Albert Camus: The Myth of Sisyphus

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Gary Childress
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Re: Albert Camus: The Myth of Sisyphus

Post by Gary Childress » Thu Feb 13, 2020 5:00 pm

Immanuel Can wrote:
Thu Feb 13, 2020 4:46 pm
Gary Childress wrote:
Thu Feb 13, 2020 4:25 pm
People are allowed to express themselves in writing to others. If they perceive the world a certain way, then they are allowed to write about it. Others can agree or not. Do you think Camus should have simply shut up (not exposed his feelings) and suffered in silence?
Heck, no.

But I don't think he was merely asking for pity, either. I think he was aiming at rational sympathy, which is considerably more.

I think what he wanted was not for people merely to say, "Poor Albert; his life seems so hard to him," but rather to say, "What Albert says is well put; it's what I have always felt, in my deepest suspicions, but never been able to put so succinctly and accurately."
I would think that's probably correct.

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Re: Albert Camus: The Myth of Sisyphus

Post by Immanuel Can » Thu Feb 13, 2020 5:04 pm

Gary Childress wrote:
Thu Feb 13, 2020 5:00 pm
Immanuel Can wrote:
Thu Feb 13, 2020 4:46 pm
Gary Childress wrote:
Thu Feb 13, 2020 4:25 pm
People are allowed to express themselves in writing to others. If they perceive the world a certain way, then they are allowed to write about it. Others can agree or not. Do you think Camus should have simply shut up (not exposed his feelings) and suffered in silence?
Heck, no.

But I don't think he was merely asking for pity, either. I think he was aiming at rational sympathy, which is considerably more.

I think what he wanted was not for people merely to say, "Poor Albert; his life seems so hard to him," but rather to say, "What Albert says is well put; it's what I have always felt, in my deepest suspicions, but never been able to put so succinctly and accurately."
I would think that's probably correct.
So would I. Absurdity may be something one can "feel" as well as "know." But if one can only "feel" it, then it's merely private. There must needs be something behind it, a reason why the feeling is justified and and also why it can, and should, be shared by others. I think Camus is giving his emotive impression, yes; but I think he's also trying to say, "If you think carefully, you'll come to the same feeling about this that I have."

So, if that's the case, why does Camus think we ought to share his intuition of the absurdity of things? Why does he think that a thinking man must be drawn to suicide? That's the next question.

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Re: Albert Camus: The Myth of Sisyphus

Post by Gary Childress » Thu Feb 13, 2020 5:06 pm

Immanuel Can wrote:
Thu Feb 13, 2020 5:04 pm
I think Camus is giving his emotive impression, yes; but I think he's also trying to say, "If you think carefully, you'll come to the same feeling about this that I have."
Maybe so.

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Re: Albert Camus: The Myth of Sisyphus

Post by Immanuel Can » Thu Feb 13, 2020 5:36 pm

Gary Childress wrote:
Thu Feb 13, 2020 5:06 pm
Immanuel Can wrote:
Thu Feb 13, 2020 5:04 pm
I think Camus is giving his emotive impression, yes; but I think he's also trying to say, "If you think carefully, you'll come to the same feeling about this that I have."
Maybe so.
So, if that's the case, why does Camus think we ought to share his intuition of the absurdity of things? Why does he think that a thinking man must be drawn to suicide?

That's the next question.

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Re: Albert Camus: The Myth of Sisyphus

Post by Gary Childress » Thu Feb 13, 2020 6:04 pm

Immanuel Can wrote:
Thu Feb 13, 2020 5:04 pm
So, if that's the case, why does Camus think we ought to share his intuition of the absurdity of things? Why does he think that a thinking man must be drawn to suicide? That's the next question.
If a person is living a life of futility, where that which s/he wishes very much to accomplish is something s/he knows s/he cannot ever truly accomplish, then perhaps suicide is kind of the only "exit" from that situation, though not a very satisfactory one, for sure.

So as an example of a futile task for "thinking men". A man who thinks a lot is probably someone who has relatively more free time than others to think. He has that free time to think perhaps because many of his needs are met by the work of others who are not in a position to have as much free time to think about whatever they wish. For some thinkers that may make them wish that others had as much free time to think as they did. But if everyone had the same amount of free time, perhaps there would be more poverty and hunger in the world. The thinking man doesn't want wage slavery for others but wage slavery also creates the circumstances where mass production can be carried out more efficiently because it causes some to work very hard for a living while others do not have to work as hard. This maybe causes the thinking man to think himself guilty of injustice--a very unpleasant thought.

