Existentialism is one of the philosophical currents who have most influenced contemporary thought and the history of psychology. Due to its influence, for example, emerged the humanistic psychology of Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers, among others, authors who greatly emphasized the importance of the subjective aspects of consciousness.
However, to understand what existentialism is, it is not enough to know the imprint it left on a part of psychology. It is better to know its basics, among which it is Albert Camus’ existentialist theory. Below we will look at the main aspects of this author’s philosophy.
Who was Albert Camus? brief biography
Camus was born in French Algeria in 1913. Due to the death of his father during World War I, he grew up with his mother in an environment of great poverty and precariousness.
As an adult, he studied philosophy at the University of Algiers, then, at the age of 25, he moved to Paris, where he became involved in political movements and began the service. military in the French Communist Party. Shortly after, he was expelled on his own due to his differences over the goals pursued in political action. During the Second World War he actively participated in the underground press and he wrote some of the works that made him famous.
Shortly after the end of the armed conflict, in 1957, he received the Nobel Prize for Literature. He died in a car accident at the age of 46.
Camus’ existentialist theory
Camus’s philosophical interests reflected the turbulent times in which he lived. On the one hand, serious armed conflicts call into question the idea of progress induced by technological progress, and on the other hand, the major ideological movements seem to show that had lost a common frame of reference. The human being had lost a vector, a direction to follow to reach milestones pursued by all and unequivocally positive.
Existentialism explores this feeling of disorientation, as we will see in the main features of Albert Camus’ theory.
1. The subjective feeling of meaning
Albert Camus begins by recognizing that human beings spontaneously develop a very strong sense of purpose, linked to their own identity. In other words, we internalize the idea that life has meaning, Without anyone having to educate us in this direction. In turn, as we will see, this gets us into trouble almost without knowing why, without noticing that from the start we have fallen into a trap.
2. The absence of the meaning of life
In turn, another major element of Albert Camus’ existentialist theory is the principle that life, in fact, has no meaning. This is a conclusion the philosopher comes to simply by examining the arguments for a meaning of life, and not finding a single reason why it should have been.
In turn, all recent scientific discoveries began to explain more and more bits of knowledge kept until then, so that the figure of a god capable of making sense of humanity was not necessary. Camus thought we were entirely human, and as such we are alone.
3. The Contradiction of Life
The above two elements insinuate a contradiction in our existence. We believe that our lives have meaning, but it is wrong, and when reality gives us signs, we get frustrated, we perceive it as an attack on our identity and an existential crisis appears which generates a lot of discomfort.
Thus, for Camus, coming to live in a desirable way implies overcoming this contradiction, looking beyond and accepting this tension which causes the emptiness of meaning.
4. Assuming nonsense
How to live well? The solution is to assume the absence of a meaning constructed from the outside and to build oneself. It is the revolutionary idea inherited by many thinkers interested in self-actualization. If the lack of meaning in life can be overwhelming, at least it is an indicator that we enjoy the freedom to attribute a totally original meaning and clean in everything we do.
In this way, starting from Albert Camus’ existentialism, each person has the responsibility to retrace their own history. Regardless of the objective facts that come to her mind, it is he who interprets her life trajectory according to the story that has been built on her.