Humans have been searching for the answer to life for centuries. Worldviews like the Mythical and Existential emerged and were built on with the ideas of several philosophers. Great minds like Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre have attempted to explain the ultimate meaning of existence. Fully understanding the meaning of the universe and an individuals existence will never be achieved because the absurdity in relation to humans and the universe can never be explained in entire certainty. The following will explain the presence of absurdity in both the Mythical and Existential Worldviews and the similarities and discuss differences between them.
The Mythical Worldview is often described as primative or irrational since it predates the development of science and rationality. The theme of the absurd can be observed in the Mythical Worldview. Time isn’t important in the mythical worldview because it is something that is ongoing. Humans are animals, aniamals are nature the Gods are what is controlling nature. An individuals meaning for life is determined usually by a system of legendary stories that explains why things occur. Gods are considered the beings that control the nature of the universe. In Camus’ esaay The Myth of Sysiphus, Sisyphis is doomed to pushing a rock up a hill for the rest of eternity by the Gods because to punish him for angering them. Sisyphus realizes it is man vs. the universe.
He is protrayed as a metaphyscial rebel because of his decision to live with the absurd wwhen suicide is a way to face it. Humans are seeking the meaning of what it is to be human and what value the actions and decisions they make have on life itslef. Finding no definite answer to life is the absurdity in the Mythical Worldview. Camus notes in his essay that “the whole being is exerted toward accomplishing nothing” (120). This shows that he recognizes the absurdity of human life and deciding that there are other ways to face it than with suicide. People concentrated their beliefs into the notion that there are Gods that have abilities that mortals don’t have and in order to make yourself worthy of being accepted after your death you must prove yourself to this higher being. All Gods are interrelated some how.
God of love, Sun Night, Death. Myths provided people a sense of being, what they did in there lives was for a purpose. People lived for there future, not knowing what the futre was but questioning it. Their attitudes were devoted to proving themselves and the decisions they made reflected a kind of morality amongst that individual. When one starts questioning the higher value of what is supposed to be the highest value things seem to lose there value. Mankind ultimately is in search of a way to put the mind at peace and exist in the universe.
Existentialism is the search for an individuals meaning in a meaningless world. The theme of the absurd is present in the Existentialist Worldview. Enterpreting the world through observations, and experimenting but ultimately choosing to understand the meaning of the experiences in a way that is neither good or bad. Existentialists are trying to make rational sense of existence while understanding the fact of death. “The workman of today works everyday in his life at the same tasks, and this fate is no less absurd. But it is tragic only at the rare moments when it becomes conscious.” (Camus, 121) The value that is given to ones life is directly dependant on the individual. There is no real meaning in the world, just the meaning that we choose to give it. A persons authenticity can be challenged and what an individual belives makes them authentic can differ and just to what point someone is willing to go to prove the value of there life is solely dependant on that indivudual.
The Mythical Worldview is different from the Existentialist Worldview. The concepts in the Existentialist Worldview are more logical than Mythical beliefs. The Mythical Worldview doesn’t use emperical logic to formulate conclusions about existence but rather emotional experiences. In the Mythical Worldview Gods are used to attempt to explain the forces in the world that make life and are seen as the highest power. In Existentialism, if one chooses to accept the existence of God, and God being the higher power that caused humanity and creation, one will also seek the cause of God.
On the other hand, there are similarities between the Mythical Worldview and Existentialist Worldview. They both muse the concept of suicide. “The hub of a wheel moves with greater speed than the outer periphery, but both are always in movement as long as the wheel moves.” (Catanu, 134) Existence is like this wheel. Our actions and meaning we give to life is the faster moving “hub” and the absurdity that is the outer periphery moves slower but is dependent on the hub. If life ceased to exist, or the wheel stops moving, the absurdity halts as well. Suicide seems to be the only way to counter the notion of the absurd but most argue that it is not the most rational way. As Brée states in her book Camus and Sartre : Crisis and Commitment, “One dies, or one finds a reason for living.” (138) The power of reason is a common way to justify the human experience.
The theme of the absurd is present in both the Mythical Worldview and the Existential ist Worldview. The two Worldviews are in ways similar and different. Fully understanding the meaning of the universe and an individuals existence will never be achieved because since there is no proven method of countering absurdity. Even after death the purpose of life might not be known. The world continues to exist without us, and where we are after that point is beyond what any knowledge or truth can explain. What we are while we are existing is viewed by every individual differently . After this existence where we go is the absurd truth that will never be proven. It is the combination of universe and man that produces absurdity.
Man questions what we are while we are existing with the universe and no universal answer can be found by anyone. If humans cant be certain about any ultimate point or reason for being, why continue to live? My answer is that the lack of an answer is what keeps humankind moving. Also the lack recognition for the need to question an indivduals self existentially in this age of technology. We know we must die but we feel the need to leave a mark of our existence somewhere as some kind of symbol so that when we are dead somehow we havent stopped existing. I would argue that this dependance on technology has blanketed most of the world in a new branch of existentialism.
The internet world has become a type of unseen presence that we can be enlightened with through the touch of a screen. Somehow we are related to an extrinsic world that is much like a inverse in itself but has a meaning that we can discover with enough research. This, not being the case for reality and mankinds relation with the universe, no answer can be concluded. What bounds a person to there life is different from the next. Whether familly, friends, politics or power, the meaning one gives to life, in the end, is senseless.
Brée, Germaine. Camus and Sartre: Crisis and Commitment. New York: Delacorte Press, 1972. Print.
Camus, Albert. The Myth of Sisyphus, and Other Essays. New York: Knopf, 1955. Print.
Catanu, Paul. Heidegger’s Nietzsche: Being and Becoming. Montreal: 8th House Publishing, 2010. Print.
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