The human life should be described as absurd in nature because of its fundamental meaninglessness. However, persons can discuss the absurdity of the life differently, depending on the philosophical principles followed in order to interpret and analyze such an important and controversial issue. According to the ideas of Albert Camus which are presented in The Myth of Sisyphus, a person always focuses on the life’s absurdity while facing the contradictions between the desired and observed worlds.
The key is in the person’s choice related to how to cope with this issue. On the contrary, Thomas Nagel in his work “The Absurd” states that there are no real arguments to support the idea that the life is absurd, thus, there is no necessity to cope with such an illusory problem. From this point, it is necessary to describe the arguments proposed by two thinkers and analyze the origin of the conflicting ideas in detail.
Although Camus and Nagel agree that absurdity plays the great role in the human life, the thinkers’ views are rather contradictory, and Nagel’s argument seems to be more convincing because the author focuses on the subjectivity of the person’s perception of the absurd life while stating that the roots of the absurd are in the individual’s inner world.
While focusing on the argument proposed by Camus, it is necessary to note that absurdity related to the human life is in the conflict or contradiction between the persons’ desires and vision and the real world. From this perspective, the “divorce between man and his life, the actor and his setting, is properly the feeling of absurdity” (Camus par. 7).
Understanding this contradiction, the person refers to the idea that the life is absurd and meaningless because the desired order cannot be achieved in the real world. At this stage, the person understands that the life is not only absurd but also meaningless, and that one of the choices is suicide. However, Camus argues that the person is proposed to choose from a range of other variants to cope with absurdity. The focus on the suicide is also absurd or illogical because it does not provide effective results, thus, the person becomes ruled by the absurd reasoning.
That is why, the person who cannot accept absurdity and meaninglessness of the life chooses the variant to escape because “the absurdity of existence must then dictate his conduct” (Camus par. 8). As a result, the person chooses to live in the world where he or she is struggling, free, or passionate. The significance of this argument is in the fact that Camus states that a man is discussed as having the right of choice to adapt to the absurd life.
In his turn, Nagel supports the idea that the absurdity of life is a rather questionable point because there are no obvious arguments to support this opinion. The life is absurd, but this absurdity does not support the view that the life is meaningless. Nagel notes that while discussing absurdity, the person should remember that it is only in the inner world. Thus, the absurdity of situations “derives not from a collision between our expectations and the world, but from a collision within ourselves” (Nagel 722).
The importance of this idea is in the fact that the meaning of the human life cannot be discussed in the context of such notions as space and time because the focus on these elements to discuss the importance of the concrete life is not only provocative but also absurd. Nagel pays attention to the fact that a situation “is absurd when it includes a conspicuous discrepancy between pretension or aspiration and reality” (Nagel 718). Understanding that there is a conflict between the desire and reality, the person should focus on modifying the desire or aspiration.
In his work “The Absurd”, Nagel provides direct objections to the views of Camus while focusing on the idea of the life’s absurdity and the premises of the argument supported by Camus. Opposing the view of Camus on the origins of the absurd, Nagel states that the person’s demand for the meaning in the life cannot provoke the changes in the world because significant changes should be stimulated in relation to the person’s inner world, perception, and vision of the situation (Nagel 722).
The reason to provide the objection to the basic idea supported by Camus is in the fact that the person mostly relies on the personal vision of the problem of absurdity instead of thinking about the role of the universe. However, Camus can provide the rebuttal while accentuating the fact that the understanding of the contradiction between the desire and reality can influence the human life significantly because of pointing at the fact that the desired order, ideas, and rules cannot be achieved. That is why, the origin of the absurd is the contradiction which also leads to losing the meaning of life.
Nagel can also focus on one more objection, while discussing the appropriateness of saying that the life is absurd and meaningless. Camus notes that the absurd life makes a person choose between struggling, feeling freedom, or acting passionately. Nagel ignores this choice because it is rather “useless to mutter: “Life is meaningless; life is meaningless…” as an accompaniment to everything we do” (Nagel 724). Nagel opposes focusing on the idea, but he supports the concentration on the actions to modify the situation and add more meaning to the human life.
Both Nagel and Camus reject the idea of the suicide as the escape from the situation that is why the whole situation of suffering from the absurdity of the life is meaningless when the human life is full of sense and important things. In this situation, only a person can modify not only his or her perception but also the whole situation. While imagining the philosophical dialogue involving the thinkers, it is possible to note that Camus can focus on providing the rebuttal. According to Camus, a person should choose how to adapt to the absurdity not because of his or her inclination, but because of the fact that “this world is absurd” (Camus par. 39).
Furthermore, “from the moment absurdity is recognized, it becomes a passion, the most harrowing of all” (Camus par. 41). That is why, according to Camus, the life is discussed as meaningless only because it is meaningless in itself, and revolt, freedom, and passion are the reasonable people’s choices to survive in the absurd world.
Having analyzed the positions proposed by Camus and Nagel, it is possible to note that Nagel’s idea is more convincing because the author refers to the role of the individual in discussing the absurdity of the life when Camus focuses on the absurd as the stated fact which is supported with the examples for the people’s considerations about the struggle, revolt, freedom, and passion. Camus does not provide the person with a chance to decide whether the life is meaningless or not.
The thinker rejects the idea of the suicide, but the other proposed variants to think about the situation are also non-persuasive. On the contrary, Nagel’s objections seem to be reasonable, and the arguments provided by the thinker are more convincing in comparison with the ideas proposed by Camus (Nagel 727). According to Nagel, the life is absurd, but not because of the universe laws, but because of the person’s actions which should be discussed here and now instead of focusing on the large time and space perspective.
In their works, Albert Camus and Thomas Nagel discuss the same idea of the absurd in the human life. However, in spite of the similar topic for the discussion, the authors’ approaches to revealing the arguments are rather different because in The Myth of Sisyphus, Camus presents the idea of the absurd reasoning and states the role of the contradiction to describe the human life as meaningless. Nagel chooses the opposite position because he does not agree with the fact that the life is absurd in all the situations.
Nagel’s position is more convincing because he notes that the person has the right to modify his or her life in order to cope with the absurdity in a way. Thus, the universal contradiction affects the person’s vision of the life’s meaning and absurd only indirectly, while providing a lot of opportunities for an individual to choose the situation.
Camus, Albert. The Myth of Sisyphus: An Absurd Reasoning. n.d.
Nagel, Thomas. “The Absurd”. The Journal of Philosophy 68.20 (1971): 716-727. Print.