Reacting to the "Absurd" and Thoughts on Meaning

Why consider this?

These are rough thoughts, a working out of my position and why I believe what I believe. I am just a part-time wikipedia philosopher (though I would like to dedicate more time to studying this seriously) and there may be flaws in how I’m approaching this problem. However, I intent to continue updating this post over time as I continue to learn. I am a Christian, and the position I hold and my individual answer to the ‘Absurd’ reflects this.

Like Albert Camus, I believe that the ultimate question that every person needs to be answer for themself is ‘judging whether life is or is not worth living’. The Wikipedia article on Absurdism has an interesting table that compares various reactions to the question of the Absurd (defined as “the fundamental disharmony between the individual’s search for meaning and the meaninglessness of the universe”). It is easy to be carried away by the busy-ness of modern life and ignore this question, because it makes us uncomfortable - but every individual must face up to it and answer it for themselves if they intend to live life intentionally.

If one assumes that no objective meaning (or inherent meaning in the universe) exists, then for an individual, death can be considered equivalent to the end of the universe. This is because in such a situation, the only reality an individual knows is his or her own, and the only possible meaning he/she can ascribe is completely subjective - which ceases to exist at their death. Death is the same as the extinguishing of the universe.

Reacting to the ‘Absurd’

Let’s consider the four reactions to the ‘Absurd’ that the wikipedia entry lays out, and we’ll work through them in reverse order.

Nihilism

In the absence of objective meaning or value, I believe Nihilism is a completely logical (and only) position to take. However, the working out of Nihilism results in the conclusion that death (and the permanent end to individual suffering) is far more preferable to the continuation of the individual’s life in the hope of ephemeral pleasure or transient individual meaning. The smallest amount of suffering far outweights the largest pleasure - since the suffering has no ultimate meaning and is pointless.

Absurdism

This position seems logical, and it appears to accept the lack of objective meaning. But I disagree with the idea that there is purpose in the continuation of an individual’s life. There is no point in finding joy and meaning in one’s own life, if that implies meaningless suffering and the extinguishing of all purpose and meaning at death. One might as well, avoid the hassle and resolve everything with death immediately.

Atheistic Existentialism

This position makes no sense to me. The pursuit of meaning cannot have meaning in itself. Death resolves everything, any meaning derived this way is degated at death. If no objective meaning exists, then the death of an individual is the same as the end of the universe - which makes all grand humanist schemes meaningless. If one were to derive their life’s meaning from contributing to the prosperity of the human race, the end of the universe makes this pointless (and the death of an individual is equivalent to the end of the universe for that individual).

Monotheistic Existentialism

In my opinion, this is the only logical position to take that makes life worth living. This is really a rejection of the ‘Absurd’. There is no absurd, because there is objective meaning inherent meaning in the universe. There is meaning beyond an individual’s life, and there does exist a “grand scheme of things” that individual’s can impact.

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