Kierkegaard vs Camus in the Essay

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If dread enters as the knowledge that there is no knowledge from which to derive a decision, yet decision is all there is, then we reach a complicated idea of what comprises the individual. If there were a concrete and appreciable version of each person, ready at any time to assess, then the concept of dread would have less terrible implications. The fact is, when penetrated by the nothing of pure possibility, the reach of this nothing is beyond almost all conception. There never really is an individual, just some ongoing process of change. The nothing alienates the individual further than from mere others and the world. The nothing of dread brings into its fold, the individual. The individual supports this nothing and yet must determine itself on such grounds. Whereas before, we had the Kierkegaardian maxim of individual as truth, we now have no grounds for determining anything. The actor has forgotten his/her lines and must now choose them every moment.

As such, we must move onto a more concrete and grounded conception of the individual to explore the synthesis of Camus and Kierkegaard. Perhaps a synthesis already has purchase in the absurd. "The absurd depends as much on man as on the world…it is all that links them together."2 The absurd, as witnessed by the individual, affords a better vantage of human existence. The absurd links a creator of the nothing, to his/her respective nothing. Simply feeling absurd asserts the state of individuality. "Everything turns upon dread coming into view. Man is a synthesis…but a synthesis is unthinkable if the two are not united in a third factor."3 It is time to more fully uncover the meaning of these quotes. The individual has been defined as a synthesis of forces: mind and body. However, mind and body have no purchase without a grounding factor, in which the synthesis must take place. In the absurd, we find a complete synthesis of conscious being, witnessing the world as a feeling.

This grounding factor is world, both material and immaterial. The material world incorporates all objects. The immaterial world incorporates ideologies, and any other crowd-like doctrines of truth. Both of these worlds come to the individual as one, as "everything" once dread has come into view. So, in the act of realizing nothing, the pure possibility of further possibility, and so on, ad infinitum, there exists everything. This is the reason the crowd contains "untruth." Coming to what one believes is true, there exists an endless multitude of possibilities, each dependant on the individual and vice versa. So, any received truth, is necessarily an untruth; it brings everything into the nothing. The untruth of the crowd is the conclusion without the work, the decision without a decider. It bears none of the characteristics of an accomplishment, a courage.

Earlier, we saw that Kierkegaard equated fleeing into the crowd as "cowardice," and moving towards individuality as "courage." It is now more clear why this is so. To flee to the crowd is to take a possibility already established and accepted. One says goodbye to the nothing by accepting everything. There is no fear in it. To take one's own path, however, means to hazard oneself as a wager to the nothing, in which the possibility of further possibilities relies on each confrontation. Each decision is the decision to keep deciding. Worlds arise and fall in each confrontation. There is courage in each rise and fall.

Lastly, we return to the metaphor, provided by Camus, of life and world as stage, and individual as actor. Is this metaphor apt? Let us see. On a stage, all is preordained. Each object, each act, and each character, has been determined in advance. The dialogue, likewise, preordained. Everything. There are no decisions to be made, only moments to recite. Outside of the stage and its objects, there is nothing, relative to the stage. The moments that open the play already betoken the end, and the end is known at the beginning. According to Camus, only when these things drop, do we encounter ourselves in a world of absurdity. The absurd results from an individual no longer finding apparent truth in his/her surroundings. The absurd is not an object, a place, or anything definable; it is an interaction. As said before, the stage metaphor suggests no room for decision. When the stage no longer exists, there is only the individual standing in its folded abyss. All decisions are now available. Dread reaches full accord with the individual. There is no truth other than the absence of untruth, and also, the recurring condition of dread.

The upshot of all this is the notion of will and responsibility as more elemental factors of human existence. Without will, there would be no dread, no concepts and no action. Without responsibility, this will would degenerate back into the crowd mentality. Situations are staged by the individual, and must then be navigated. So the metaphor of the stage folding is not entirely accurate. If one were to exist purely in dread, only then would the stage collapse. However, it is the prerogative of the individual to make choices, to see oneself as able and to know that after this moment, after this decision, there comes another that requires the very same ability. There exists in each individual's experience with the world, a recurrence of decision and action. Each decision finds itself on the stage of the world, and each world is then decided as a new stage. To maintain the state of dread would be as cowardly as fleeing to the crowd, for it wishes not to exists concretely. The manipulation of dread requires a responsible individual, who seeks to fully control their character and their lines. New scripts beget new stages.

Endnotes

Kierkegaard, Soren. "That Individual." Existentialism from Dostoevsky to Sartre: The Basic Writings of Existentialism. Trans. Walter Kaufman. New York. Meridian Books / World Publishing, 1956.

Kierkegaard, Soren.

Camus, Albert. The Myth of Sisyphus: And Other Essays. Alfred A. Knopf, 1955. Translated by Justin O'Brien.

Camus, Albert.

Kieregaard, Soren. "Dread and Freedom." Existentialism from Dostoevsky to Sartre: The Basic Writings of Existentialism. Trans. Walter Kaufman. New York. Meridian Books / World Publishing, 1956.

Camus, Albert.

Kierkegaard, Soren.

Camus, Albert.

Kierkegaard, Soren.

Works Cited

Camus, Albert. The Myth of Sisyphus: And Other Essays. Alfred A. Knopf, 1955.

Translated by Justin O'Brien.

Kieregaard, Soren. "Dread and Freedom." Existentialism from Dostoevsky to Sartre:

The Basic Writings of Existentialism. Trans. Walter Kaufman. New York.

Meridian Books / World Publishing, 1956.

Kierkegaard, Soren. "That Individual." Existentialism from Dostoevsky to Sartre:

The Basic Writings of Existentialism. Trans. Walter Kaufman. New York.

Meridian Books / World Publishing, 1956.[continue]

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