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Unpopular Ideas

Ramblings and Digressions from out of left field, and beyond....

Location: Piedmont of Virginia, United States

All human history, and just about everything else as well, consists of a never-ending struggle against ignorance.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Paradoxes, Anomalies, Inconsistencies, Contradictions, or What-Have-You

"The Myth of Sisyphus" is a short essay by Albert Camus, a distinguished French philosopher of the past century. It can be found toward the end of a collection of the same name, and it, or at least its translation into English, is a true glory of the written word. Camus was known for his explorations of the phenomenon of the absurd in human affairs, and to that end he began his essay with the following passage, which may strike one as being a paradox, an anomaly, an inconsistency, or a contradiction and therefore a puzzle but which was, to him, perfectly clear.

The gods had condemned Sisyphus to ceaselessly rolling a rock to the top of a mountain, whence the stone would fall back of its own weight. They had thought with some reason that there is no more dreadful punishment than futile and hopeless labor [which would be a good definition also of keeping up a weblog like this without making any effort to advertise it, except that that is not "dreadful"].

If one believes Homer, Sisyphus was the wisest and most prudent of mortals. According to another tradition, however, he was disposed to practice the profession of highwayman. I see no contradiction in this.

Unfortunately Camus doesn't immediately follow with an explanation of why he doesn't see a contradiction. I suppose we are supposed to be able to make that deduction from other things that he said before and afterward.

I can't offer an explanation, and I wouldn't want to even if I could. Instead it makes a good bone of thought to chew on instead of breaking it up and swallowing it whole. ...Paradoxes are a big part of the stuff of life.


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