Existentialism discussion

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absurdism and existentialism

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message 1: by Nick (new)

Nick | 3 comments I've read a lot of Camus' novels and was constantly aware that he rejected the label for existentialism for absurdism, though I'm not sure I get the difference.

When I compare Roquentin from Satre's Nausea with Meursault from Camus' The Stranger, I see two characters living in a world with no meaning or significance and both must learn to create their own meaning or essence to things to be happy.

Perhaps I have not quite understood the philosophy of The Stranger completely, as he does not reach the same solid conclusion as Satre does.


Rob the Obscure Nickdonaldson,

I think you put your finger on the difference between Sartre and Camus with this observation. I think the absurdity of human existence is related to alienation, and existentialism points out that this leads to a realization of complete freedom, and thereby responsibility with that freedom to live true to its implications. I've always understood that as the "existential condition", and radical honesty is the source of the meaning that can come from that realization.

Of course, existentialism is like any other school of philosophical thought...although there is a common foundation, it takes on very different flavors depending on the particular writer.

For me, at least, the idea was not to create one's own essence, but to realize that the existential reality, and the dread it produces, IS that essence. In other words, existence precedes essence.

That's my take on it anyway. I'm sure others, more thoroughly schooled, can add lots to that.


message 3: by Nick (new)

Nick | 3 comments Robert wrote: "Nickdonaldson,

I think you put your finger on the difference between Sartre and Camus with this observation. I think the absurdity of human existence is related to alienation, and existentialis..."


just so i'm clear, it's absurdism which is about "existence precedes essence" or is it existentialism, because then i'm still confused


Rob the Obscure Existentialism, as I understand it, is founded on the idea that "existence" precedes "essence". In other words, the cold reality of our absurd existence is accepted, even embraced, along with the alienation from ourselves, and the inner angst that produces (a sense of "dread"). When one accepts this fully, and then mushes on with complete responsibility for his/her own radical freedom, one ironically eaks out a meaningful existence from the meaningless.


message 5: by Nick (new)

Nick | 3 comments so accepting the meaningless of life, the existentialist conceives a meaning, while the absurdist goes further. i think i get it now. thank you very much!


Rob the Obscure Nickdonaldson...

Well, kinda. What I would say is that the existentialist is responsible, in complete and utter freedom, for creating whatever meaning he/she experiences. There is no "essential" meaning outside of existence itself, and the experience of the human condition.

The Nihilist might respond, "well...good luck, buddy. You're headed down a dead end path. Accept it for what it is...nothing. Meaningless. Absurd. Nauseating."


message 7: by J (new)

J | 12 comments It's all really philosophical pessimism in the end, with different ways of dealing with what that means.


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