Kierkegaard: Leap of Faith VS Camus: The Absurd | Philosophy

When one speaks to the world but response is never heard, one strikes meaning into existence but the world lies only in pattern; while it dances in the ineffable we still dwell in confusion.

This is a landscape for absurdity, the polemics of opposing opposition, the dichotomy of two which never exist in duality: the human condition and the universe.

Absurdity, a recurrence of confrontation; in man’s desire to find purpose, meaning and clarity while the universe stands upright, still and silent.

 Albert Camus, among some of the most prominent french writers and philosophers of the 20th century, wrote the book: The Myth of Sisyphus while being what many would regard as an extremely depressing piece of literature focused on the absurdity of man’s desire to find meaning in an ever revealing meaningless world.

The focus of Absurdism pertains to the qualities of existence as what is evident in the physical realm of being. While Absurdism doesn’t reject the possibility of a divine being, it states that we simply cannot know if there is anything past what we can observe with our senses. Camus realised that specific individual experience evoked the reality of absurdity, but how could one deal with such a true reality? Camus saw that Such a realization with the absurd leaves the individual with three choices: Suicide, Leap of Faith or Recognition but one which he saw was the only defensible option.

For Camus, suicide is a “confession” that life is not worth living; it is a choice that implicitly declares that life is “too much.” Suicide offers the most basic “way out” of absurdity which is that of the immediate termination of the self and its place in the universe, this was not only giving up on life itself but is nothing more then that which alludes to many philosophical problems.

The absurd can also arouse a “leap of faith,” a term derived from Kierkegaard used in his book: “fear and trembling” where one believes that there is more than the rational life, to take a “leap of faith,” one must act with the virtue of the absurd, where a suspension of the ethical and rational principle needs to exist as for their to be any leap of faith there needs to be a cancellation of the reflective.

It must be reminded that this faith has no expectations, beliefs or demands as it is not “belief” itself but is a flexible power of instinct, passion and desire initiated by a recognition of the absurd itself.

Lastly is recognition, this is the acceptance of the absurd condition as an objective truth, instead of this leading you into further despair and anguish it will simply put you at ease with the world, whereby as I quote: you can “live without appeal” dropping the need to explain and render all your heartfelt considerations through the attempt to search for universal absolutes, one can simply direct such desired attempts towards formulating subjective maxims of purpose and meaning by will of their freedom alone, this is what Camus saw as the only defensible position in relation to the absurd.

Kierkegaard’s understanding and explanation of the absurd is slightly different from that of Camus’s, The absurd for Kierkegaard is something or a state in reality which cannot be rationally explained.  It could be said that for Kierkegaard the absurd is any action which happens without a rational reason to justify it. Thus, the absurd for kierkegaard is linked to the collision between two opposing powers which in in his philosophy are the ethical and the religious, this kierkegaardian absurdism of action which cannot be explained as rationally reasonable prompts the “Leap of faith” from the ethical to the religious. Thus, The inability to mediate the two contradicting forces of the rational vs instinctively faithful leaves the individual in a paradoxical state of the absurd.

In Fear and Trembling Kierkegaard gives the example of Abraham’s absurd condition (a state which cannot be rationally explained) in which he faithfully intends to kill his own son Isaac while at the same time believing that God will keep him alive. This is for Kierkegaard an exemplary manifestation of the absurd faith. 

Kierkegaard writes in relation to the absurd, the following:

“What is the Absurd? It is, as may quite easily be seen, that I, a rational being, must act in a case where my reason, my powers of reflection, tell me: you can just as well do the one thing as the other, that is to say where my reason and reflection say: you cannot act and yet here is where I have to act… The Absurd, or to act by virtue of the absurd, is to act upon faith … I must act, but reflection has closed the road so I take one of the possibilities and say: This is what I do, I cannot do otherwise because I am brought to a standstill by my powers of reflection”

Kierkegaard further explains how the leap of faith disguises the absurd from reality or more or less transforms it

“When the believer has faith, the absurd is not the absurd — faith transforms it, but in every weak moment it is again more or less absurd to him. The passion of faith is the only thing which masters the absurd — if not, then faith is not faith in the strictest sense, but a kind of knowledge.”

