This position is profoundly un-philosophical. He is not interested in sorting out the correct intellectual position; he is interested in how to live. What matters to Camus is that there is no clean-cut answer to these questions, and he wants to know whether it is possible to live with certainty.

We might complain here that there is no clean-cut answer for Camus because he doesn't make the effort to find one. He doesn't seem to make any particular effort to justify his shunning of metaphysics. His claim that we cannot be certain about any rational order or meaning in the universe is not based on careful arguments that show this kind of certainty to be impossible. Rather, this claim comes from the awareness that the greatest minds of the past two thousand years haven't been able to agree on a correct answer, and therefore we are not likely to be able to discover certainty either. His is not a philosophical position so much as a practical consideration. Camus admits as much in this chapter: "I don't know whether this world has a meaning that transcends it. But I know that I do not know that meaning and that it is impossible for me just now to know it." The "just now" presumably suggests that perhaps this meaning is knowable, but not without a considerable and life-long intellectual effort that would prevent him from actually living. He wants to know if he can live with the certainty he has "just now" and with nothing more.

Camus identifies three consequences of living only with the certainty that there is no certainty: "my revolt, my freedom, and my passion." His "revolt" is living in the perpetual state of conflict characterized by the absurd. He must not cease to yearn for unity and order, but he must also remain aware that this unity and order is impossible. His revolt is without hope for resolution. This may seem a bit of an odd notion, for how can one be in a state of revolt—how can one struggle—if one has no hope of success? This concept of revolt without hope largely defines the absurd man, and characterizes the myth of Sisyphus, which Camus takes as the title of this work. (His attempt to characterize Sisyphus as his ideal absurd hero comes near the end of the essay.)

The concept of "freedom" that Camus employs is characteristically un- philosophical. Rather than concentrate on the human ability to be free from cosmic or metaphysical restraints (such as God or physical laws), he concentrates on freedom on an earthly level regardless of whether God or physics may or may not be operating as well. Camus asks, to what extent can we do and think what we want here on earth? The opposite of freedom, then, is not a person restrained by the laws of physics, but a person restrained by a repressive government or by his own timidity—earthly, alterable influences. The absurd man is free in this sense because he has abandoned the idea that his life has any value or any meaning, and so does not feel committed to living toward any particular goal. As a result, he faces every new moment free from the constraints of thought and actions that we normally conform to in society.

Philosophical debates on the nature of free will are far more complex than Camus makes them out to be. Most philosophers have abandoned the notion that freedom is necessarily defined against some kind of metaphysical determinism. Rather, they generally see it as linked to human rationality: I act freely if I act for a reason rather than due to blind impulse or desire. I am free if I make a choice to do something. In discussing absurd freedom, Camus ignores the greater part of philosophical discussions of freedom.

The "passion" that Camus refers to as the final consequence of living the absurd is a matter of living in the present. Because the absurd man is not concerned with the future and is not preoccupied with the past, the present moment seems that much more intense and alive to him.

Popular pages: The Myth of Sisyphus