In a sense he wishes everyone to have the same amount of freedom he does but it's a futile wish because not everyone can be a "great thinker". Some have to grow the crops, clean the sewers or do other drudgery in the world.

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Re: Albert Camus: The Myth of Sisyphus

Post by Immanuel Can » Thu Feb 13, 2020 8:54 pm

Gary Childress wrote:
Thu Feb 13, 2020 6:04 pm
This maybe causes the thinking man to think himself guilty of injustice--a very unpleasant thought.
There are some people who think that working with one's mind isn't really work...it's just a kind of parasitism on the larger society. I don't think that.

There are some people who think that working with one's hands, or by the sweat of one's brow is second-rate, and inevitably dehumanizing. They think "labour" and "drudgery" are the same thing. I don't think that, either.

There are just different kinds of people. People can sincerely enjoy plumbing, or electrical work, or welding, or any kind of occupation they can feel has a craft to it. Many are kinaesthetic learners...which means they are just as smart as the "intellectuals," in some cases, but do their learning through a more dynamic engagement with materials. There's nothing wrong -- and nothing second rate -- about that.

But I don't think Camus is making this distinction. It seems to me he feels that ANY person who thinks deeply at all could well come to his conclusion...be he university professor or garbage collector.

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Re: Albert Camus: The Myth of Sisyphus

Post by odysseus » Thu Feb 13, 2020 9:07 pm

Immanuel Can

That's really an extreme position that Camus is taking.
Both Camus and Kierkegaard take an extreme view. But it is here that progress cannot be made if the matter is, to borrow a term, thematically confined Camus' pessimism. That is, Camus, while he has read Kierkegaard, Jaspers and others, it is important to remember that in order to buy into this discussion, one has to leave the everydayness of living behind. Camus, as well as others, has no patience for the mundane attitude, something that is routinely criticized throughout existential thought. And rightly so: there is a break that presents itself to inquiry that puts serious distance between the self and the world. But Camus doesn't want to do technical philosophy, and so he is stuck in the literary vein, and literature rarely gets beyond the mere trauma of the division. The trouble with Camus is that he is not very enlightening.

Interesting phenomenology occurs in the describing of this distance. I mean in the nuts and bolts of descriptive phenomenological philosophy, this is where the issue gets its airing. And this lies in some really difficult philosophy: Levinas, Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Husserl and Fink--- I mean to really take on this issue one has to be in the mix, and it starts with German idealism, at least for me it does. Kant drew this line that cannot be crossed,


Camus is more literary than philosophical, for he does not enter into a critical examination of, say, Totality and Infinity or Fink's 6th Meditation. He is more like Nietzsche in this, positioning himself on the outside making critical jabs here and there, but without the detail, that actual arguments in play. Notice how dismissive he is of Jaspers and his "waterless desert" then moves quickly on. Is that really what Jaspers is about? He writes, "The method defined here acknowledges the feeling that all true knowledge is impossible. Solely appearances can be enumerated and the climate make itself felt." It is an assumption that the "feeling" is sufficient for the thesis. The trouble of absurdity, Camus', is that it takes the observation that inspires analysis to be the conclusion. His "method: is in the following:

Likewise, all those irrational feelings which offer
no purchase to analysis. I can define them practically, appreciate
them practically, by gathering together the sum of their
consequences in the domain of the intelligence, by seizing and
noting all their aspects


The irrational feelings he has in mind are, of course, what Kierkegaard talks about in the child, the adventure and melancholy that preface existential anxiety; the feelings that convey distance and incompleteness. But then these are not well represented as feelings at all, for K is not attempting to project the mundane on to eternity, but rather to show the eternal is always already there, and that feelings and all that is are bound in this eternal event called living. Camus' nihilism is a welcome contributor to the zeitgeist of resignation to practicality. As if our Being could possibility, remotely, be encompassed by this.

