The Absurd

Camus identifies the absurd in the confrontation between our desire for clarity and our understanding of the world’s irrationality. Neither the world nor the human mind is in itself absurd. Rather, absurdity finds itself in the confrontation between the two. 

The Feeling of Absurdity

For Camus, the “the feeling of absurdity” arises when we cease to see ourselves as free agents and come to see ourselves almost as machine-like drones. From this perspective, all our actions, desires, and reasons seem absurd and pointless. The feeling of absurdity is closely linked to the feeling that life is meaningless. Camus often refers metaphorically to the feeling of absurdity as a place of exile. 


One of the two main ways Camus suggests of escaping the feeling of absurdity. Suicide in this case concludes that if life is meaningless then it is not worth living. Also see hope.


The second alternative of escaping the feeling of absurdity. Hope denies that life is meaningless by means of blind faith. Also see suicide.

Nostalgia for Unity

An ardent desire to make sense of the universe, to reduce it to a unified, comprehensible whole. 


The idea that human reason can make sense of the world it inhabits. A rationalist philosopher hopes to construct some sort of system according to which all experience can be explained. A rationalist wants the world to make sense, for things to be clear. Rationalism is based on the not unreasonable hope that we can give reasons for why things are the way they are. 


The philosophical movement associated with Camus, Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Martin Heidegger, among other mid-20th-century intellectuals. Existentialism is a form of radical atheism concerned with the paradoxical nature of the human condition and the problems of living in the world. In the absence of an unfathomable higher power or absolute knowledge of right versus wrong, the individual must assume responsibility for his own acts. 

Idea of Freedom

The idea that we are free to make our own decisions and to define ourselves by our actions. With this idea of freedom comes the idea that we can give our lives direction, and then aim toward certain goals. In doing so, however, we confine ourselves to live toward certain goals—to playing out a certain role. This idea of freedom is a metaphysical one: it claims that the universe and human nature are such that we can choose our own course.

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