Existentialism is looking the other way.

I have never read existentialism. But I have read about it. I can say with some humility that I am a Camus fan. I have read two books – The Stranger and the Rebel. But I am not sure if these two books count as core existentialist thought process.

The thing that interests me is the question – what is beyond this absurdity? Given that the world is absurd, and one conquers (for want of a better word) this absurdity, then where does it lead you. I was discussing this with a friend, who talked about nihilism. He said that the problem with existentialism and men especially, is the fact that they reach a point where there is nothingness and many men (not few) once they have reached that last step willingly let themselves get sucked into nihilism.

This is quite interesting. He also said that there comes a stage when thought gets turned to itself and life itself is self destructive. But thought turning to itself, for e.g. ‘prove proof’ is of no consequence. However, it has made me think and led me to believe that there is in fact an answer to the question – “if a tree falls in the middle of a forest and there is no one around, did the falling tree make any sound”. Now the tree itself being inanimate may not have realized it. However, a human being is a totally different ball game.

For instance, a human being while reading is not simply reading; if he concentrates hard enough he will be able to see that he is reading. He will be able to perceive that he is reading. Therefore, the concentration through observation of the happenings instead of leading the existentialist path to nihilism, takes one to complete consciousness. Instead of nothingness, there is ‘everythingness’. But this can be achieved only through conscious thought process and observation of oneself as a third person. What happens therefore is that A is writing and is therefore a conscious being. But if A is conscious of the fact that A is writing one has turned consciousness to itself. I think existentialism went the other way.

4 thoughts on “Existentialism is looking the other way.”

  1. I have read some about existentialism and I don’t neccessary think that it leads to nihilism.

    Your question: What is beyond this absurdity? Nothing!!! That is why it is absurd. The fact that life has no inherent meaning, yet we live makes everything absurd. Existentialism is about the freedom. The freedom to create your own meaning from life as you see fit. Existentialism means that life/existence precedes essence. The essence is derrived from the existence one leads. This gives one the responsibility for ones actions, existence, identity and essence. There are “no-excuses” for an existentialist.

    There may be some people who go down nihilisms path, but that may be caused by the anxiety a person can feel for being “thrown”. Nietsche talks about “creative nihilism” or a phase where a person destroys and re-builds as they see fit.

    To comment on the last paragraph: If you are writing and FULLY conscious of the fact that you are writing, can you still be writing? The same goes for reading. Once you become conscious of doing the activity, you are no longer “doing” it. I believe Sartre wrote on that, but I may be mistaken.

  2. First – Camus is not core existentialist. Actually, a majority opinion do not count him as an existentialist at all. He is uncategorized in that sense, and that’s the best part about him. Core existentialists are two – Kiekargaad(religious) and Sartre (atheistic).
    Second – It’s not really nihilism but nothingness. Initially it does lead to nihilism. Existentilists, or for that matter anyone who is conscious of the absurd in Camus’s way, walks on the edge of nothingness and nihilism and at times tend to slip. But they recover. Recovery comes from understanding. Existentialism is a difficult ideology to understand, and preliminary understanding leads to wrong conclusions – one of which is the overlapping of two independent concepts, nihilism and nothingness.
    Third – You got the point of thought turning to itself perfectly. But that is not destructive but leads one to a spiral fall, to recover from which is difficult. Life is only self destructive in the sense that it unfailingly leads to death, and in no other sense. Thought turning to itself problem is best explained by Colin Wilson as our conciousness being the picture on the cinema sheet. The brief moment when the scenes change and the screen goes blank, how do you define its existence. I am because I am conscious is not a satisfactory answer for the existentialists, they want to be independtly existent. They need to know they exist, whether they are conscious or not. Tree is not inanimate, by the way. But, precisely how can you claim when not heard by anyone, that the tree actually made a sound on falling. Translated – How do you know you exist if you are not conscious of it? Soeone said that once he dreamt he was a butterflyl. From then on, he could not be sure whether he was a man who dreamt he was a butterfly or a butterfly who was dreaming it is a man.

    You beg the question – it is true consciouness fulfills your everyday needs, even the spiritual satisfaction if you have such a need. But, the very problem existentialists debate is do we exist independent of consciouness. I also agree with J.Bo that if you are totally conscious of reading, comprehension suffers. It happens with me. You seem to claim, the level of consciousness can raise to such levels at times, that you can be totally conscious and comprehend absolutely. You seem to suggest that at such a moment, you see yourself and that moment you KNOW you exist. Well, that is an interesting experience, which remains as a riddle to me. Food for thought and introspection, maybe.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s