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March 25, 2012 / compassioninpolitics

Answering Albert Camus Absurdity argument in policy debate

I suggest 7 lines of inquiry to help you answer Albert Camus’ absurdity in academic debates:

1) Life has purpose/life has meaning/life has value (you should have some of this in your K answer file in relation to value of life)

You can probably even get away with saying there are multiple ways to access meaning in life (ie propose multiple purposes).

2) Specifically, I would look at scholars in the vein of positive psychology which examine the issue of meaning.

–They will speak to the issue of “self-fullfilling prophesy” and “learned helplessness” that this type of mentality leads to.

–It may also help you frame these debates with the issue of “explanatory style” Ie Camus’ explanatory style is terrible and misguided. You won’t get cards that talk about Camus–you will get cards that talk about how pessimistic outlooks–it creates things like less choice in our lives, less meaning in our lives, and narrows the range of options.

3) Existentialism is overly pessimistic about life. [this isn’t a round winner, probably, but perhaps a way to tip the scales] Satre specific evidence is probably preferable….but in this case I don’t think its necessary. I think that fact that Satre had to deal with soooooo many issues biases his philosophy to be negative.

4) Inability to achieve our utmost desires doesn’t mean we should give up–doesn’t mean the quest is absurd.

5) This is probably a question of framing. Inevitably they are going to take a perspective on life which narrows its focus–life is all X. When in fact, part of life is probably X, but its also A through Z or at least 5 other things. Changing this frame I think is critical to addressing any of the pessimist philosophers.

Deal directly with the metaphors–this isn’t real life–this isn’t how life operates–its a dramatic misrepresentation. Instead, life operates this way.

Saying life is like this…..versus exactly this is life is also radically different.

6) I believe there are readings of The Stranger, which he wrote which are more optimistic than the portrayal of the K. Which would suggest a less pessimistic and more realistic view of life.

7) If the argument ends up being something like “suffering good”–You can embrace suffering which is truely inevitable, but not embrace others (ie put on a seat belt & stop at red lights & go to the doctor when you get sick). Suffering is certainly inevitable–but that doesn’t mean you have to embrace it all….100% of the time.

My guess is evidence which indicates that we are in control…….that we control our circumstances…..either is an onpoint answer…..or provides refutation of the worldview.

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  1. Nathan Ketsdever / Mar 26 2012 2:20 am

    I published a more extensive version of the above here:
    I suggest 12 lines of inquiry and investigation. I would also suggest you may get a pretty decent return on your time, because so many of the critical argument in debate deal with the issue of the meaning and purpose of life:

    1) Life has purpose/life has meaning/life has value (you should have some of this in your K answer file in relation to value of life)

    You can probably even get away with saying there are multiple ways to access meaning in life (ie propose multiple purposes).

    2) Specifically, I would look at scholars in the vein of positive psychology which examine the issue of meaning.

    –They will speak to the issue of “self-fullfilling prophesy” and “learned helplessness” that this type of mentality leads to.

    –It may also help you frame these debates with the issue of “explanatory style” Ie Camus’ explanatory style is terrible and misguided. You won’t get cards that talk about Camus–you will get cards that talk about how pessimistic outlooks–it creates things like less choice in our lives, less meaning in our lives, and narrows the range of options.

    3) Existentialism is overly pessimistic about life. [this isn’t a round winner, probably, but perhaps a way to tip the scales] Satre specific evidence is probably preferable….but in this case I don’t think its necessary. I think that fact that Satre had to deal with soooooo many issues biases his philosophy to be negative.

    4) Inability to achieve our utmost desires doesn’t mean we should give up–doesn’t mean the quest is absurd.

    5) This is probably a question of framing. Inevitably they are going to take a perspective on life which narrows its focus–life is all X. When in fact, part of life is probably X, but its also A through Z or at least 5 other things. Changing this frame I think is critical to addressing any of the pessimist philosophers. Scientists would call this a sampling error or an availability bias. (Also, this is reflective of a logical fallacy in logic)

    Deal directly with the metaphors–this isn’t real life–this isn’t how life operates–its a dramatic misrepresentation. Instead, life operates this way.

