Absurd Relations

Human Affairs 29 (4):387-394 (2019)
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Absurdist accounts of life’s meaning posit that life is absurd because our pretensions regarding its meaning conflict with the actual or perceived reality of the situation. Relationary accounts posit that contingent things gain their meaning only from their relationship to other meaningful things. I take a detailed look at the two types of account, and, proceeding under the assumption that they are correct, combine them to see what the implications of such a combination might be. I conclude that another way of looking at the absurdity of life is to see it as a conflict between our dual beliefs that there exist intrinsically meaningful contingent things, and that contingent things may only gain their meaning extrinsically through their relationships to other meaningful things. In this way, I provide another lens through which feelings of life’s absurdity may be interpreted and analysed: as the conflict between the simultaneous beliefs in both intrinsically and relationally meaningful contingent things. Looking through this lens gives us an entirely different framework for analysing life’s absurdity than that which Nagel described in 1971, providing opportunity for more potential avenues of analysis and discussion.
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