Albert Camus’: Myth of the Sisyphus is an all time philosophical and aesthetic work which emphasizes the theme of the absurd. In this essay, I would love to refute Camus’ absurd though I have great reverence and love for his writing. The grounds of refutation used are literary, metaphysical, ontological, psychological, and materialistic.
What is the myth of Sisyphus in Greek Mythology? Sisyphus was man condemned by the Gods to take a boulder all the way uphill only to find it roll down again. Then he is forced to repeat the task. Through the myth of the Sisyphus, Camus’ brings up the theme that life is absurd, having no purpose or meaning. At the same time Camus’ contradicts himself by saying that the absurd man must avoid suicide and live a reckless and profligate life, a life in perpetual revolt. That makes Camus an aesthetic anarchist.
An etymological definition of the word absurd can be traced to the 16th century where the word is referred to as ‘being out of tune’. Firstly I would like to use literature to refute Camus’ argument. The commonality of life, that is everyday life such as wake up 6, breakfast 7, work 8 and so on Camus presents as drudgery. The rhythm of daily life can be pleasant stimulus lived in the interior of streams of consciousness. For example: I relish my life, wake up drink tea, read, workout, smoke and then I go to school where I teach. Everyday life for me is a mytho-poetic experience tinged with the purple robes of mysticism. I don’t understand in what sense is my ordinary day to day life absurd. The very chore of Sisyphus can be an existentially meaningful one. I met a lady whose husband was a missionary doctor in Liberia and caught the virus there and died. She did not even see her husband’s body. Yet she is happy and contented. Camus says God is not there and yet he contradicts himself by saying that God is absurd. Ordinary humans can devise a life that is poetic and find fulfillment in the small things of life. Truly speaking, I don’t understand Camus’ negation of life. Even a person going through a depressing phase of life affirms it negatively. Negation is an illogical concept in Existential Philosophy. We have to enact a living narrative of everyday life.
Secondly I would like to take Metaphysics as theme of argument against Camus’ absurd. The emotional content of life, like need, want, love, ambition, desire etc. are neither rational, nor deterministic nor naturalistic. How can they be treated as Absurd? When I am sharing and giving and receiving love how can it be an absurdity? The experience of love is metaphysical and transcendental. As a Christian, I find solace in the gift that my love for God is reciprocated with grace and mercy. For example: my daughter wants to join a medical school. How can her aspiration be absurd? The metaphysical intimacy of life as a theme is not the absurd of Camus but a cathartic one as espoused by Aristotle. Hatred, envy, covetousness and lust are themes that looked down upon in a Christian World View. Such feelings are also inherent with Catharsis though in a negative sense. We are living a life that has language and it signifies the methodology of presence which the deconstruction school lay bare in revolt. Camus’ deals with the theme of death in the Myth of the Sisyphus. I should ask Camus, are we condemned for death? For example in the Christian weltanschauung giving the holy communion as last rites to a dying person will uplift the person spiritually. I would like to ask Camus the blunt question would a dying person prefer to listen the AC DC song Highway to Hell. A metaphysical transcendence is meaningful and cathartic. I am using the word Cathartic in the broad sense of the term.
Next I would like to use the Ontological argument. Ontology in Philosophy refers to being. The word present in Logos has an unavoidable presence of being a meaning. Being as absurd would be incoherent and incongruous. For example making love is a process of creating the poetry of meaning. How can it be absurd? Orgasm is pleasurable not absurd. A being in the process of interaction creates meaning. The meaning is a ritual in the process of the meaning of being. Meaning is a making of a becoming. I would also like argue against Sartre’s being for itself. There is no pure existential self. Meaning is reciprocal and referential. For a Christian world view the direct ontological reference of meaning is a being with God, a being for God. If I pray to God, how does it become absurd? The vary claimants of absurdity are taking a hardliner stance and engaging in the fascism of thought. When we help another person, we in Sartre’s term are a being for the other. It would be unwise to say that Mother Teresa’s love for the poor, the afflicted and the downtrodden is absurd. Ontology is permeated with the meaning of self referential reciprocity.
Looking at Camus’ notion of absurdity from a psychological framework is to recognize its anomaly. The feelings of the ID, like want and desire are primary affective feelings and they cannot rest on the laurel of the absurd. How can absurdity address the claims of emotional and physical satisfaction? Even the song of Mike Jagger, ‘I can’t get no satisfaction’ is egoistic and born with fetish appetite of a philosophical craving of desire. An emotional being is always in a state of being possessed by the notion to make meaning. The necessity of the Ego cannot be neglected in a creative society that adheres the dialogue of being a democracy. How can an Ego State be absurd? Never!
Looking at absurdity materialistically is to see the working of an economy of need and want in human actions. I have to work to earn money to lead my daily life. How can that be absurd? It’s natural human tendency to be lucrative and profitable. Here we find the only worldview that affected materialism was Communism. And Communism is a failed God. China and Russia have opened their doors to Capitalism. China is contradiction being ruled by hegemonic autocrats yet leaving the economy to the free market.
The absurdity as a philosophical notion is crazy. We do not propel our lives to suicide or live life in anarchy. There is a purpose, meaning and destiny that make life. Life can result in the meaning of being prone to a catharsis of experience.