Absurdity

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The realization that life is absurd and cannot be an end, but only a beginning. This is a truth nearly all great minds have taken as their starting point. ~ Albert Camus

Absurdity is a term for things extremely unreasonable, or as to be foolish or not taken seriously, or the state of being so. "Absurd" is an adjective used to describe an absurdity, e.g., "this encyclopedia article is absurd". It derives from the Latin absurdusm meaning "out of tune", hence irrational. The Latin surdus means deaf, implying stupidity. Absurdity is contrasted with seriousness in reasoning. In general usage, absurdity may be synonymous with ridiculousness and nonsense. In specialized usage, absurdity is related to extremes in bad reasoning or pointlessness in reasoning; ridiculousness is related to extremes of incongruous juxtaposition, laughter, and ridicule; and nonsense is related to a lack of meaningfulness. Students of the absurd or advocates of the importance of recognizing it are often designated Absurdists, and usually consider it one of their major roles in human society to note subtle differences between something that can seem entirely "nonsense" and something which is "absurd", in that absurdity is often hidden within either ultra-seriousness or widely-trusted thought, and actually indicates something beyond any particular notions or definitions of "Good" or "Evil" — or any mortally conceivable concepts whatsoever.

Quotes[edit]

Alphabetized by author
Why do we laugh? Because it is a gravely religious matter: it is the Fall of Man. Only man can be absurd: for only man can be dignified. ~ G. K. Chesterton
The only thing I can recommend at this stage is a sense of humor, an ability to see things in their ridiculous and absurd dimensions, to laugh at others and at ourselves, a sense of irony regarding everything that calls out for parody in this world. ~ Václav Havel
The more absurd life is, the more unsupportable death is. ~ Jean-Paul Sartre
  • Accepting the absurdity of everything around us is one step, a necessary experience: it should not become a dead end. It arouses a revolt that can become fruitful.
    • Albert Camus, in "Three Interviews" in Lyrical and Critical Essays (1970).
  • The realization that life is absurd and cannot be an end, but only a beginning. This is a truth nearly all great minds have taken as their starting point. It is not this discovery that is interesting, but the consequences and rules of action drawn from it.
    • Albert Camus, critiquing Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre, as quoted in Albert Camus and the Philosophy of the Absurd (2002) by Avi Sagi, p. 43.
  • It is not funny that anything else should fall down, only that a man should fall down … Why do we laugh? Because it is a gravely religious matter: it is the Fall of Man. Only man can be absurd: for only man can be dignified.
  • There is no idea, no fact, which could not be vulgarized and presented in a ludicrous light.
    • Fyodor Dostoevsky, in "Mr. —nov and the Question of Art" Polnoye Sobraniye Sochinyeni [Complete Collected Works] (1895), Vol. 9.
  • Modern man must descend the spiral of his own absurdity to the lowest point; only then can he look beyond it. It is obviously impossible to get around it, jump over it or simply avoid it.
  • The privilege of absurdity; to which no living creature is subject but man only.
  • We live in a time which has created the art of the absurd. It is our art.
    • Norman Mailer, Canniobals and Christians (1966), "Introducing Our Argument".
  • A prophet or an achiever must never mind an occasional absurdity; it is an occupational risk.
  • From the sublime to the ridiculous is but a step.
    • Napoleon I of France, speaking about troubles in the invasions of Russia (10 December 1812), as recorded by Abbé du Pradt, and quoted in History of Europe from the Commencement of the French Revolution in 1789, to the Restoration of the Bourbons in 1815, Vol. 3 (1842) by Sir Archibald Alison, p. 503; often also translated as: There is but one step from the sublime to the ridiculous.
  • I very much like your love of pleasure, and your humour and malice: it is so delightful to live in a world that is full of pictures, and incident divertissements, and amiable absurdities. Why shouldn't things be largely absurd, futile, and transitory? They are so, and we are so, and they and we go very well together.

External links[edit]

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