Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Meaning and Absurdity
Comments contra Camus

What is a meaningful life? How do we create meaning in our lives? Some suggest that having a goal, identifying values, and pursuing them is a way to create and live a meaningful life. I see this as part of living a human life - for its own sake. Having goals is part of being a better human being. Aristotle famously called this living a flourishing life.
This approach, however, is different for every individual human being. In spite of this we all share with each other our humanness - our humanity - that which makes our lives humane and worthwhile. There are those who deny or disagree with this approach to living a meaningful life. A prominent exponent of this denial is Albert Camus who, in The Myth of Sisyphus, and other writings, posits an absurd universe devoid of meaning. Julian Baggini comments on this:

Here we confront a fundamental difficulty. Almost all deniers of meaning in life seem to be rejecting only the idea that life has a specific kind of meaning: one determined by agents, purposes or principles somehow external to this world. This does not justify the conclusion that life has no meaning at all. Their pronouncement that 'life is meaningless' thus just appears to be a kind of hyperbole. (p. 161, What's It All About)

We all can live a meaningful life if we choose to do so. The choice is also part of our humanity and it entails having a philosophy of life. This is eloquently discussed by Ayn Rand in her essay: Philosophy: Who Needs It? (Address to the graduating class of West Point on March 6, 1974). She points out the importance of facing and answering the questions "Where am I? How do I know it? What should I do?"(p. 2, PWNI). The process of answering those questions, developing one's own philosophy of life, is inherent in living a meaningful life.

The Myth of Sisyphus and other essays by Albert Camus. Vintage Books, New York. 1991 (1955)
Philosophy: Who Needs It by Ayn Rand. Bobbs-Merrill, New York. 1982
What's It All About? by Julian Baggini. Oxford University Press, New York. 2006 (2004)

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