Absurdity vs. Ambiguity
When thinking about the future, I cannot help but be aware of the fact that I will be entering into a completely foreign lifestyle to what I have become accustom to. I am not afraid of this new life, however I am curious as to where my path will bring me, and what new routines and habits I will adopt. After reading Camus’, The Myth of Sisyphus, and Beauvoir’s, Personal Freedom and Others, it is clear that the two philosophers have very different opinions of this impending future that I am facing. Camus’ philosophy of the absurd and Beauvoir’s philosophy of ambiguity have many comparing and contrasting qualities; however I personally believe that I will find happiness in the absurdity of my situation just as Sisyphus did.
In the Myth of Sisyphus, Camus distinguishes between an absurd sensitivity that can be found throughout time, and an absurd philosophy that the people of this time have never truly known. He states that one thing that can be distinguished from the beginning is whether one takes the absurd as a starting point, or whether you reach it as a conclusion down the road. Both of these ultimately show an exercise of reason that is really just trying to make sense of things in one’s life. In life, I will find myself beginning from determinant situations, and as Camus states, if I am every going to be able to follow through with things, then I am going to have to deal with problems, and figure out what to do in the “face of the absurd”.
When looking at the absurd it is important to note whether we are talking about the experience or feeling of it, or the concept of the absurd as a whole. So what is the feeling of absurdity? Camus said that the feeling of absurdity cannot be contained, predicted, or produced. No man could induce the feeling of absurdity on me, yet “At any street corner, the feeling of absurdity can strike any man in the face as it is in its distressing nudity and its light without effulgence.”(447, Camus, BWE) This is a little concerning to me due to the unexpectedness of the absurd, and how it presents itself in many different domains. The absurd plays itself out in day to day life, intelligence, the art of living, and both the production and consumption of artwork. Simply put, it is inescapable.
Camus presents The Myth of Sisyphus as a great example of this absurdity and the ability to find happiness within an absurd world. I truly believe that everyone in the world is pursuing happiness, and this myth shows how the acceptance of one’s life, routine, and habits can lead to it. In the myth, Sisyphus has found himself on the bad side of the Greek gods, and he is condemned to push a boulder to the top of a mountain, only to see it roll down the other side. Sisyphus must continue to do this task for all of eternity. This could cause agony and depression, but Camus views this character as a Hero. In Camus’ eyes, Sisyphus had passion for life and he hated death, whilst his entire life and being is exerted towards accomplishing nothing. “Sisyphus is superior to his fate, he is stronger than his rock. If this myth is tragic it’s because the hero is conscious. Where would his torture be if at every step the hope of succeeding upheld him.”(491, Camus, BWE) This consciousness is the only thing that makes this myth a tragic one, Sisyphus is locked in the absurd for eternity, and he is conscious of this the entire time. Just like Sisyphus, I will eventually find myself in a day to day grind in which I have my own boulders. In order to be superior to this fate, I must be stronger than them. As long as I accept that there is nothing more to life than this absurd struggle, then I will be able to find happiness in it.
In Beauvoir’s chapter on Ambiguity, she highlights the difference between ambiguity and absurdity, stating that if existence is absurd then it cannot be given a meaning. She goes on to state that if it