I’m just a neutral child in grown men’s shoes,
my mother taught me not to talk with strangers.
And I pretend to look at my life from another person’s point of view,
but the seriousness weighs heavily and it burdens me.
(Such is life’s) Absurdity.


This is a poetic version of Thomas Nagel’s definition of philosophical absurdity (derived from his essay “The Absurd”).
According to him, the philosophically relevant (here in the sense of universally present) notion derives from the very human condition itself. He rejects the view that we might have a desire for meaning that the external world cannot fulfill (Albert Camus’ assumption). Instead, he proposes that the absurdity of a human’s life results from the necessity of the first person perspective with the serious application of its evaluative standards which clashes with our ability to “take a step back” (transcend our own point of view) and recognize that we are not able to appropriately defend our standards in a non-circular and non-arbitrary way. However, we are not able to stop taking our lives seriously.

The fear of living an absurd or meaningless life seems to be deeply ingrained in many human individuals. Artists from any field seek to increase the meaning of their lives by capturing and creating beauty. They try to contribute to projects of (lasting) value and seek to authentically express themselves. Looking at the fields of animal philosophy and cognitive sciences one could wonder whether this desire occurs in non-human animals as well.



Nagel, Thomas: The Absurd. In: The Journal of Philosophy, 1971, Vol. 68, No. 20, 716-727, http://www.jstor.org/stable/2024942?origin=JSTOR-pdf.




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