2010 Abstracts Stage 2

Absurdity and the Apocalypse. Meaningful Existence in a Dying World

Jack Smith, 2010, Stage 2

Mankind has long held a kind of morbid fascination in the prospect of its own demise, and with that of the world as a whole. The apocalypse – the cataclysmic end of all life on Earth – has frequently been a subject of film, art and literature. In my project, I intend to investigate one such literary instantiation of a world subject to just such a cataclysm – the bleak and ruined existence described in Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Road’ – with regard to the philosophy of the absurd, as found specifically in the works of Søren Kierkegaard and Albert Camus.

When faced with the absurdity and meaninglessness of our existence – by the tension between our intuitive feeling that our lives have meaning, and our inevitable failure to find it in the world – we are plunged into nihilism.

The absurd man has recourse to three possibilities upon his experience of nihilistic feeling; faith, defiance, and suicide.

Through an investigation into the absurdist thought of Kierkegaard and Camus, and with reference to the world imagined in The Road, I intend to show existence in the post-apocalyptic world to be the ultimate embodiment of the absurdity of human life; that in this Godless world, where death is an experience one cannot stop living, and where nihilism is substantiated, inescapably, by existence itself, we find the true essence of our being, and the true nature of our attempt to give a point to our lives.

I intend to argue two things; one, that our world and the post-apocalyptic one are, in terms of human meaning, identical. And secondly, that despite the absurd nature at the core of human existence, our lives can still be worth living.

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