Why life is meaningless, according to absurdists | BBC Ideas

Why life is meaningless, according to absurdists | BBC Ideas

The A to Z of -isms… Absurdism… Most philosophical
-isms are attempts to make sense of the world. Who are we? Why are we? What’s the point?
And so on. But one -ism wastes no time on this topic at all. It’s called absurdism.
In answer to the question, “What is the meaning of life?” Absurdism says, there isn’t any.
No meaning. No point. No worries. Life is pointless. Existence is meaningless, and look
how many peas I have in this pan. Absurdism was pioneered by the Danish philosopher, Søren
Kierkegaard, who said that, “As the reality of God is beyond human comprehension, it is
absurd for humans to have faith in God.” In the 20th Century, absurdists removed the concept
of God entirely from the equation, choosing to make meaning and meaninglessness an entirely
human issue. Albert Camus believed that, as life is meaningless, we can have one of two
responses. We can end it all or we can find our own meaning. It doesn’t matter. You can,
as one of his characters does, spend your life transferring peas from one pan to another.
Or you can jump off a bridge. It’s all the same thing. Life is absurd, say the absurdists.
There is no God, so there is no point. But they go on to say, “that’s fine”. Absurdism
is an -ism whose influence has been strong in the arts. The idea that nothing has meaning
is a liberating one, particularly in areas like literature and drama which have traditionally
been all about the search for meaning. Most notably, absurdism spawned the Theatre of
the Absurd, probably the only theatrical movement inspired by philosophy. The Theatre of the
Absurd gave us the French writer, Eugène Ionesco, whose play Rhinoceros was about the
dangers of conformity and featured a lot of rhinoceroses. The Irish genius, Samuel Beckett,whose
work is less rhinoceros-based, and the British writer, NF Simpson,who wasn’t really an absurdist
at all but is very, very funny indeed, especially in his absurd masterpiece A Resounding Tinkle.
Beckett, by the way, could also be very serious and, as for Ionesco, the critic, Kenneth Tynan,
famously once said, “Once you have seen all of Ionesco’s plays, you have seen one of them.”
Which is absurd, but true. Just like absurdism. Absurdism suits comedy in fact because the
best comedy is essentially absurdist – and perhaps this is why absurdism will never really
go away.


  • N A

    March 17, 2019

    The philosophy of Existentialism also gave rise to the Theatre of Existentialism, which is markedly different from the Theatre of Absurd.
    Nonetheless, this video is fun!

  • 4Colours

    March 29, 2019

    Well. That's just absurd.

  • Ramiro

    April 22, 2019

    Sounds like existentialism

  • Nashiya

    April 26, 2019

    Absurdism says that there MAY be meaning, we just can't know it, and should instead live for the pleasures of the moment.

  • Soren

    May 8, 2019

    Careful not to mischaracterize Kierkegaard, who was a devout Christian and theologian despite his contributions to this “ism”. I’m not claiming you have, but considering the brevity of this video I can see him being misinterpreted. With that said, great vid.

  • ralsei with a gun

    July 17, 2019

    Don't worry all lifes problems can be solved with two apples and a pony

  • Microphone Hell

    July 24, 2019

    I thought I was nihilist. Now, I found out I am an absurdist.


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