Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus | Feeling & Passion of the Absurd | Philosophy Core Concepts

Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus | Feeling & Passion of the Absurd | Philosophy Core Concepts

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This is a video in my new Core Concepts series — designed to provide students and lifelong learners a brief discussion focused on one main concept from a classic philosophical text and thinker.

This Core Concept video focuses on Albert Camus’ early work, The Myth of Sisyphus, and specifically on his discussion of what he terms the feeling and passion of the absurd, which is in some respects a precursor to its explicitly worked-out concept.

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You can find the text I am using for this sequence on Camus’ Myth of Sisyphus –

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hi this is dr. Gregory Sadler I'm a professor of philosophy and the president and founder of an educational consulting company called reason IO where we put philosophy into practice I've studied and taught philosophy for over 20 years and I find that many people run into difficulties reading classic philosophical texts sometimes it's the way things are said or how the text is structured but the concepts themselves are not always that complicated and that's where I come in to help students and lifelong learners I've been producing longer lecture videos and posting them to youtube many viewers say they find them useful what you're currently watching is part of a new series of shorter videos each of them focused on one core concept from an important philosophical text I hope you find it useful as well early on in his essay the myth of Sisyphus Albert Camus is going to begin using language of effectivity and emotion he's going to talk about the absurd as registered in affective or emotional ways using the terms that are translated as feeling and passion now feeling is salty mall in French he's also going to use the word emotion very briefly and then passion is just the same cognate passion so there's this entire language of the effective that is is running through this and that's an important component of the absurd it's not just a thought or a cognition it has to do with how we feel and our feelings at least in respect to the world although they can be you know off-base or wrong they are just as real as our thoughts they're just as real a way of engaging reality or at least what we take to be reality as our mental constructs so he's going to talk very early on about this what he calls an incalculable necessary to life and this is in the discussion about you know suicide he says that a world that can be explained even with bad reasons is a familiar world but on the other hand in a universe suddenly divested of illusions and lights man feels an alien a stranger his exile is without remedy since he's deprived at the memory of a lost home or the hope of a promised land and he says this divorce between man and his life the actor and his setting is properly the feeling of absurdity so this is a feeling a South amount that can arise for us at any point in time and Camus will give us a number of different examples of how that might happen before we look at that there's another important passage where he tells us a little bit more about feelings and how they they play a role this is at the beginning of the absurd walls section he tells us that not all feelings but deep feelings or great feelings he says always mean more than they are conscious of saying there's always more to any mood any fundamental activity then that feeling can express or that the person feeling it can genuinely register and it doesn't matter how much journaling you do or how much emotional intelligence you possess there's always going to be this extra to it and that's something of the very nature of emotion passion feeling activity you know we see this is not a radically new doctrine in the history of philosophy you'll see Thomas Aquinas for example saying something quite similar about the will and how the will and the emotions are more attached to reality in some respects than our our cognitions so it's it's not just absurdist thinkers who portray feeling in this way now Camus goes on and he tells us some really interesting things here he says that great feelings take with them their own universe splendid or abject they light up with their passion an exclusive world in which they recognize their climate so a feeling which involves a passion brings an entire world with it we we experience the world in part through our feelings and there are layers or dimensions to the world that we're really only going to get in contact with when we feel things certain ways he gives you examples here he says there is a universe of jealousy a universe of ambition a universe of selfishness or of generosity every person feeling these emotions and we might say there's a universe of rage there's a universe of joy or bliss there's a universe of sorrow or depression there's a universe of anxiety each of these brings its own not just coloring to the world but reveals features of the world that we otherwise might miss absurdity will be one of those feelings he goes on and he says what does a universe actually mean a universe he says included in it is in other words a metaphysic and an attitude of mind so what do we mean by a metaphysic Camus is not you know delving deep into systematic metaphysics here he's just pointing out the fact that every feeling commits us to a certain kind of reality behind the appearances think about the universe of jealousy for example write an innocent text message is revealed as not being what it is on the surface in its appearances just the text exchange but really the confession of infidelity and love for another on the part of say one spouse or boyfriend or girlfriend the universe of joy takes things that would otherwise be rather boring and unimportant and says there is something really wonderful here right that's a metaphysics and he also says an attitude of mind the word therefore mind is SP right so it's not just a mental cognitive attitude it's also a sort of general approach to things a universe for a human being involves those it's a way of understanding and being in the world now he has another thing that he says it's very interesting here in this same section we're often not quite aware of our own feelings right he says that we can analyze them and we can also analyze