Normally I begin with an example of sorts, a foil upon which I later cast my own reflections back to the world... or at least to the online archive of my thoughts. Today, in an act of self aware absurdity, or perhaps non-absurd self-awareness, or even the both/and and neither/nor of the qualitative substrates, we'll use the foil of the reflection we just entertained.
Reality is inherently circular. Not reality in the sense of the world, dear lord no. For us to qualify reality in the sense of the experiential world would be a qualification achieved through language, language the inherently circularly characteristic of reality itself. So instead, we observe ourselves through a circular mechanism and by virtue of its circular nature follow the fractal to the finest points of our understood existence.
What is the practical lesson within this quasi-mystical rambling? Why the practical lesson is of course the inability for us to ascribe full certain to the reasoning and rationale that impels us towards any individual action. I can be no more assured of the absolute goodness of any action beyond the relative narrative field in which it is contextualized. Bravo. The same's been said a thousand times before, in different words no doubt, but said all the same. From where might we diverge, or if not diverge, innovate?
Despite the failure of language to ever absolutely match experiential reality (unless we accept the proposition that language is reality, which isn't our current assumption) and despite this being the essential quality of human experience beyond action in the world, philosophers have failed by refusing to assign a name, an adjective, an understanding, a metaphor commonplace, known, understood, comprehended, and visible to humanity as a whole. They have failed the label. Whether it was from fear of the consequences or inability to see the obvious, the refused to draw the conclusion that the utter incongruity between experiential reality and understood reality, and therefore between different sets of understood realities (a proposition I will state for now, and perhaps in a later post elucidate). They refused to acknowledge that the human experience is absurd.
Sure, Camus and Nagel have both called existence absurd, but in doing so they maligned the definition of absurd. Absurd, to them, is meaningless. It is limited solely to the fact that there is not a universal meaning towards which we can even reach, let alone acquire. While I do not completely discount this aspect of absurdity to the human experience herein named, I fully disagree that it can be qualified as the sole determinate. Rather, the absurdity is found in the incongruity of meaning. It is found in the fact that whether I choose to acknowledge this empty bottle of coke as a sign from the gods, as a vessel for conveying a sugary liquid manufactured by the coca-cola company, or as a vase, makes no qualitative difference. It is absurd that I should promote one point of view over another. It is absurd because even that view falls short of reality.
A cynic might intone the "clear" values of pragmatism or hedonism in underlying any decisive weltanschauung, accusing me in the process of a relativistic stance. Yet these protestations fail to acknowledge the incongruous ground upon which they stand. While I for one applaud and apply pragmatism and hedonism and even a little altruism in making my day to day decisions, my rational matrix is by no means a well defined and navigable sphere. Rather it is inherently laden with contrapunctual understandings of the world. If I choose to buy a sweet rather than donate to charity now, what prevents me from donating to charity and forgoing another sweet later? What sort of temporal rubric can one bother applying within this nebulous field in order to assign a more positive value to the philosophical undercurrents of any particular stance? Absurdity doesn't reduce the world to relativism. It does not preclude a pragmatic approach to the world from achieving more easily its pragmatic ends. Nor does it simply demolish the hierarchy laying pragmatism as valuable as hedonism. Absurdity is above and beyond such petty disputes. Whether material success or sensual pleasure is a "higher" aim is not unanswerable, it's irrelevant in the ontological foundation of the experiential universe in the absurd.
How then is one to live with an understanding of the absurd as the crucial component of one's existence? Quite simply, live on. By acknoweledging the absurdity of the universe, one is freer to accept one's choices and make them definitively. One is no longer strictly bound to a specific identity, a specific ego, nation, community, ideology, or religion, one is rather free to choose commitment to identities without those identities taking hold of the individual. Absurdity encourages a sense of detachment. The underlying matrix rationale does not comprise the identity of some self-absorbed subject, the subjective presence is merely an electronic blip navigating the circuts of a single chip set within the grand universal computer. The computer, I don't need remind you, is dedicated to discovering the answer to life, the universe, and everything. It's answer will be 42.