Criticism of the absurdism of Albert Camus

One fact is that every human being eventually dies. Can we then draw the conclusion that life has no meaning? According to Albert Camus (1913–1960), this is indeed the case.

Camus is the founder of the philosophical movement absurdism. He says that the world and our lives in it have no meaning. There is no reason why we exist and why things happen the way they do. Our life has no higher purpose and this life is also the only life we have. So he did not believe the existence of a God and a heaven.

Yet man tries to add meaning to the world. Man tries to invent a reason for our existence. In doing so, man tries to explain the world and give an explanation for why things happen the way they do. The latter is called rationalizing; trying to explain something by thinking. For Camus, this is a hopeless task; after all, life has no meaning and there is no explanation for the world around us. Camus calls it absurd for people to rationalize and give meaning to an inexplicable world and meaningless life. Hence, Camus is the philosopher of absurdism.

Camus compares life to the myth of Sisyphus. Sisyphus had a quarrel with the Gods and as punishment had to roll a large round stone up a mountain. As soon as the stone rolled up the mountain, it rolled back down again. All his life, Sisyphus had to work this stone back up. Camus argues that man, like Sisyphus, is constantly busy giving meaning to something that is meaningless; life.

Yet Camus is not pessimistic; he does not have a negative view of life. Life is worth living, though. Even though life is meaningless, we can be happy. To be happy we have to accept that life is meaningless and the world is inexplicable. We have to stop rationalizing and making sense of things, that is, stop explaining what cannot be explained. Once we can get our happiness from the mundane, we can be happy.

We can experience happiness by being with friends, enjoying a picnic, reading a good book, and playing your favorite sport. The happiness experience is in the everyday little things.

Thus, despite the fact that life is meaningless and it is absurd to seek meaning anyway, for Camus it is possible to be happy. Accept that life is meaningless and get happiness from the mundane.

This is the conclusion Albert Camus came to but from my point of view this way of looking at things is somewhat wrong. Wrong because it somehow gives value to worldly things when there really is no value in it, wrong because it gives an optimistic touch to see sisyphus happy when he is in a constant and horrendous suffering and the moments of happiness are few and ephemeral.

Albert Camus’ philosophy of the absurd would only make sense if we did not have the curse of conscience, that is to say, it could be applied to animals but not to humans. The constant torment and suffering generated by the curse of consciousness only makes us find relief in emptiness.