    Saying life is like this…..versus exactly this is life is also radically different.

    6) I believe there are readings of The Stranger, which he wrote which are more optimistic than the portrayal of the K. Which would suggest a less pessimistic and more realistic view of life.

    7) If the argument ends up being something like “suffering good”–You can embrace suffering which is truely inevitable, but not embrace others (ie put on a seat belt & stop at red lights & go to the doctor when you get sick). Suffering is certainly inevitable–but that doesn’t mean you have to embrace it all….100% of the time.

    My guess is evidence which indicates that we are in control…….that we control our circumstances…..either is an onpoint answer…..or provides refutation of the worldview.

    8) Here are 4 blog articles which might help–it more explains the argument, however:
    http://modernpsychol…t.ca/tag/camus/

    9) This quote is pretty decent:
    Existentialism though, does not merely require that it’s adherents deny the possibility of the divine, it also requires them to deny reality, by failing to acknowledge human progress. The famous eponymous metaphor that Camus uses to explain existence is the myth of Sisyphus. Like his better known compatriots Atlas and Prometheus, Sisyphus challenged the gods of Greek mythology and for his temerity was sentenced to push a huge boulder up a hill every day and every day as he reached the top, it would roll back down. Camus draws a parallel here to the human condition, that we, like Sisyphus, toil away at senseless and ultimately futile tasks. But to believe that this is true, one must willfully ignore the enormous strides that we have made as a species in the realms of science, medicine, and social justice. Though our lives may seem at times to be as difficult and unproductive as Camus maintains, at the end of each day we’ve moved that boulder a little further, and though some slippage does occur, even the most pessimistic among us would have to concede that it’s pretty far up the hill at this point and shows virtually no likelihood of ever rolling back to the bottom. In fact, it even seems possible that the summit is in sight.
    It may be that Camus was simply a victim of time and place; being French and living through two World Wars would be enough to whip the optimism out of most anybody. It’s probably hard to be too upbeat when you spend all your time with one ear cocked, listening for the roar of German guns coming to pummel your nation into submission, again. We, on the other hand, certainly live in a time when it is easy to be optimistic–everything from the cosmos to the genetic code seems to be yielding to our inquiries these days. But it is important not to let Camus off the hook quite that easily. Like Orwell, he should be remembered as a man of great moral courage, character and intellectual honesty, one of the key figures (post Darwin, post Freud, post Nietszche) in trying to preserve ethical standards of conduct for Man in the absence of God. But it should also be recalled that had his philosophy prevailed, enormous harm would have resulted. For the ultimate, inevitable result of his philosophy is to destroy the foundation upon which moral standards must be built. The Myth of Sisyphus is an admirable attempt to rebuild those foundations, but it’s real significance lies in it’s very failure to do so. Existentialism, which starts out by denying God, ends by denying Man, and is, therefore, anti-human.
    http://brothersjudd….il/book_id/1047

    10) This TED talk suggest a different framing of the question: http://www.ted.com/t…ond_limits.html
    I think it stands as a counter-narrative to The Myth of Syssyphus.

    11) Also, reframe whatever they mean by “intellectual suicide” to be consistent with voting aff. To me it seems like an incredibly empty phrase which means “take intellectual risks…” just think about the ways in which voting aff might be an intellectual risk. At a minimum–doing new things is an intellectual risk.

    His critique of idealism/transcendence seems pretty weak IMHO. Plus, lack of transcendent meaning doesn’t result in no grounding for meaning.

    12) Here is a possible research link for research on meaning which Camus probably didn’t consider…… http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/

    Finally PhilPapers.org and Google scholar and advanced Google search are decent ways to approach some of these problems.

    Mans Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl may also help you deal with these issues.

  2. compassioninpolitics / Mar 31 2012 7:49 pm

    Someone on this Cross-x.com thread corrected by understanding of Camus. Please read the original thread so you can be filled in.

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