Camus rejects rationalism, but he does not seem to provide any philosophical argument against it: he claims several times in this chapter that he is doing nothing more than rehearsing and clarifying ideas that are familiar to all. He does not try to convince us that there is a flaw with rationalism so much as he assumes that we already agree that it is flawed. True, he touches on reasons why we might find rationalism unsatisfying—our failure to unify the diversity of experience, etc.—but these reasons are hardly convincing in themselves. They are not arguments, but rather examples of where a rationalist worldview seems untenable.

James Wood suggests that Camus's essay rests on faith, though faith of a negative kind. Camus is determined to believe that there is no God and that life is meaningless more than he is determined to argue for that meaninglessness. He is not presenting a philosophical system so much as he is diagnosing a certain way of looking at the world. Camus is not trying to argue that "seeing the world as absurd is the right way of seeing the world." Rather he is first of all doubting the idea that there is a "right way" of seeing the world, and second of all suggesting that seeing the world as absurd is often inevitable. The feeling of absurdity is essentially the feeling that strikes us from time to time that, like it or not, the world does not make sense and it is not clear. He is not saying the feeling of absurdity is necessarily "correct" so much as he is saying that it exists. He is less of a philosopher and more of a physician: he is interested in what living with this feeling entails more than he is interested in whether this feeling is correct.

Camus lists a number of thinkers whom he associates with the "irrational," with the rejection of rationalism. Where Camus uses the term "irrational" we might today use the term "existential." "Existentialism" is a tricky term to use correctly, largely because very few philosophers openly associated themselves with it. Still, it shares many of the themes Camus has been discussing, particularly the idea that the world in itself simply exists, and that any meaning or essence that makes sense of the world is applied after the fact by a human mind. Jean-Paul Sartre, a contemporary and sometime friend of Camus's, was the main proponent of existentialism as a movement. Though he borrowed the name from Jaspers's existenz-philosophie and many ideas from Heidegger, neither of these German thinkers considered themselves existentialists. While Kierkegaard or Nietzsche are sometimes called "proto-existentialists," they lived and died in the nineteenth century, before "existentialism" as a term had currency. Even Camus would later disown himself from this movement, leaving only Sartre as a committed "existentialist."

We should note that Camus, and all the thinkers he refers to, are deeply rooted in the philosophical tradition of the European continent. This tradition is deeply influenced by Hegel and by the earlier rationalist tradition of figures such as Descartes and Leibniz. It places a heavy emphasis on the faculty of reason and our ability to sort out metaphysical truths through the exercise of pure reason.

The English language tradition of philosophy, by contrast, follows much more in the empiricist vein of Locke and Hume. This tradition de-emphasizes the abilities of pure reason, insisting instead that we turn to sense experience for knowledge.

The dilemma Camus faces in discussing the absurd could, in a sense, only exist in the tradition of continental rationalism. The idea that our mind cannot make sense of experience is a far greater emergency to a rationalist thinker than to an empiricist. This is not to dismiss Camus' position so much as it is to place it in its proper context.

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