kurtz I don't know where to begin! Before I forget, one that leaps out at me is your claim that Meursault has "beliefs" which intimates he is guided by some inner moral compass in his "refusing to try and escape or avoid justice." He is no Socrates. He is an individual stripped of moral and ethical compunction. Or more simply, he lacks a conscience. While I don't see him as detached, aloof, ambivalent, I see him as a spectator, but not necessarily actively calculating or engaged in the world. He's on the periphery. I see your point about the second part of the book, which is his journey toward the interior. This is deliberate of Camus, who, in my mind, wants us to see how "codes" shake the foundations of the self thereby making Mersault "human." It's a lengthy process. First he needs to be wrested from the doldrums of his true nature and the trial places him front and center. As far as his claim to the lawyer that "the truth should speak for itself," I see this statement in the sense of a Platonic form, something outside human reason and unattainable, and equally dissatisfying as getting to Kant's "thing in itself"? Besides, just because the truth should speak for itself doesn't mean it will, ever. Who said it must or will ever be spoken from the mind of a human being? There is no truth, just perspectives of truth. I hate to take credit for that line, I think that was Nietzsche. :D Interesting stuff, this Camus gives us, huh?
I think you have a very good hold on your knowledge of Camus. I must say that out of the existentialist writers he is the one I have studied the least. And in so many words, I think that it is a person like Mersault that the existentialist are trying to correct. I guess the best way to shed more light on our conversation and more importantly the original question of the thread, (which I think our conversation has led us back to in a certain way). Is by looking closely at the main existentialist writers (Pascal, Sartre,Dostoevsky,Kierkegaard, Heidegger, and Nietzsche) and what they have in common (which I think is a good definition of existentialism).

1. All of the above mentioned agree that there is no human nature. This was originally stated by Pascal ("Custom is our nature"). And more importantly by Nietzsche when he called humans the "undetermined animals with no fixed horizons". This point is important to all existentialist because it means that human nature can change and in doing this the world can rapidly change (this might seem a contradiction, but what it means by that there is no human nature is that it is very capricious and is never constant or more importantly universal). It states that history is more important than having a fixed eternity outside of time, and in saying this it also means that an Individual should try to get heaven on earth in the here and now.

2. The Ethical side of the existentialist states that the individual is higher than the universal. This idea is extremely evident and important within Kierkegaard’s “Fear and Trembling”. It is precisely this idea that allows an Individual to become a Knight of Faith (this is a person with an unconditional commitment which is rooted in the temporal, and it is something that can be taken away at any moment, this is what makes a Knight of Faith what he is and separates him from the knight of infinite resignation, To quote Kierkegaard “Only the one who draws the knife gets Isaac.) You must remember that in Kierkegaard terms if a person does not have an unconditional commitment he is stuck in lower immediacy (this is where I think Meursault would fall). Therefore his attempts to define himself and become an Individual are rooted in the absurd in an almost nihilistic way. The important thing to remember is that even though he is reflective and almost it seems peacefull at the end; it is a bad idea in both Kierkegaard and Nietzsche (we all know how Nietzsche saw the idea of peace and acceptance).

Also the quote by Nietzsche you added in your last post is absolutely correct. This is exactly what makes me think that Meursault found truth (remember the individual is higher than the ethical, therefore there is by default no concrete thing such as a universal truth). In saying this, I have always thought in existential terms when I read “The Stranger”. I think by embracing the existential thought that “truth is subjectivity” is the one way in which I can see that Meurault does indeed have the divided parts of the self and therefore is subject to an existential dissection similar to that of Dmitri in the “Brothers Karamazov” (Keep in mind that though I am comparing Dmitri and meursault, I do believe that Dmitri, aided by his indulgence with both sides of the self, was able to realize his positive self only when he separated the two parts and went down into despair.

Upon this test with his self he was able to derive meaning from this world in the form of his unconditional commitment, Grushenka. The latter I feel is the way in which Meaursault was not able to accomplish. This is the reason why I think he is stuck in lower immediacy, and in large part is the only reason he is not on the same level as Dmitri.

