Dec 032000

Do we have any reason to exist? If you ask me why I went to the university, I can answer the question with reason. But, if you ask me why I was born, I cannot answer. I was not born, selecting my favorite spatio-temporal point in the world of my own accord. The fact is that one day I found myself existing.


1. Groundless does not result in absurdity

That’s why I cannot give any reason to my existence, though I can to my action. Our existence is groundless. Is it also absurd? That is to say, should we resent this groundlessness?

Generally speaking, X is absurd implies Non-X is desirable. For example, those who insist on the absurdity of racial discrimination must be satisfied with the abolishment of it.

Is the same paraphrase applicable to the absurdity of our existence? If my existence were absurd, I would have to be satisfied with my absence from the world. But if I had not been born, I could not be satisfied with it, because I did not exist. Therefore, my existence cannot be absurd.

2. Existence is neither absurd nor rational

The same kind of question asking which invalidates the question itself is Why are we rational? Rational beings are those who can ask reason. If we were not rational, we cannot put any kind of question, Why…?. As we are rational beings, Why do we exist? is equal to Why are we rational?.

Asking whether our existence is absurd or not is, like asking whether a number three is sweet or not, meaningless. Three apples can be sweet or sour, but the number three itself is neither sweet nor sour. Similarly, the recognition and treatment of our existence can be absurd or reasonable, but our existence itself is neither absurd nor reasonable.

3. What can be absurd?

It is not scientific for a scientist that advocated a certain natural law and later finds out counterevidence to resent the rebellious Nature. It is not Nature but the natural law that is absurd.

A person that has been physically handicapped since birth might say, Why must I suffer from such a handicap, though I did nothing wrong before birth? If I had known I would be born handicapped, I would not have chosen to be born. Existence is absurd. If the handicap was unavoidable, then what s/he should resent is not the handicap itself but the way of society that robs the handicapped persons of freedom.

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  2 Responses to “Is our Existence absurd?”

  1. Your question is a compelling one that arises in every place and in every age. Is our existence absurd? I don’t intend to put forward a comprehensive answer here – too much space and time would be required. In the alternative, however, I would like to simply suggest that the answer to your question is “No”. Our existence is not absurd. The question- Is our existence absurd? – almost immediately gives rise to another question which is: “What is the purpose of human existence?”.
    Here, I am certain that you will find the thought of Saint Thomas Aquinas (expressed in the Summa Theologica) to be instructive. First of all Thomas demonstrates, in my humble opinion, that God exists. Having attained to knowledge of God who created us from nothingness, Thomas explores every aspect of our relationship to God and demostrates – in my view – that we do not exist in absurdity, but rather for happiness and certainly for God.
    Indeed, Thomas fully treats and I would even say “celebrates” the astonishing richness and complexity of the human person in relationship to one another, and to God. Suffering, evil, death – all persist everywhere in spite of human progress. We are laid low by these grievous and terrible things. We are compelled to ask pointed questions in light of the many difficulties attending to our lives.
    Is our existence absurd? We may well be the most perplexed human beings in the history of humanity. If there is a “destiny” for man we want badly to know what it is. We are reminded constantly by our fellows, the media, the intellectual elites who predominate in our great universities that there is no such destiny – that there is no truth.
    Self-expression and actualization are the best we can hope for if we believe them. I am so thankful that I need not believe them. I urge you to consider the possibility that truth may be known, that man has a higher destiny that trumps absurdity – trumps nothingness and yes, trumps death! The truth I speak of and the higher destiny of humankind to which I have made reference here, can be ascertained in the simple manner I have recommended to you.
    Consult Thomas Aquinas and having done so, I would urge you to then explore the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church contained in its Catchism. It is widely available and the cost is minimal. Personally, I have found the thought of the great Catholic philosopher, Jacques Maritain to be extremely useful as well.
    In a spirit of truth, and in the spirit of Saint Thomas, I thank you once again for your very nice contribution to philosophical discourse and I wish you well in your search for meaning in the life of the human person.

  2. You said, “I urge you to consider the possibility that truth may be known, that man has a higher destiny that trumps absurdity – trumps nothingness and yes, trumps death!” Maybe you need some clarification of concepts.
    1. True/false is different from meaningful/meaningless: For example, “1+1=3” is false, but meaningful. On the other hand, “dkajhfpqiwuyegfbn” is neither true nor false. It is meaningless. What you meant by nothingness is perhaps this meaninglessness.
    2. Further I distinguish meaninglessness from absurdity. I agree with you in that our existence is not absurd. Still it is fundamentally meaningless. We can decide the purpose of our life not before but after we came to exist in the world. You might think God had destined the purpose of my existence, but I do not know what it is.
    I do not want to argue over religious matters with you, because the result would be fruitless. However, it is at least certain that no all believe in God. In Japan, most of people unconsciously believe in the Philosophy of Nothingness.

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