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Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Absurd is an adjective used to describe what is incongruous, unreasonable or illogical. It can be traced back to the French word absurde which shares the same meaning. The Latin root of this word, absurdus means discordant, ridiculous, awkward or inappropriate. The word absurd is formed by adding the prefix ad- to the body surdus. Surd refers to quantities that cannot be expressed in finite terms or ordinary numbers in mathematics. Hence, it can be seen that absurd aims to describe concepts that are either meaningless or foreign to the culture and understanding of the pertinent person or people. The word can be used more rigorously to define concepts that cannot be incorporated and communicated through artificial systems of thought (such as mathematics, logic or language etc).

Humans have an inherent ability to attain experience and information by either erudite knowledge or trial. We use this information to do reasoning and evaluation on aspects of life to develop a better understanding of the nature. Ultimately all knowledge, experience and actions are expected to serve in making a better living for ourselves. In this perspective, everything we know and do orbit around a core thought that utilizes information to provide us with a happy and good life. However when a concept is located outside the circumference of this orbit, it is perceived as absurd. Something is absurd when it is rejected by reason and does not serve our intellectual being in a significant way.

There is a school of philosophical thought called “Absurdism”. Absurdism states that humanity and life don’t have a meaning because the sheer amounts of information, together with the vast unknown prevent the possibility of certainty on any subject. Thus, Absurdism claims that one should accept “the absurd” and live with it. This system of thought completely removes the human figure from the center of the conceptual orbit, portraying a chaotic and incomprehensible image about the meaning of life. Absurdism is created by human conscience and therefore contradicts with its own meaning. If nothing had no meaning, the term Absurdism wouldn’t have a meaning neither, but this would be an ambiguous, futile and absurd argument.  Absurdism is closely related to Existentialism and Nihilism but that’s a topic for another discussion.

Absurd things, thoughts and people are generally deprecated by the society. This is primarily because The Absurd lacks usefulness and efficiency in a world of pragmatism. Pragmatism is another philosophical doctrine that claims only the useful knowledge is worth knowing. Pragmatists believe truth is determined by the situation and the truth that leads to best outcome is the best one. Thus, there is a strong contrast between the two lines of thought and absurdity is the one less favored.

It must be understood that absurdity is not about things that just doesn’t make sense; it is caused by the incapability of correspondence between concepts. This problem can be due anachronism or difference in intellectual levels between the sender and the receiver of information. Thus something that is absurd for us might be completely normal in the future and vice versa. An everyday event in a culture can be a taboo in another, thus absurd. Overworking and idea as well as lacking knowledge about it might turn the idea into an absurd concept for the thinker.

Paintings of Salvador Dali might be perceived as absurd by  people with different artistic tastes.
"Absurd". Oxford English Dictionary. 11/18/2012

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