3. Another belief that the existentialist share is that the involved point of view reveals reality and is more basic than what you get from detached theory and reason (once again “Truth is subjectivity)

4. And finally, All Believe that a supernatural, supreme being is no longer alive (God is Dead) or necessary, but it opens up other possibilities of understanding the divine and the sacred. They all have their separe views on this idea.

jon1jt
08-08-2006, 07:24 AM
[QUOTE=Kurtz]I think you have a very good hold on your knowledge of Camus. I must say that out of the existentialist writers he is the one I have studied the least. And in so many words, I think that it is a person like Mersault that the existentialist are trying to correct. I guess the best way to shed more light on our conversation and more importantly the original question of the thread, (which I think our conversation has led us back to in a certain way). Is by looking closely at the main existentialist writers (Pascal, Sartre,Dostoevsky, Kierkegaard, Heidegger, and Nietzsche) and what they have in common (which I think is a good definition of existentialism).


Something looks wrong about stringing those philosophers neatly under the heading, 'main existentialist writers,' even though their views are ultimately about being. I've tried to pair them up above so they are more closely associated with each philosopher's "project." But perhaps someone would like to respond whether this move or categorizing generally accurately depicts the philosophy of philosopher. I tend to judge the merit of each "philosopher" with the degree to which they "live" their own philosophy, even though this is unrealistic. There may have been only one philosopher who accomplished such feat, dear Saint Socrates. And so when I read Kierkegaard, I see a man in a wheelchair, a recluse---no friends, bitter, dejected, guilty, and leading an unhappy, unfulfilled life. (He was at one time engaged to be married, but I think he called it off) He spent his whole life in Copenhagen bothered by modernity and spent countless hours at his desk writing how Christians weren't "Christians" and maligning the bourgeois for their haughty ways. But he was as haughty intellectually, by fashioning an "absurd" rationale for the invocation of "faith." What is so seductive about Kierkegaard is how he condemns the notion of "Christendom" and upholds the paradox of Christianity to make his case. Doctrine matters only insofar as one has faith, but 'real faith' extends beyond just saying, "I believe, praise god!" Kierkegaard is more resolute, more heartfelt, more preacher than philosopher. One has to be a Christian, and that is, ultimately, an individual undertaking. Luther-esque, eh?

As to Saint Nietzsche, his notion of the self stands is in stark contrast to Camus's and Sartre's version. Sartre uses a nice metaphor in Nausea where Roquentin, the main character, is sitting on a park bench and feels the tree branches slither their way into him, the idea being that existence is a burden. We carry this infectious weight through life. But Mersault and Roquentin are "free." Mersault becomes free in jail, ironically, because the world has done it's work on him. Roquentin too is free in the deepest sense and makes choices, however misguided. In the end, existentialism is about the choices we make and the freedom we have to make them. I think Sartre's Roquentin picks up where Camus's Mersault leaves off. The former feels the burden of existence. Being stuck in a human body repulses Sartre. Yet our consciousness is condemned to it. Camus is more concerned about the pre-reflective self "coming into" being, which leads me to Heidegger.

Heidegger is an entity unto himself. The gods have retreated, which has played out in the historical unfolding---the Age of Reason put the gods on notice and the masters of suspicion officially buried them (a good thing) Heidegger sees the self as being unleashed from it's own self-imprisonment (i.e. thrown into a world) as part of this collective purgation. Heidegger would reject the term, "'states' of being" because of our very thrownness in that we live in a world, we "use" a world, the world is part of us (Dasein) and we are part of it. Here's the fusion, the philosophical turn that is set forth in the greatest book of the 20th Century, Being and Time. He smashes Descartes (and Kant's Critique) notion of Cogito Ergo Sum, that there never was nor can there ever be a subject-object existing 'in' a world. We are Being (self/world) and being (everyday self, tables & chairs) and if you read his "Contributions: From Enowning," we are 'Be-ing', swaying over an abyss - the whence and that to which we return - to hear the echo of the infinite. There is potential transcendence, a divine life, in the mystic rhythms in life that grab us momentarily. The life divine is right here, right now, he concludes. But this is getting off topic, so...

Sorry, I'm tired, that's all I can offer for now. I'm not avoiding Dostoevsky, he's interesting as heck too and you raise some thought-provoking points about Brothers Karamozov, Kurtz.

Kurtz
08-08-2006, 08:13 PM
“I tend to judge the merit of each "philosopher" with the degree to which they "live" their own philosophy, even though this is unrealistic.”




