“Existence Precedes Essence” It all goes back to Locke... Tabula Rosa - You existed before you thought There are NO innate ideas – all came from somewhere else
Big Q of Existentialism: If everything we define ourselves with is meaningless (came from somewhere else), how do we confront that??
Here’s how Camus explains it: Absurdity: meaningless of human action Life lacks reason – it makes no sense Freedom: humans have ability to choose how we want Humans make/create their own meaning (Kurtz)
Camus’s explanation cont.: Choice: Humans’ will to act – how we create meaning in life Have freedom to choose HOW we want, but no one can escape choice Responsibility: therefore, humans are responsible for their own fate – we choose it “The actions which I may be punished/rewarded for, I perform freely”
Implications: We have to choose between what is right or wrong – nothing’s gonna help us No matter what we choose, we all die in the end Our choices can’t change the ending of life, only the meaning of it while it exists
What’s the point of life then? If life is meaningless (absurd), and our choices make no difference, and we all die anyway, what’s the point?
How to beat absurdity (hint: Copy Sisyphus) This guy’s life is the epitome of meaninglessness 1. What is Sisyphus’s punishment? a. Being chained to a rock to have his liver eaten by a vulture each morning b. Sitting in a pool of water that recedes every time he attempts to drink from it c. Rolling a huge stone uphill only to have it roll back to be re-pushed up the hill d. Being placed upside down in a chamber and having his feet burned by flames
How to beat absurdity cont.: He can’t change it – so what’s a guy to do? 2. According to Camus, Sisyphus’s heroism is: a. Measured in his actions b. Measured in his attitude toward his actions c. Absurd d. Both b and c e. All of the above, which is absurd, but I don’t care because I’m a nihilist f. Who the hell knows; I really am a nihilist and never read the assignments
How to beat absurdity cont.: Camus says: Sisyphus is an ‘absurd hero’ because he embraces his meaningless task Even though he knows it’s pointless, he keeps doing it, and chooses to find meaning in it
How get beat by absurdity: Give up. Accept hopelessness. Sum it up by simply saying “What’s the point?” Camus’s Existential Failure: someone who does not choose to create meaning or morality
Let’s tie in The Guest Setting = Absurdity Drought, barren land – “No one in this desert, neither he or his guest, mattered”
Freedom and Choices and all that Jazz 3. In The Guest, what decision does Daru have to make? a. Whether or not to deliver the prisoner to the French authorities b. Whether or not to turn himself into the French authorities c. Whether or not to allow the policeman deliver the prisoner to the French authorities d. Whether or not to continue to teach school in Algeria
Freedom and Choices and all that Jazz Daru: 1. Deliver prisoner to French authorities 2. Help prisoner/ do not deliver him to authorities Q: In the end – will it really matter which he chooses?
Freedom and Choices and all that jazz Q: Is Daru an existential hero? Why?
Freedom and Choices and all that Jazz Daru knows his choice to help prisoner won’t matter in the long run (he faces death either way) But, he chooses to help him based on the meaning/morality he has created.
Freedom and Choices and all that Jazz 4. What choice does the prisoner have to make? a. Whether or not to take Daru to the French authorities b. Whether or not to follow the policeman to Daru’s school c. Whether or not to return to his home d. Whether or not to turn himself into the French authorities
Freedom and Choices and all that Jazz Q: Is the prisoner what Camus would define as Existential Hero? Why?
Freedom and Choices and all that Jazz Prisoner made no effort to create meaning, he let something else make it for him. After all – what’s the point? Ex: Alcoholic has no one to blame but himself Daru COULD HAVE chosen to give up and not help.
The Big Q Again: If everything we define ourselves with is meaningless (came from somewhere else), how do we confront that??
Pulling it all together: (kinda) Literally, there is no point to life (absurdity) Everyone has to choose, even though we all die in the end.
THE KEY: Anything other than life itself is pointless; life itself sucks. Embrace/appreciate it anyway. Create meaning, values, etc. even if they will have no affect on the outcome. Life itself is more valuable than the end (death).
5. Based on these two readings, Camus probably believes that a man condemned to die in a concentration camp: a. Has been denied the ability to become a hero, and that this is the real crime b. Is as free to become a hero as anyone else
Possible Test Questions 1. How do the elements of choice, freedom, and responsibility play a role in The Guest ? (Daru, the prisoner, the policeman) 2. How would Camus define an existential hero, and how does Sisyphus exemplify that definition?
Further Sources (other than Tom’s notes) “Camus: The Guest”. Engl 2210 World Literature II: Study Guides. 25 April 2009. Auburn University: George Mitrevski. Raskin, Richard. “Camus’s Critques of Existentialism”. Minerva: An Internet Journal of Philosophy. 5 (2001): 156-165. 25 April 2009.
More Sources (further information on Camus) “Camus the Myth of Sisyphus”. Video Google.com. 19 November 2009. 26 April 2009. (Also check out parts 2-4) “Albert Camus”. Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. 2009. Wikipedia Encyclopedia. 26 April 2009.