In a way, Camus is not nearly radical enough. He never breaks beyond the mundanity of the suicide with one foot hanging off the bridge. He does present a quasi literary perspective that SHOWS us what happens when we rise to an acute consciousness of the failing of thought to comprehend the world and its suffering. But he remains on the outside, as he says, where

At any streetcorner the feeling of absurdity can strike any man
in the face. As it is, in its distressing nudity, in its light without
effulgence, it is elusive.

Better to read Jaspers, and understand things that are beyond a feeling, things that open intuition. One might end up with Heidegger's hermeneutical thinking, but even he was striving for affirmation.

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Re: Albert Camus: The Myth of Sisyphus

Post by Immanuel Can » Thu Feb 13, 2020 9:29 pm

odysseus wrote:
Thu Feb 13, 2020 9:07 pm
Immanuel Can
That's really an extreme position that Camus is taking.
Both Camus and Kierkegaard take an extreme view.
Extreme? Camus, yes. Kierkegaard...well, that depends.
Camus is more literary than philosophical.
You could equally say he's less arid and sterile than analytic philosophy has tended to be. But I wouldn't call being literary a fault, unless in pursuit of the literary one says what is not true.
The irrational feelings he has in mind are, of course, what Kierkegaard talks about in the child,
No, I don't think that's quite right.

For Camus, the default is despair. The perspective that creates the self is a product of embracing that despair in a particular way.

For Kierkegaard, despair is not the default, and is not a product of realism. It is a product of adopting the wrong position relative to the reality that creates the self.

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Re: Albert Camus: The Myth of Sisyphus

Post by Gary Childress » Fri Feb 14, 2020 12:14 am

Immanuel Can wrote:
Thu Feb 13, 2020 8:54 pm

It seems to me he feels that ANY person who thinks deeply at all could well come to his conclusion...be he university professor or garbage collector.
Probably so.

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Re: Albert Camus: The Myth of Sisyphus

Post by Impenitent » Fri Feb 14, 2020 12:47 am

is it not more absurd to assume that all minds are alike?

-Imp

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Re: Albert Camus: The Myth of Sisyphus

Post by Immanuel Can » Fri Feb 14, 2020 1:02 am

Impenitent wrote:
Fri Feb 14, 2020 12:47 am
is it not more absurd to assume that all minds are alike?

-Imp
Probably. That's a good preliminary question: is Camus well-positioned to speak for everyone who thinks deeply, or is the whole problem he indicts merely a product of his own perspective, even if that's shared by some others?

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Re: Albert Camus: The Myth of Sisyphus

Post by odysseus » Fri Feb 14, 2020 3:04 am

Immanuel Can

Extreme? Camus, yes. Kierkegaard...well, that depends.
No. Camus is, I would say, quite tame, and his thoughts are just shadows of Nietzsche, who is, in my estimation, tame as well. Tame because it amounts to a reductionism to the most accessible and tedious: affirmation in nihilism, the latter absurdly grounded ethical naivete. Camus just doesn't understand the metaethical dimension of our existence. Kierkegaard, on the other hand, holds that our quotidian life, the daily living and breathing of being a self, is nearly on a par with an animal, not yet risen to "sin," and when spirit is posited, the whole body of our affairs becomes sin until one affirm the eternal present's freedom, soul, God. The world, all our institutions and social "habits" are either sinful or presinful. That's radical, I would say. Camus is essentially telling us, as a good journalist should, to note that there is no metaphysical hope in the facts. Many people these days, perhaps most, already think this, or, do not think enough about it not to think it. It's implicit everywhere, and Camus is commonplace.
You could equally say he's less arid and sterile than analytic philosophy has tended to be. But I wouldn't call being literary a fault, unless in pursuit of the literary one says what is not true.
Truth and literature? Can a narrative be false? Statements are embedded in personalities, which are entangled, compromised, messy. The truth of it come to us in the story and its interpretation. Stories are neither true nor false, they are.
They say literature is watered down philosophy. It's trouble, well, it doesn't really have a trouble as long as its commitment to tragic, realist, romantic, and so on, narrative doesn't pretend to be what it is not, and it is not analysis. Analytic philosophy is too committed to rigor and clarity to be interesting. I have read enough to know that while they certainly are useful, helpful to sharpen Occam's razor, they do not take phenomenology seriously, and, as Husserl put it, this makes them derivative.
No, I don't think that's quite right.

