Existentialism Absurdism Solipsism Nihilism
‘Sisyphus’ (1920) by Franz Stuck
Albert Camus (1913–1960)
I am interested in the idea that the world is not what we see, and that we perceive the world as others dictate it to be perceived. There is the common question; “I see this colour as black, but who is to say that you do not see this colour as pink, but only know it to be black, and so that is what we both agree it is?” This could be further extended to sounds, touch, language. Further consideration leads me to the question; What is anything? If it is impossible to know for certain the validity of my perception over yours, how can we be certain of any perception, and from that, is there such thing as perception, or is everything that we perceive a constructed figment of our minds. How do I know that I have not already died, or have not yet been born, or that I am an entity that is never to live of die, but I have constructed this reality for myself to exist in out of need for stimulation. My interest in this stems from a fascination with Schizophrenia, a mental disorder that affects how a person thinks, feels, and behaves. The sufferer of Schizophrenia can hear, see and/or experience things that others cannot. This is seen as ‘a person who processes reality incorrectly’, but who is to say we are not the ones who experience reality incorrectly, that they have surpassed us. I don’t believe this to be true, but there are a series of questions that are sparked in my consideration of the condition. Absurdism is a philosophical school popularized by author and philosopher Albert Camus in his 1942 essay, ‘The Myth of Sisyphus’. It tells the story of Sisyphus, a figure of Greek mythology who was condemned to repeat forever the same meaningless task of pushing a boulder up a mountain, only to see it roll down again. The Absurd refers to the conflict between man’s need to seek inherent value and meaning in life and the human inability to do so. Camus endorsed Absurdism as a solution, believing that by accepting the Absurd, one can achieve absolute freedom, and that by recognizing no religious or other moral constraints and by revolting against the Absurd while simultaneously accepting it as unstoppable, one could possibly be content from the personal meaning constructed in the process. Metaphysical nihilism is the philosophical theory that concrete objects and physical constructs might not exist in the possible world, or that even if there exist possible worlds that contain some concrete objects, there is at least one that contains only abstract objects. Solipsism is the philosophical idea that only one’s own mind is sure to exist. As an epistemological position, solipsism holds that knowledge of anything outside one’s own mind is unsure; the external world and other minds cannot be known and might not exist outside the mind. A central proposition of Existentialism is that existence precedes essence, which means that the most important consideration for individuals is that they are individuals—independently acting and responsible, conscious beings (“existence”)—rather than what labels, roles, stereotypes, definitions, or other preconceived categories the individuals fit (“essence”). The actual life of the individuals is what constitutes what could be called their “true essence” instead of there being an arbitrarily attributed essence others use to define them. Thus, human beings, through their own consciousness, create their own values and determine a meaning to their life.