Existentialism and the Absurdity of Life (Audio)

by Max Andrews

Lecture Audio

Brief Abstract

The two divisions of absurdity, subjective and objective, by all evidence, binding.  If God does not exist then man lives in Bertrand Russell’s world of scaffolding despair.  Man is merely the product of pointless cause and effects with no prevision of the ends being achieved.  All the labors of the age, devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius, are destined to extinction in the vase death of the solar system.  Man’s achievements are destined to be buried in the debris of the universe.  Only within the scaffolding of these [teleological] truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.[1]

If there is no God to provide meaning, value, and purpose, the only consistent option for humanity is suicide.[2]  Any becoming of life-affirming or life-denying acts are illusory.  Absolutely nothing can be a positive or negative act for the individual since there is nothing to determine a differentiation.  One is forced to face Nietzsche’s abyss and face the reality that no rope can scale the depth of nothingness.  One is only left with despair, guilt, and angst.  If guilt, and angst are not subjectively preferred then the only option is to eliminate such emotions and thoughts.  If there is no God, the only remedy for absurdity is to participate in Nietzsche’s abyss of nothingness:  suicide.

The symbolic logic referenced in the lecture:

God as a necessary truth implying teleological facts obtaining: (~Eg ⊃ Ot)

The Anselmian notion of God implying teleological facts obtaining: (~Ea ⊃ Ot)

Karamazov’s Theorem: ☐(~Eg ⊃ ∀ϕ~Wϕ)

[1] Bertrand Russell, Mysticism and Logic (New York:  Barnes & Noble, 1917), 47-48.

[2] Here is where Sartre, Camus, and others disagree.  Because of absurdity, man’s only option is to choose suicide.  Death is the only means by which it can be overcome.  In a Christian context, God recognizes that death is the only way to overcome man’s absurdity.  The means by which God provides teleology is by means of death.  God becomes incarnate and overcomes absurdity by means of his own death, which may be imputed to humanity.  Here we find a paradox.  In order for there to be a genuine sense of teleology and becoming there must be death.  There must be death to bring about life, a life of becoming, relationships, and of teleological existence.


7 Comments to “Existentialism and the Absurdity of Life (Audio)”

  1. This is quite disturbing Max. Are you often plagued by suicidal thoughts? It seems that your faith in God is the only thing stopping you doing something awful. Have you ever talked to friends and family about this? I don’t know you or them, but I am sure they would be very upset by your death, especially if you took your own life.

    Personally, I get a lot of enjoyment out of life, so don’t see the point in killing myself. I also have family and friends that I care about, and therefore wouldn’t want to cause them the upset that my death would bring. Unless you hate life and have no friends or family that you care about, this shouldn’t be too hard to understand. Life being short makes it MORE precious not less. This is simple economics – can you think of any product that becomes less valuable the scarcer it becomes? Bertrand Russell seemed to understand this – he led a fulfilled, apparently undespairing, life to the age of 98.

    Arguably, both afterlife options make our brief existence on earth equally meaningless – either eternal nothingness or eternal life. And arguably, it is not the idea of annihilation but of a better world awaiting you after this one that makes a swift exit from earth a more enticing prospect. Suicide may be taboo in most religions, but there’s nothing stopping the religious deliberately pursuing dangerous careers or hobbies.

    “Any becoming of life-affirming or life-denying acts are illusory”
    So what’s the difference between me a) enjoying something and b) being subjected to the illusion that I am enjoying something? Similarly, next time you suffer serious pain, try telling yourself that the pain is merely illusion – see how far that gets you. Calling these feelings merely subjective makes them no less real to me. And positing a God makes them no more real.

    Finally, on life’s purpose. Knowing that I was created for the purpose of another may give my life greater meaning to THEM, but not to me. And why would a God creating me create any more subjective meaning than say, my parents deliberately conceiving me for some purpose of their own?

    In conclusion – just because you find meaning in life from your faith doesn’t mean that no-one else can find meaning through other sources. That said, as I alluded to at the start of my reply, if belief is the only thing stopping you from committing suicide, I ask you please to consider your friends and family. Whether God exists or not, their pain at your death would be the same.

    • Did you listen to the lecture? I’m actually about to do a post on what it would take for me to become an atheist and it’s along these lines. If there is no God then life is objectively meaningless and pointless. There’s no purpose. The questions the class asks are good too.

      • “If there is no God then life is objectively meaningless”

        If I find purpose in my own life then by definition it has meaning, regardless of whether you call that meaning subjective or objective. I’d argue that a meaning that is subjective to me is the only one that actually matters. A meaning that someone else has come up with is their own meaning, not mine. And again, I don’t see how a God coming up with a meaning makes it any more objective.

        “The questions the class asks are good too.”
        Out of interest, have you had any atheists in the class explaining to you how their lives have meaning? I’ve enjoy hearing their response if you tried to convince them they only THINK their lives have meaning!

      • Yeah, I think I’d argue the contrary–that objective meaning is what counts the most. There’s certainly subjective aspects to it but objectivity is what is most important IMO. There aren’t any atheists in the class, or at least that I’m aware of. Again, someone can construct subjective meaning but objectively it’s absent.

  2. Nope, don’t have time to listen to the lecture. But you appear to be starting from a base that contains premises I fundamentally disagree with.

    Again, if you find meaning in your faith, and it’s stopping you killing yourself, than I’m happy for you. But you’re being presumptuous to say no-one else can, for example, love their family or enjoy life without believing in God.

    • I don’t think you’re understanding my argument. If you ever have downtime to clean your house or car ride take a listen. I’m not saying someone who doesn’t believe in God can’t love or enjoy life. I make a distinction between the subjective and objective aspects of it. So, I don’t think we’re on the same wavelength. I think you’re misunderstanding where I’m coming from. If you do ever listen to it please let me know what you think. I appreciate your comments and contributions!

      • Ok. But if you accept that atheists can enjoy life then it seems odd to say it would be rational for them to kill themselves. If you can accept I love my family, why do you think the most rational thing I can do is orphan my daughters? Do you have kids of your own? Perhaps your definition of rational is different to mine.

        I’ll try to listen to your lecture, but I’d imagine it would be a frustrating listen. There isn’t much common ground one can find with someone who thinks you should kill yourself!

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