Existentialism and Absurdism in Albert Camus' Works

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Existentialism and Absurdism in Albert Camus' Works

By Adam Baum

The domain of philosophically-inclined literature saw with it the development of an idea of broad-spanned and rather decrepit status. This was existentialism, dating back in origin far before it had been brought to light successfully in modern literature. Following increasing familiarity, and due to the French existentialist movement in which Camus was greatly involved, a new theory was born of existentialism, which surprisingly contradicted it quite vibrantly.

The emergence of absurdism was much thanks to Albert Camus, who promoted the consideration of this philosophy through most of his works. Three of Camus' works titled The Stranger, The Myth of Sisyphus, and The Plague are outstanding in that they allow for an interpretation of the means by which Albert Camus once existentially-inclined perspective shifted to annex out into absurdism.

In The Stranger, we are introduced to a character that seems to live a life that seems absurd in his disregard of emotion and meaning, yet in the end he ceases to think this way entirely and believes he has found hope through the discovery of his own fabricated meaning. This is more suggestive of existentialism than absurdism, and indicates how absurdism was not a prevailing idea in Camus' works at that time. The Stranger is followed by The Myth of Sisyphus, an essay in which the baseline values of absurdism are explored to a full extent yet from a more objective manner. Camus publishes his second novel titled The Plague, in which absurdism is explored to as great an extent as in The Myth of Sisyphus, but from a more subjective manner. This indicates how absurdism has evolved in Camus' works from a theory not developed unless alongside existentialism, to a theory which must be explained directly, and finally to one which can be developed indirectly as an individual idea.

Has man ever evolved significantly in his thought regarding his own existence and the futility of his own meaning simply by discussing it, reflecting on it, and advocating rather artificial means of coming to terms with such a problem? While this evolution of thought may not be apparent in the reasoning of the average individual, these three works by Camus exemplify this evolution specifically. The evolution from existentialism to absurdism doesn't only bear with it the realization that life is futile and lacking meaning. Instead, it also bears a very real conclusive solution to cope with this futility.

This solution is as simple as it is practical, as we are called more to accept the lack of meaning we are cursed with rather than attempting to find unresolved meaning in a futile conquest for nonexistent meaning. It is through this unquestionable acceptance that we can go on living our lives regardless of the unsolvable questions which arise along the way, as the vast majority of these questions can be avoided or deprived of significance by simply accepting the absurd in life and disregarding anything which would prove otherwise.

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