The Stranger by: Albert Camus Nihilism & Absurdism By: Gurpaul Sidhu Kendra Wang Sam Pocock Julia Boese Nick Gustoff
What is Nihilism? ● Nihilism is a philosophical doctrine that claims that traditional value/ethic systems have no empirical value or weight. ● Nihilism, in social contexts, argues that institutions are so horrid and atrocious that they ought to be destroyed. ● Over time, the ideological mindset has evolved to the point where there are several subsets of nihilism.
Types of Nihilism ❏ ❏ ❏ Existential Nihilism Metaphysical Nihilism Epistemological Nihilism Political Nihilism Moral Nihilism
Existential Nihilism o This category of nihilist thinking posits that life has no purpose, value, or objective meaning. § “Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don't know. I got a telegram from the home: 'Mother deceased. Funeral tomorrow. Faithfully yours. ' That doesn't mean anything. Maybe it was yesterday”(3) o Moreover, this form states that a single human cannot have a significant impact on the universe at large since one cannot alter the totality of existence. § “But when I had to give up my studies I learned very quickly that none of it really mattered”(CH 5).
Existential Nihilism o It also argues that subjective values (such as an emotivist framework) have no real meaning in the long run since they are vulnerable to change and destruction. § “She was wearing a pair of my pajamas with the sleeves rolled up. When she laughed I wanted her again. A minute later she asked me if I loved her. I told her it didn't mean anything but that I didn't think so. She looked sad. But as we were fixing lunch, and for no apparent reason, she laughed in such a way that I kissed her”(CH 4).
Metaphysical Nihilism o This theory is difficult to grasp because it claims that objects do not actually exist. o It argues that there may be no concrete objects, instead creating a world centered around abstract items. o At its most basic form, this form of nihilism states that there is no method to determine an object’s existence because there are no objective standards that define an object.
Epistemological Nihilism o This form of nihilism argues that there is no objective metric utilized as a means of determining knowledge therefore knowledge itself must not be recognized. § The spectators laughed. And my lawyer, rolling up one of his sleeves, said with finality, 'Here we have a perfect reflection of this entire trial: everything is true and nothing is true!'(CH 3). o This can transcend the sphere of knowledge and also make the claim that reality cannot exist since our understanding of such reality is false. § “And the more I thought about it, the more I dug out my memory things I had overlooked or forgotten”(CH 2)
Political Nihilism o This form is less extreme than other subsections of nihilism. o Instead of questioning reality itself, political nihilism refuses to accept governmental and political structure due to a lack of objectivity. o There are several parallels that can be drawn between this ideology and the foundation of hedonistic utilitarianism.
Moral Nihilism o Because morality is not objective, it does not exist. § “I am on your side. But you have no way of knowing it, because your heart is blind” (CH 5). o This takes a meta ethical perspective by positing that all ethics are constructed by humans and therefore victim to a certain level of subjectivity.
Moral Nihilism o Thus, under a nihilist view, all morals lose value and empirical significance. § “I knew that I had shattered the harmony of the day, the exceptional silence of a beach where I'd been happy. Then I fired four more times at the motionless body where the bullets lodged without leaving a trace. And it was like knocking four quick times on the door of unhappiness” (CH 6).
http: //www. youtube. com/watch? v=D Fx_QEi-vww Absurdism
Absurdism ● Absurdists believed that it is futile to examine the meaning of life because life is random and looking for it is a waste of time. ● Camus states that in order to obtain freedom in an absurd universe, one must first recognize absurdity. ○ By realizing this, one can understand that the universe is not absolute and this will free us from expectations ○ No expectations = freedom
Absurd and Freedom • • • There is a meaning to life but there is no way in knowing what it is. An absurd man only wants to live only with what he can be sure of. Camus identifies three consequences of trying to live with the absurd: revolt, freedom, and passion.
Absurd and Freedom Revolt Living life to the fullest, aware of the fact that human beings are condemned to live a short time in an unreasonable world and then to die. We remain aware of the conflict between reality and desire ← conflict. It is a revolt against the meaningless of life and death that awaits us. • • •
Absurd and Freedom We are free to make our own decisions. Freedom claims that the universe and human nature are such that we can choose our own course. Absurd man will abandon anything he does not know with certainty o The only freedom an absurd man will know is the freedom he experiences; freedom to act and think as he chooses. o This freedom means no values, no goals, and no expectations. • • •
Absurd and Freedom Passion If there is no meaning or purpose in what we do, there is no reason for doing anything. o This means that we can apply no standard of quality to our experiences: someone who is aware of the present moment will experience more of life than one who is always preoccupied; the passion of a full life. o The absurd man will live in the present. •
Absurdity and Suicide ● Camus suggests that suicide amounts to the confession that life is not worth living. ● The feeling of absurdity is close to the feeling that life is meaningless. ● We go through life with a sense of meaning and in hopes of doing good therefore, we cease to see ourselves as free agents. ○ We are like machines following every single rules rather than having actual freedom (doing what we want despite what social norms are). ○ Through this perspective all these actions we perform are pointless and absurd. In other words, absurdity is closely linked to the feeling that life is meaningless thus, relating back to suicide -- death because what is the point of life?
Relation to The Stranger ● Meursault lives in the present moment free of any system values. ● He does not follow social norms and asserts his freedom by doing whatever he pleases. ○ This includes him smoking, his indifferent feelings toward his mother, and his ability to go to the beach and sleeping with a woman after his mother’s funeral. ● This freedom illustrates a revolt against any attempt to place restrictions on his life. ● His final outbursts in prison depicts his absurd view of the world. ○ It shows that nothing matters to him and that we all live and we all die and anything done before death is irrelevant.
Quotes ● “And I felt ready to live it all again too. As if that blind rage had washed me clean, rid me of hope; for the first time, in that night alive with signs and stars, I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world. Finding it so much like myself—so like a brother, really—I felt that I had been happy and that I was happy again” (122). ● “Maman died today. Or yesterday maybe, I don’t know. I got a telegram from the home: "Mother deceased. Funeral tomorrow. Faithfully yours. " That doesn’t mean anything. Maybe it was yesterday” (3). ○ This opening sentence embodies Meursault’s absurdist outlook on life, his emotional indifference and detachment to people, and his passive but quiet alienation from the rest of society.
Did you Get it? Think of three words that accurately describe a nihilist framework. Do you believe that they are effective in explaining its basic ideology?
I Hope you Got It Because there is no objective metric of effectiveness, a nihilist would argue that it does not exist, therefore making the question impossible to answer.
Close Read the passage while considering the following: How is the conversation on marriage nihilist? What else could be considered nihilist and/or absurdist in the passage? How do these elements relate to themes of the book? • • • Write a thesis on how Camus utilizes elements of nihilism and absurdism to support his themes in The Stranger.
Works Cited • • • http: //www. youtube. com/watch? v=DFx_QEi-vww http: //media. pfeiffer. edu/lridener/courses/STRANGER. HTML http: //public. wsu. edu/~delahoyd/20 th/camus. stranger. html http: //www. sparknotes. com/philosophy/sisyphus/section 14. rhtml http: //www. shmoop. com/the-stranger/philosophical-viewpoints-theabsurd-quotes. html