Absurdum Quid

I am thus justified in saying that the feeling of absurdity does not spring from the mere scrutiny of a fact or an impression, but that it bursts from the comparison between a bare fact and a certain reality, between an action and the world that transcends it. The absurd is essentially a divorce. It lies in neither of the elements compared; it is born of their confrontation.

In this particular case and on the plane of intelligence, I can therefore say that the Absurd is not in man (if such a metaphor could have a meaning) nor in the world, but in their presence together. For the moment it is the only bond uniting them. If I wish to limit myself to facts, I know what man wants, I know what the world offers him, and now I can say that I also know what links them. I have no need to dig deeper. A single certainty is enough for the seeker. He simply has to derive all the consequences from it.

The immediate consequence is also a rule of method. The odd trinity brought to light in this way is certainly not a startling discovery. But it resembles the data of experience in that it is both infinitely simple and infinitely complicated. Its first distinguishing feature in this regard is that it cannot be divided. To destroy one of its terms is to destroy the whole. There can be no absurd outside the human mind. Thus, like everything else, the absurd ends with death. But there can be no absurd outside this world either. And it is by this elementary criterion that I judge the notion of the absurd to be essential and consider that it can stand as the first of my truths.


Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays, Justin O’Brien (trans.), Random House, New York, NY, 1991. Originally published in France as Le Mythe de Sisyphe by Librairie Gallimard, 1942. First published in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf, 1955.

This entry was posted in Absurdity, Albert Camus, Existentialism, Inquiry, Method, Peirce, Pragmatic Maxim, Pragmatism, Sisyphus, Tertium Quid, Thirdness, Triadicity and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Absurdum Quid

  1. Poor Richard says:

    Absurd = makes no sense. I agree with Camus — the three prerequisites are 1) a rational observer and 2) the perception of some irrational, incoherent, paradoxical, or perhaps ironic relation between 3) different sets of facts. The more confidence we have in each set of facts, the greater the potential absurdity. Therefore, ABSURDLY, the more we know (e.g. the older I get or the more systems science evolves) the less sense many things make.

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