For Camus, the default is despair. The perspective that creates the self is a product of embracing that despair in a particular way.

For Kierkegaard, despair is not the default, and is not a product of realism. It is a product of adopting the wrong position relative to the reality that creates the self.
Despair/anxiety for K is something that is part of the structure of our existence, but it gets much worse when a person rises to metaphysical awareness, a point at which there is a "qualitative" advance toward sin. Weird, but that is the way it is with him. As children, this anxiety can take the form of wonder, adventure, reaching out beyond, which possesses anxiety in the intimation of eternity, the soul, God, which occupy the space of the present, where we cannot achieve fully, for we are here in this world.

As I said, what I do not appreciate about Camus is that he is simply mundane. He's good at it, granted; but thematically limited because he doesn't think deeply enough. Ethically, he has barely begun. I'm reading Fink right now, which is why I mentioned him twice before, on my mind. His 6th meditation takes the metaphysical threshold of thought and experience and does what Kant does with the logic of a logical proposition in terms of radical disclosure. Fascinating to witness.

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Re: Albert Camus: The Myth of Sisyphus

Post by Immanuel Can » Fri Feb 14, 2020 3:47 am

odysseus wrote:
Fri Feb 14, 2020 3:04 am
Immanuel Can

Extreme? Camus, yes. Kierkegaard...well, that depends.
No. Camus is, I would say, quite tame, and his thoughts are just shadows of Nietzsche, who is, in my estimation, tame as well.
I'm amused. :D Not disagreeing, but amused.

I've often noted that Nietzsche gets hailed as a proclaimer of freedom from faith -- often because his admirers know little more of him that the famous meme, "God is dead." After that, people seem to pretty much say, "Nietzsche said it, I believe it, and that's the end of it." So it's refreshing to get a more thoughtful take on him.
Tame because it amounts to a reductionism to the most accessible and tedious: affirmation in nihilism, the latter absurdly grounded ethical naivete.
I'd love to see this comment further explained, though.

Yes, Nietzsche leads nowhere but Nihilism, at the end of the day; but given his ontological supposition, how is it we would call his view "naive"? I think he sees exactly the right implications of his ontological premises, in regards to ethics, though I think the premises are wrong. And his attempt to recover by means of appealing to "the will to power" and the autonomy of the übermensch, well, that's just a hopeless step. But his ethical conclusions, if he is given his premises, seem right to me.
Camus just doesn't understand the metaethical dimension of our existence.

This, I don't quite get at all. I'd need some more unpacking of what you mean by that.
Kierkegaard, on the other hand, holds that our quotidian life, the daily living and breathing of being a self, is nearly on a par with an animal, not yet risen to "sin," and when spirit is posited, the whole body of our affairs becomes sin until one affirm the eternal present's freedom, soul, God. The world, all our institutions and social "habits" are either sinful or presinful. That's radical, I would say.
I think this is almost right.

Kierkegaard, I find, isn't a social critic per se. His concern is wholly focused on the individual. When he mentions social structures, it always seems it's just to point out that thinking about fixing them is the wrong way to go, because the problem, as he sees it, it always ultimately in the attitude of the individual to his situation.
Camus is essentially telling us, as a good journalist should, to note that there is no metaphysical hope in the facts. Many people these days, perhaps most, already think this, or, do not think enough about it not to think it. It's implicit everywhere, and Camus is commonplace.

Yes, it is. And that's what I mean about Nietzsche's logic, too. It's become commonplace.

But I like the way you put it: they "do not think enough about it not to think it." (words yours, but emphasis mine, of course). It's not the deeply thinking person, the philosopher, say, who is subject to this despair alone. It's the ordinary man, caught in the modern condition, who absorbs it through the skin, and then lives it without ever really bringing it to consciousness. And maybe that's a service Camus does us: at least he makes the unconscious conscious, in that regard.
You could equally say he's less arid and sterile than analytic philosophy has tended to be. But I wouldn't call being literary a fault, unless in pursuit of the literary one says what is not true.
Truth and literature? Can a narrative be false?
I think so. Just as literature can be truthful, as when it rightly represents the lived experience of an author or of the reader, I think it can lie. That is, it can tell reassuring lies about how things are. So, for example, if Hardy's great strength as a novelist was his ability to depict the angst of the agnostic from the inside, to tell the truth about that, so too we could get ideologues who tell us sunny stories about the inevitability of the triumph of the proletariat and the classless society. Those would be lies, but in narrative form: for the fault with the Marxist metanarrative is not merely that it hasn't happened YET, but that it never will, because it's assumptions are so horribly wrong. And still that narrative fires the imaginations of fools today.