other people's feelings as well so he says it's probably true that a man remains forever unknown to us and there is in him something irreducible that escapes us we're all sort of our own closed off systems as a matter of fact we don't even completely know what's going on in ourselves but if we observe people over time he says practically I know men and recognize them by their behavior by the totality of their deeds by the consequences cause in their in life by their presence and he says likewise all those irrational feelings which offer no purchase to analysis I can define them practically appreciate them practically by gathering together the sum of their consequences in the domain of the intelligence seizing and noting all their aspects by outlining their universe I can understand what feelings like joy anger sadness frustration boredom I can understand what these are by looking at how they affect us practically and how that it gives us a sort of penetration into our own psyches and those of others we can also do this with that of absurdity so he says that it goes with down a little bit further and he says there is a lower key of feelings inaccessible in the heart isn't that a wonderful way to talk about it not just that there's the conflict between the heart and the head you know or reason in the heart even the heart doesn't fully understand what's going on in it and yet those feelings are there so there's this lower key he says of feelings inaccessible in the heart but partially disclosed by the acts they imply and the attitudes of mind they assume so I might for example come to realize that I really am feeling anger even though I can't let myself feel that anger cognitively or effectively it's still there within me right or to use caboose focus here absurdity and he tells us in this very same passage at any street corner in the any street corner the feeling of absurdity can strike any man in the face as it is in its distressing nudity in its light without effulgence it is elusive but it happens to us over and over and over again and he gives all sorts of examples of this how we encounter absurdity in the world I'll just talk about a few of these he says it happens the stage sets collapse rising Street car for hours in the office or the factory meal street car for hours of work meal sleep and Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday and Saturday according to the same rhythm this path is easily followed most of the time we get into these routines where we're doing this we're doing this we have it on our calendar we go to our courses as we're supposed to and then he says but one day the why arises and everything begins and that weariness tinged with amazement weariness comes at the end of the acts of a mechanical life but at the same time it inaugurates the impulse of consciousness it awakens consciousness and provokes what follows and he says that this is one way that we can have the feeling of absurdity rise out of that lower key of feelings that we're feeling all the time and appear to us as something that we now do in fact feel he gives other examples as well you know our a relation to time the horror that might seize us about time perceiving that the world is dense sensing to what degree a stone is foreign and irreducible to us the inhuman that we secrete as human beings he says at certain moments of lucidity we go on and on and on to talk about this with examples and the examples that he gives us are not meant to exhaust it now what happens once we have this experience of the absurd and the feeling has actually arisen within us he tells us from the moment absurdity is recognized it becomes a passion something that can motivate us something that can be there driving us and he says of this passion that it is the most harrowing and that's how it's translated here of all now the French is a little bit more straightforward Dacia ron't you know to deja la is to tear a part right if I tear apart my let's say I'm you know a pro-wrestler and I ripped my shirt open rawr I'm gonna get in the ring and beat you up it's nothing like that I have torn my shirt apart I haven't torn myself apart but the feeling a passion can in fact be something that does tear us apart think about great rage think about great love and infatuation think about the anguish that you feel deciding about your future and the future of others all those sorts of things the absurd can become even more harrowing harrowing in the sense of digging a furrow into us or something along those lines there's a it reveals conflict within our very hearts within our psyche so once this becomes this harrowing passion right more than any other he says there's a question that arises for us he says whether or not one can live with one's passions whether or not one can accept their law which is to burn the heart they simultaneously exalt that is the whole question now notice that this question is being raised in an intellectual way within the course of a philosophical essay but in a way that we can effectively or emotionally connect with we can say oh yeah man I I know what that's like or I can at least imagine what it would be like to have that experience the affective dimension is incredibly important when it comes to our encounter with and what we respond or what we make of the absurd for Albert Camus you

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  1. His best example, in my opinion, is when the absurd is recognized when one rebels, almost mindlessly at first, against what we were not fully aware had crossed a boundary that we did not know existed. That boundary, if I remember correctly, is what Camus states as our awareness in our role within the absurdist dilemma. We essentially have no reason to rebel, but we do out of the passion to draw our own line in the sand. Almost as if staking our claim among a fight that is futile from the beginning and that's what makes it such an important answer to the absurd. Kind of connecting two books here but I really loved this idea because suicide seems, at face value, to be a viable solution; hence the reason for The Myth of Sisyphus. And yet, he connects almost something fundamental to metaphysics; the meaninglessness of existence and the meaningfulness of experiencing existence.

  2. I was just in the middle of RE RE
    .. watching that last one ahah and this one is much easier for me. ♡ love em all, im happy that my little brother is in the room i hope hes listening!

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