I think your above statement is correct. I also think that it is another way in which the “main” existential writers would agree. Also, keep in mind that by lumping the previous thinkers together I am not saying that they would agree on anything or even consider themselves existentialist ( except Kierkegaard ). With this said. I think that it is important to notice the way in which the above are all connected in terms of literature. I think the main point I was making was that despite their furious differences, they are all connected by the fact that they are each to themselves a way in which many people think they are towards each other. So I think you are right, but for different existential reasons.




However, I think that your presupposition about Kierkegaard is a little off. If any philosopher can be said to live closely in his own philosophy, that person is Kierkegaard. A key factor that should be considered when reading Kierkegaard is that he always writes under various Pseudonymous. This gives Kierkegaard important “literary” leverage when he describes important factors in his philosophy; And unfortunately leads to false conclusion about his personal philosophy. One example of this technique can be seen in what I think is his most important work “Fear and Trembling”. Within the text the pseudonym assumes the role of a “Knight of Resignation”. This move allows Kierkegaard to express his view on himself as a Knight of Faith. In short, I think that when reading Kierkegaard it is important too discern the difference between Kierkegaard's true beliefs and those beliefs that he is merely using to represent the existential situation he is reconciling. And if if you know “Fear and Trembling” it is clear that writing this book from the point of view of a “Knight of Faith” would be impossible. A very important point in your last post was Kierkegaard's engagement to Regina. This is essential in understanding the content of his whole life. In Kierkegaard jargon his leaving Regina is his movement to the “Knight of Faith” and in doing this he believes that by teleological suspension of the ethical he will get her back (this is documented in full in the 3 problems in “Fear and Trembling”). I also think that his Christianity is almost always misunderstood. Kierkegaard strongly disbelieved in an all knowing, unmoved mover, type being. Kierkegaard like Nietzsche and Dostoevsky, believed that humans should find god in this world and that to hold out for a “afterlife” was a sure path to nihilistic thought (this idea is constantly discussed in all of Nietzsche and especially Dostoevsky's “The Possessed and “The Brothers Karamazov”). The attack on Christianity is almost as harsh in Kierkegaard as it is in Nietzsche. So in short, I think Kierkegaard is closer to Nietzsche than he is Luther.

Cunninglinguist
05-24-2010, 02:27 AM
To get back to the original question posted:

It is clear that every effect has its cause, but let me make clear that not every cause has its effect. What was the cause of all the arbitrary laws who intrinsically exist that govern the nature of cause and effect? Why is the universe constructed in 3 spatial dimensions instead of 4, 5 or 6 etc.? Why does time travel forward instead of back? Why is the experience of blue not green, green not red, and red not blue? If there are an infinite amount of things I could be experiencing in this moment, what has chosen my reality? Etc. etc. And if you answer all those: whence does existence itself, the cause of everything, come from: God? But then, I ask, what was the cause of God? I beg the question what chose these intrinsic things?

It is these unanswerable questions that led men to view life as absurd. Existence itself is determined by contingency. And I am very much an absurdist in this sense.

Existentialism, from my understanding, is a very vague belief system. It generally dealt with finding meaning in a rather absurd and seemingly meaningless existence despite many “existential obstacles” including depression, angst, absurdity, boredom, and some others. I happen to believe, however, (and I have a good deal of reasoning to back it up) that evolution has naturally designed us with purpose(s): survival, procreation, happiness, immortality, seeking the Good (as Plato put it), Will to life (Nietzsche), will to power (some Taoists) though there is not a word or a term to wholly sum up the general purpose of life.

So existentialism is a kind of absurdism, or absurdism is a kind of existentialism, but seeks to deal with the question of meaning in life, and absurdism sort-of does not. :piggy:

Dodo25
05-24-2010, 09:52 AM
To get back to the original question posted:

It is clear that every effect has its cause, but let me make clear that not every cause has its effect. What was the cause of all the arbitrary laws who intrinsically exist that govern the nature of cause and effect? Why is the universe constructed in 3 spatial dimensions instead of 4, 5 or 6 etc.? Why does time travel forward instead of back? Why is the experience of blue not green, green not red, and red not blue? If there are an infinite amount of things I could be experiencing in this moment, what has chosen my reality? Etc. etc. And if you answer all those: whence does existence itself, the cause of everything, come from: God? But then, I ask, what was the cause of God? I beg the question what chose these intrinsic things?


