When subsequent you meet an existentialist, ask him what sort of existentialist s/he’s. There are a minimum of as many kinds of existentialism as there were high-profile thinkers propounding it. Several main lines ran via postwar France on my own, maximum famously the ones championed via Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and Albert Camus — who explicitly rejected existentialism, in section due to a philosophical cut up with Sartre, however who nonetheless will get classified a number of the existentialists these days. We may, most likely, extra as it should be describe Camus as an absurdist, a philosopher who begins with the inherent meaningless and futility of existence and proceeds, no longer essentially in an glaring route, from there.
The animated TED-Ed lesson above sheds mild at the historic occasions and private stories that introduced Camus to this worldview. Beginning in the colonial Algeria of the early 20th-century in which he was once born and raised, educator Nina Medvinskaya is going on to inform of his classes as a resistance journalist in France and as a novelist, in which capability he would write such enduring works as The Stranger and The Plague. Medvinskaya illuminates Camus’ central perception with a well known symbol from his previous essay “The Myth of Sisyphus,” at the Greek king condemned via the gods to roll a boulder up a hill for all eternity.
“Camus argues that every one of humanity is in the similar place,” says Medvinskaya, “and handiest after we settle for the meaninglessness of our lives are we able to face the absurd with our heads held excessive.” But “Camus’ contemporaries were not so accepting of futility.” (Here the Quentin Blake-style illustrations painting a couple of figures bearing a sturdy resemblance to Sartre and de Beauvoir.) Many existentialists “advocated for violent revolution to upend programs they believed had been depriving other folks of company and goal.” Such calls have not long gone silent in 2020, simply as The Plague — one in all Camus’ writings in reaction to progressive existentialism — has only gained relevance in a time of global pandemic.
Last month the Boston Review‘s Carmen Lea Dege considered the recent comeback of the idea, exemplified in alternative ways via Camus, Sartre, and others, that “rejected spiritual and political dogma, expressed scorn for educational abstraction, and targeted at the finitude and absurdity of human life.” This resurgence of passion “isn’t fully sudden. The frame of labor we now call to mind as existentialist emerged all through the primary part of the 20 th century in conflict-ridden Germany and France, the place uncertainty permeated each and every measurement of society.” As a lot as our societies have modified since then, uncertainty has a means of returning.
Today “we outline ourselves and others at the foundation of sophistication, faith, race, and nationality, and even adolescence influences and unconscious drives, to achieve keep watch over over the contingencies of the sector and insert ourselves in the myriad techniques other folks have failed and succeeded in human historical past.” But the existentialists argued that “this keep watch over is illusory and misleading,” an “alluring distraction from our personal fragility” that in the long run “corrodes our talent to are living neatly.” For the existentialists, pursuit of excellent existence first calls for an acceptance of no longer simply fragility however futility, meaninglessness, absurdity, and ambiguity, amongst different prerequisites that strike us as deeply unacceptable. As Camus put it, we will have to believe Sisyphus glad. But are we able to?
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and publicizes on towns, language, and tradition. His tasks come with the Substack e-newsletter Books on Cities, the e-book The Stateless City: a Walk via 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video sequence The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall, on Facebook, or on Instagram.