In Existentialism, there are many figureheads like Jean-Paul Sarte, Søren Kierkegaard, Martin Heidegger, and many others with different key doctrines. Freidrich Nietzsche and Albert Camus are important to the Existentialist Movement with Nietzsche being a pioneer for the movement and Camus writing many books and novels with Existentialist ideas. With Camus, it was absurd and with Nietzsche, it was the will to power. Both have similarities and differences
Albert Camus was a French Algerian novelist who, denied being a philosopher, became part of the Existentialist movement with his question of the ‘Absurd’. Camus wrote The Myth of Sisyphus, The Stranger, and other papers and novels that talked about or dealt with the absurd. Camus proposed that the absurd is:
A world that can be explained even with bad reasons is a familiar…His exile is without remedy since he is deprived of a memory of a lost home or the hope of the promised land. This divorce between man and his life, the actor and his setting, is properly the feeling of absurdity. (Camus 2)
The absurd is a feeling of trying to find meaning and desire in a godless existence. In which the absurdity grows more to how much credence we give it.
Camus named his paper after the story of a king named Sisyphus who tricked the greek gods twice, and whose punishment was to roll a boulder up a hill and the boulder would roll back down. Camus wrote in his paper that Sisyphus is an absurd hero, that Sisyphus embraces his life knowing that he is only pushing a rock up and down the mountain he is confined to.
Not only does Camus talk about the absurd in The Myth Of Sisyphus, Camus also expands this to his book, The Stranger. The story takes place in Algeria under French colonial rule and follows a man named Meursault who kills a man and is sent to prison and son is sentenced to death after his trial. Within the story during the trial, Meursault is shown to show little to no affection towards anybody.A good example is when his girlfriend proposes to him he does not show excitement or any emotion to the question. The best example however is before and after his mother’s funeral, Meursault mainly thought about going into work and talking to his boss about missing those days for his mother’s funeral. The main reason why all of these moments are brought up is that Meursault is another example of an absurd hero. Meursault just moves by day-to-day life going to work and spending his weekends with his girlfriend. He really does not have an opinion on anything, until he spends his night in jail and fully realizes what his situation is. There he fully understands that he will not be able to be with his girlfriend, that he will not be able to see the sea and sun. Lastly where he will not be able to enjoy any of his past freedoms that he used to enjoy and not really think about it. There Meursault is fully stricken with the absurd. When he talks to the chaplain about God and repents to him, Meursault yells at him telling the chaplin of the harshness of existence and how the system is flawed and its superficial rules and norms. Afterward Meursault fully embraces his fate/ death and soon ask (Insert quote)
Friedrich Nietzsche was a German philosopher who was one of the pioneers to the Existentialist movement. Nietzsche wrote many books that encompas the concept of the ‘Will to power’ such as Beyond Good and Evil, The Gay ScienceI, and other works. One problem with Nieztsche however is that his writing can be difficult to interpret. A good example is from The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:
…we continue to lack anything like a comprehensive account of Nietzsche’s strategies as a writer and rhetorician. Most of us (this entry included) are defeated by the bewildering richness of the subject matter and content ourselves with a few observations of special relevance to our other purposes.(R. Lanier Anderson 5)
Regardless of Nieztsche’s propensity to use a stylish heavy form of writing, Nietzsche was still able to express his idea of the will to power.
Nietzsche in his book Beyond Good and Evil talks about the will to power in this paragraph:
We must make the attempt to posit hypothetically the casualty of the will as the only casualty. ‘Will’ can naturally only operate on will – and not on ‘matter’: in short, the hypothesis must be hazarded, whether will does not operate on will wherever ‘effects’ are recognized – and whether all mechanical action, inasmuch as a power operates therein, is not just the power of will, the effect of a will. (Beyond Good and Evil 43)
In this paragraph, Nietzsche talks about how will is used as a person’s main reason for doing anything and dictates what they are able to do. The next part to the will to power idea is that, in Nietzsche’s words:
Granted that all organic functions could be traced back to this Will to Power … could also be found therein: one would thus have acquired the right to define all active force unequivocally as Will to Power…It would simply be ‘Will to Power’, and nothing else. (Beyond Good and Evil 43)
This quote is establishing the fact that all actions or “Functions” as described in the quote are dictated from the Will to Power. With the last quote concerning the Will to Power, Nietzsche says “… Not owning to morality or immorality, but because live it lives, and because life is precisely the Will to Power… it is a consequence of the intrinsic Will to Power, which is precisely the Will to Life.” (Beyond Good and Evil 159) with this quote saying that the Will to power is intrinsic to people, it is with us. The last thing that Nietzsche wrote about his will to power is that everyone has a Will to Power, and those with greater will overrule those with a lesser will.
Camus and Nietzsche have many similarities and differences to each other. Their origins are different, but that’s not the point. In this section their main ideas the Will to power and the absurd. Camus claims, as stated above, that every human suffers from the absurd due to human’s ability to think and reason. The same for the will to power, in which everything has a will, and those with the strongest will to prevail over those with lesser wills. That being said the main focus is that these two main ideas try to explain what it means to be human and to survive a godless existence. Some difference is how to interpret the main ideas. With the absurd, people often think of Camus as branching into nihilism in which, but Camus is not a nihilist. In the myth of Sisyphus, he talks about finding meaning and happiness even when faced with doing the same task. “Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night filled mountain, in itself forms a world. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy. It must also be reinstated from above of Nietzsche’s writing style and how it is easy to misinterpret or not be able to fully understand his writing. As such, there are many ways to interpret Neitztsche from The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy “Others receive it as an anti-essentialist rejection of traditional metaphysical theorizing in which abstract and shifting power-centers replace stable entities, or else as a psychological hypothesis, or a (quasi-)scientific conjecture”(R. Lanier Anderson 6.1) This of the entry talks about the different forms of what Nietzsche meant when he talked about the Will to Power