A lot of these questions actually do have answers, or attempts thereof. As for ultimate laws of physics, there is a concept called the anthrophic principle. It seems likely that there are billions of universes, with varying 'fundamental' constants. We would just happen to be in a universe that allows intelligent life, obviously.

Why does time travel forward instead of backwards? Entropy. Physicists treat spacetime as one thing that exists independent of any particular 'moment'. Only to us it seems as if time was really moving, because entropy (2nd law of thermodynamics) points the direction, and living things work against that in order to survive.

Why is the experience of blue not green? There is no such thing as 'green'. It only feels like it to you. If scientists switched (blue instead of green say) the 'wires' that respond to certain wavelengths from your eyes to the brain, and also switched the associations you have made with that 'color', you wouldn't notice the difference in the sensation produced in your consciousness, because everything would remain the same as it was before. This is very complicated and I suck at explaining, I recommend 'Consciousness Explained' by Dennett.

"If there are an infinite amount of things I could be experiencing in this moment, what has chosen my reality?"

Good question. I have no idea.

freudianslip
05-26-2010, 11:32 PM
Good books on the topic:

Sartre's Existentialism is a Humanism. This is a short but fascinating read in which Sartre defends existentialism.

Introduction to Existentialism by Robert Olson. It's about as close to a synthesis of existential thought as we're ever going to get.

NikolaiI
05-27-2010, 02:53 AM
What is the main difference between Absurdism and Existentialism?

I was reading about Camus, and he maintained himself that he was not an existentialist as his friend/rival Sartre was. However, to me, they seem quite similar. Both philosophies seem to say "life is what it is and nothing more than it seems".

Anyone care to clarify for me?

Yeah. Absurdism is something like that. However I never could take it up whole-heartedly because it announces a failure in oneself.

If all of my family died in a plane crash in New York while eating apples, I would become an absurdist. However, about the philosophy: for me, what is true is also what is good, what is right both theoretically and practically. Absurdism doesn't reach the final conclusion - there never is a final conclusion.

Or if there is, it is something like oneness. But it's always a cycle; and so absurdism is not the finality for it all.

Existentialism is nowhere near as simple as your sentence. Existentialism begins with an individual's budding awareness of his distance from others. Existentialism contains within it creation - on its path it's almost necessary to create one's own system of thought. And the better working model comes from those most successful existentialists.

This is a bit over-simplified and it's crude - however, it's accurate to say that existentialism is definitely an individual's journey... And in its beginning it is certainly related to Absurdism. There is an absurdity and isolation which the existentialist experiences. He goes into self-reflection and questions every line of thinking. Ultimately any existentialist to be worthy of my reading must have a good sense of life, of people, of nature: they must give me something valuable, they must know there is real beauty in life, and not just absurdity. They must come to the conclusion that to affirm life is a virtue; to live a strong life is a virtue. Why? Simply because I won't waste my time with others. Because I have been captured and held by the spiritual and poetic visions of Emerson and Whitman, Dickinson, and countless others.

Views and mindsets in which I've seen sparseness of spirit and love; those I discard. My standards for reading others' writings include the necessity of seeing beauty and believing in good and bad; and to know that life-affirmation and strength are two of the best virtues - because I think those conclusions are best. I know, not think, that my own truth in life isn't based in words or thinking. There is a part of us which is more essential which comes before the thinking... Feeling is part of that part of our being. One cannot reach life's heights without plunging into the world of love: to fill one's soul with love, by reaching perfection in relationships of love all around one. One cannot reach the soul's heights without a lot of faith in oneself. Swami Vivekananda writes in a treatise on Raja-Yoga;

"Throw away all weakness. Tell your body that it is strong, tell your mind that it is strong, and have unbounded faith and hope in yourself." the same kind of thinking I found in Emerson and Whitman who were poets and Transcendentalists, not Existentialists; yet they are related and overlap. Nietzsche himself requested a friend (who could and did) translate for him every essay Emerson wrote, so he could read it as soon as possible, because he so greatly admired Emerson.

The simplicity of such statements as "Don't worry, Be happy," the philosophy, and the happiness in which its adherents live, that calls to me more than any dead-end philosophy. The childlike truth and wisdom of the idea of simply "Tell the body and mind they are strong, and begin," calls out to me in a similar way.

(The above quote; http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Complete_Works_of_Swami_Vivekananda/Volume_1/Raja-Yoga/The_First_Steps)