The first post on this topic can be found here.
After writing an extensive post on what I’d read so far in Camus, I deleted it. It sounded too much like a book report, simple regurgitation of what I’d found in the book. No need for me to do that here. I’m sure the cliff notes can be found over at Wikipedia (ed. They sure can.) Bette yet, head to your local library and check the book out, the essay is only a 120 odd pages long and well worth the effort of reading through Camus’ obstructionist style.
No, instead I rather just comment on what I’m reading and on my thoughts and reactions to them. In the original post I wanted to compare my current thoughts on the topic to the ones I had when I first read the book, it turns out though that my annotations to the work ended just a couple of pages in to it. I’m forced to use the most fickle and unreliable of sources, my own memory.
I remember Camus being difficult to read, at the time I merely assumed I was a poor reader. I do not think this is the case any longer. Instead Camus either has very poor translators, his work is not easily translatable, or, and I suspect this is the case, Camus’ style is intentional obscure and brief. There are numerous times where Camus comes off vague or assumes we’ve already connected points A,B, and C to Z, without him having to bother to go through the remaining 22 points of his logic. Existentialism already gets a bad rap, largely undeserved, and making your writing and argument difficult to follow will only further turn people away from a philosophy that has a lot of good in it.
Another point which I misunderstood in my original reading, and maintained in ignorance until now, was what Camus means when he talks about the absurd. My original thought was that the universe we live in and man’s place in it was so absurd, so ridiculous, that the only way to deal with it was to admit that existence had no inherent meaning. This is not what Camus is saying, instead Camus is saying that both nature and Man’s desires is what makes the universe we live in absurd. Nature is a stranger to us, it is what it is and stripped of romanticism or anthropomorphism is quite alien to humanity. This fact, coupled with Man’s own desire to have life make sense, to understand it is what creates the Absurd. “The impossibility of reducing this world to a rational and reasonable principle” coupled with Humanity’s “appetite for the absolute and for unity” is the problem, the absurd is a construct of how we as humans interact with our surroundings. This makes more sense to me now, and while digesting it I found myself in more agreement with Camus than I ever recall being on my first read.
I’m just now getting in to Camus’ critique of other philosophers who have posited the absurd (though under a different name) and their treatments of suicide. From the his initial remarks in the beginning of the text and the title of this subsection, as well as various throw-away comments earlier. I’m guessing Camus isn’t that impressed and accuses his colleagues of giving up too soon and abandoning reason and logic to get themselves out of the “desert” as Camus calls it. Camus says he is taking the problem seriously, a back-handed insult at others that they’ve been far to frivolous when dealing with the subject, and will see it through to the end. I was amused that he posits that if he found suicide a logical consequence of the absurd world he’d commit it, knowing full well that regardless of his conclusions he hadn’t killed himself and so had found someway to rationalize life, despite initial claims to its inherent meaningless.