Sunday, September 21, 2014

Albert Camus, Suicide and the Absurd





Though Camus is correct in describing both actual suicide and philosophical (or intellectual) suicide as breaking the relationship of the absurd and when done for existential reasons is cowardly and irrational, it seems he takes his view of “everything is absurd” too far and forgets in-a-sense that though existence is absurd, it is far-more than that primarily in various ways and it primarily isn’t experienced as such most of the time.  This is seen most obviously in pain and suicide.
Though the existence of pain and death are “absurd” in being both pointless (without purpose, though it is at-times a result of the purposeful thoughts and actions of others, which is in-itself absurd), non-rational and unjust they are fundamentally more-than this; they are either painful and unpleasant in the most primal way in the case of pain, and the destruction of self in the case of death.  In-fact, it could be argued that the intuition and expectation that one should exist forever is absurd, and death is simply the end of something that was never owed or created out of rational construction and purpose in the first place.  Pain is first and foremost the very essence of unpleasant experience and is only experienced as absurd by beings capable of reflecting on their misfortunes and how they are undeserved.  Though the suffering of animals too is absurd, the whimpering of a stray dog or yalp of a deer with a broken leg is not expressing existentialist frustration with one’s relation to the universe or Kierkegaardian anxiety.
Camus acknowledges that most people do not commit suicide over existentialist reasons.  Such reasoning may appear in a suicide letter but even this is largely a result of long stents of depression that create the words of despair rather than the other way around.  However to understand this and yet make arguments against suicide on Existentialist grounds seems to be a contradiction.  Camus properly as I’ve stated argued against suicide as an Existentialist position or decision against a perception of meaningless in the Universe or of perceived futility in one’s activities, but suicide is largely done as a desire to end the pain that one feels (many times correctly) will only leave one’s self when the self is no longer.  To say that one should not commit suicide because it surrenders but fails to solve the absurd is much like making an argument against not eating a fatty desert because it ruins one’s relationship between one’s self and the platonic form of nutritional food, or that God frowns on either.  We must be honest if we are to take a purely biological and pragmatic approach to life and say that there are situations where suicide is not only an understandable act, but the rational thing to do.  Millions suffer every day but due-to the evolutionary imperative to persist and spread one’s genetic material they continue to linger in agony largely meaninglessly – doing nothing but suffering and very-likely continuing (especially considering those in horrible countries reproduce more-than in the first-world) the cycle of suffering.  Instead of claiming suicide is some type of sin, we instead should focus on creating a world where no few would have even little reason to end their own lives and may live it with purpose, opportunity and dignity – to say that suicide is a selfish act is one of the most stupid things I’ve ever heard and fails to understand what suicide is:  the self-inflicted obliteration of the self.
But while ending one’s own life should rarely be seen as an immoral or unjustifiable act, committing intellectual suicide and choosing to claim the Universe and one’s place in is objectively purposeful out of convenience is never virtuous or excusable.  First off, we must make a distinction between those who legitimately and naturally see the cosmos as purposeful and those who to varying degrees explicitly rationalize to deem the world and themselves as such.  If someone is naturally or “authentically” a Christian, practices a religion or simply a general mindset of meaning and order (in the Existentialist sense) in existence then they are committing no moral error but simply have either a psychology which has them see things in such a way or has simply not (though this is unlikely even in the most unreflective) thought one such matters to come to the conclusion that the only significance or “meaning” life has is what we choose to give to it.  However, Kierkegaard’s Leap of Faith is so named because it illustrates someone who is specifically not naturally moved towards some assignment of meaning to existence and runs desperately towards the irrationality of faith because it gives him or her a sense of solace and closure in being that they were unable to find otherwise – whether because they require a belief in “objective meaning” for them to be secure in life having any meaning at-all, or because they have lived in a religious setting for so long they are unfamiliar with the notion that we can grant our lives its own significance, aim and warrant.  This is obviously either cowardice (if we are to be judgmental) or simply a form of despair brought about by a mixture of social, cognitive and chemical factors involving the individual. 
Existential instincts have become far-more commonplace in the twenty-first century I find, and it will be this just as much as material factors and secular politics (and which factors cause the others or if they all influence each other mutually is debatable; personally I’m far-more privy to a materialist rather than idealist notion of human change, in that it seems to me that the most wealthy countries – that were once religious but then became less so – alter in culture and mindset creating a cycle of mindset influencing politics and social norms and vise versa) that will be the death-nail in the coffin of religious and eventually authority-based sentiment and reasoning.  We do inhabit an absurd world, and only by doing the nobly absurd and absurdly noble task of deconstructing all that is deemed sacrosanct and impeccable can we in some ways dissolve the absurd; and through what has real value begin to move forward as a species, together, rather than moving stagnantly towards perpetual nowhere and inevitable destruction, taking a leap of psychological and philosophical suicide because one lives in a world where being a human being (perhaps one of the most remarkable species in the universe whose full potential is very-likely far from being tapped) is a unnaturally daunting task.  Unless we give society the tools for being their best selves, they’ll always be limited in sight and action and either resort to suicide of the body or far-more reprehensible of the mind.  Only by revolting against the sickness of cowardice and base human weakness that is the herd mentality can we even begin to strive towards let-alone recognize what our passions and purposes are and in finding them usurping them into existence.

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