Or take the story of "the Galileo Trial" -- not the historical facts of it, but the narrative made from it, that has been used as a paradigm example of religious ignorance pitted against scientific wisdom, framed in black hats and white hats...

Orwell knew narratives could lie. In fact, they are some of the most powerful lies, for they go around the critical faculties by means of entertainment.
Stories are neither true nor false, they are.

I disagree. Stories can be false...not merely in detail, but in import as well. Evil hardly ever gets going without using a narrative. I think again of things like the racial supremacist narratives, which teach the superiority of one "race" and the disposability of others. Are these not lies in narrative form?
Despair/anxiety for K is something that is part of the structure of our existence, but it gets much worse when a person rises to metaphysical awareness, a point at which there is a "qualitative" advance toward sin. Weird, but that is the way it is with him.
Not weird at all, if you've had the experience.

As one comes to greater awareness of sin, one becomes sicker...closer to that "sickness unto death" of which Kierkegaard speaks. But one also has, at the same time, a greater possibility of repenting of one's sin as the symptoms of the disease become more pressing -- as despair sets in. Or, to put it in Biblical language,

"But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead. I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died; 10 and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me..." (Rm. 7:8-10)

Of course, despair can also be greeted with a determination to double down -- and that is truly the sickness unto death. So that awareness brings one closer to crisis...but potentially closer to salvation.
As I said, what I do not appreciate about Camus is that he is simply mundane. He's good at it, granted; but thematically limited because he doesn't think deeply enough. Ethically, he has barely begun. I'm reading Fink right now, which is why I mentioned him twice before, on my mind. His 6th meditation takes the metaphysical threshold of thought and experience and does what Kant does with the logic of a logical proposition in terms of radical disclosure. Fascinating to witness.
I haven't read Fink. Tell me a bit more about that.

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Re: Albert Camus: The Myth of Sisyphus

Post by Nick_A » Fri Feb 14, 2020 5:02 am

Albert Camus had a fault typical of philosophers which is the inability to practice their philosophy. Perhaps that is why he admired Simone weil She was not only brilliant but the purity of her search didn’t allow anything else. Ecclesiastes 1 asserts that everything under the sun is meaningless.
Everything Is Meaningless
1 The words of the Teacher,[a] son of David, king in Jerusalem:
2 “Meaningless! Meaningless!”
says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
Everything is meaningless.”
3 What do people gain from all their labors
at which they toil under the sun?
Jacob Needleman writes in his book Lost Christianity:

Of course it had been stupid of me to express it in quite that way, but nevertheless the point was worth pondering: does there exist in man a natural attraction to truth and to the struggle for truth that is stronger than the natural attraction to pleasure? The history of religion in the west seems by and large to rest on the assumption that the answer is no. Therefore, externally induced emotions of egoistic fear (hellfire), anticipation of pleasure (heaven), vengeance, etc., have been marshaled to keep people in the faith.
It does seem that awakening to the reality of the human condition is very difficult since the world struggles against it. Its supremacy doesn’t allow for something greater than the world. Yet there are those who have transcend the visible world below the sun and access through noesis the intellectual world above the sun.

Albert Camus is right if our species is doomed to react as creatures of reaction following natures laws along with the rest of organic life. However, who of the small minority who feel and are called to their origin and willing to put truth above pleasure? Our future my well depend on them regardless of how they are scorned. They may open the door for human conscious evolution within which objective human meaning and purpose may become obvious as they serve to awaken humanity to its potential within a universal scheme as opposed to a secular scheme

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Re: Albert Camus: The Myth of Sisyphus

Post by Immanuel Can » Fri Feb 14, 2020 5:36 am

Nick_A wrote:
Fri Feb 14, 2020 5:02 am
Simone weil
Okay, you're not going to marry her. :cry:

Can you at least date her for a bit, so you can get her off your mind?

Meanwhile, let's just talk about Camus.

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