Here. Kierkegaard is saying that a leap of faith can itself master that which cannot be rationally explained, that itself can act as an antidote to absurdism, in relation to Camus the absurd is still the rationally unexplainable but relocated specifically towards the search for purpose in a knowingly meaningless world, which is the irrationality between man and the world, a leap of faith according to kierkegaard is that which he believes can act as a solidifying commentary to such absurdism but is this true or possible? Can such a leap of faith truly cleanse the mind of the absurdity of life or will it simply blind one’s ability to see and deal with the truth of absurdity itself?

To Camus, we must ground our knowing and endeavours in that which is in the realm of known being and reality as that is all which our innocent hearts can comprehend:

““I do not want to found anything on the incomprehensible. I want to know whether I can live with what I know and with that alone”

A sin is when one disregards that which stares into our souls, the absurdity of reality is as infinite as our personal existence and a surrender to indefinite absolutes is nonetheless an absurdity in itself, this is nothing more than a betrayal to reality

Camus writes:

“I don’t know whether this world has a meaning that transcends it. But I know that I cannot know that meaning and that it is impossible for me just now to know it. What can a meaning outside my condition mean to me? I can understand only in human terms. What I touch, what resists me — that I understand. And these two certainties — my appetite for the absolute and for unity and the impossibility of reducing this world to a rational and reasonable principle — I also know that I cannot reconcile them. What other truth can I admit without lying, without bringing in a hope I lack and which means nothing within the limits of my conditions?”

Kierkegaard was a strong advocate for subjective truths, these as we know that which are internalised feelings and values which one commits to in life, Kierkegaard saw that the leap of faith was one of the very crucial actions which allowed us to attain such truths in life which lead us to acting such truths out in the external corporeal reality.

Camus saw that when taking a leap of faith the absurd ceases to be absurd, subjective truths, faith and the spiritual realm hide that which was once previously known and turns the absurd into dust, the subjective world of truth has created a deep series of hierarchical values which do not exist in the rational realm of existence, this is where passion in faith has blinded the rational capacity in man.

Because of this, Camus believed that individuals must sustain themselves from their faith, so that the world once again becomes absurd, if this was not to be understood or actualised, he would call such an action: philosophical suicide, why? Because not only would we be rejecting both the absurd reality but also physical suicide itself, it would ultimately be a rejection of the rationally conceivable world for the favouring of abstraction over personal experience, thus, the dismissal of the reasoning, philosophical individual in hope for an irrational faith.

But can a leap of faith ever be justified in the face of the absurd? Faith and hope are the only things available for individuals to reaffirm their subjective sense of self which assists and guides their being. for any individual to further their subjective being and truth into essence a passional nature I believe is needed to view the world for an individual to not only create any form of meaning or purpose but also to find a sense of serenity in absurdity, with their to be a potentiality for a passional nature in being comes a priori a faith made for oneself which hopes for their to be something worth living for in the subjective truths that they find dear, this faith and hope within the passionate nature of being catalyses the curiosity for searching for what is meaningful for them, thus, to create a meaningful life based on subjective truths, a leap of faith and hope into the unknown provides the tools for such a personal excavation, only when a leap of faith that blind’s the beholder with dogmatic abstraction in irrationality does the definitive conclusion of absurdity in reality become muddy.

To have hope and faith a priori to find subjective truth and meaning in the face of absurdity, I give you this example: when an archaeologist goes digging for something meaningful yet unknown, one does not search without hope or faith in finding what they desire. This in the subjective sense is the same when one searches for their own personal meaning to life but is also needed a priori to catalyse such a search even to what is known as an absurd existence.

(References in YT video description)

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