Foundations?

In The Myth of Sisyphus Camus writes,
“The mind’s first step is to distinguish what is true from what is false. However, as soon as thought reflects on itself, what it first discovers is a contradiction.”
In his search for a foundation for knowledge (being a descendant of Descartes) he looks to logic, science, and religion. None is satisfactory.
Logic: leads to contradiction. For by asserting that all is true we assert the truth of the contrary assertion and consequently the falsity of our own thesis. “This vicious circle is but the first of a series in which the mind that studies itself gets lost in a giddy whirling.” (anyone feel like that?)
Science: science when pushed always ends in metaphor. The mind is a “multi-media movie”   – a “narrator” – “a software program” etc. The world? The world is like a butterfly; however that may be.
Religion: God is a father, a son, a king. But which god? Religion turns out to be relativistic to the core. What is god’s name? Spaghetti monster? Odin? Yahweh? Allah? Zeus?

Camus’s “cogito” becomes “This heart within me I can feel, and I judge that it exists. This world I can touch, and I likewise judge that it exists. There ends all my knowledge, and the rest is construction.”

4 thoughts on “Foundations?

  1. This reminded me of Sextus Empiricus.
    From Standford Encyclopedia:

    ” So if we are smart and energetic we seek intellectual tranquillity, or freedom from the troubles which come from being assailed by the many contradictions the world seems to offer. Sextus elaborates further in PH I 25–30 that ‘the aim of the Skeptic is tranquillity in matters of opinion’ (I 26). But whereas to begin with, ‘Skeptics were hoping to acquire tranquillity by deciding the anomalies in what appears and is thought of’ (I 29), they found themselves unable to settle the questions they were investigating and ended up suspending judgment (because of their Skeptical skill). But rather than this making them even more troubled, they discovered—to their surprise—that in fact tranquillity followed after all! They did not find the answers they had been looking for, because the Skeptical skill will preclude you from finding such answers; nonetheless, tranquillity did ensue. Sextus illustrates this fortuitousness with a story about Apelles the painter:

    he was painting a horse and wanted to represent in his picture the lather on the horse’s mouth; but he was so unsuccessful that he gave up, took the sponge on which he had been wiping off the colours from his brush, and flung it at the picture. And when it hit the picture, it produced a representation of the horse’s lather. (PH I 28)”

    “Sextus says that tranquillity follows suspension of judgment ‘as a shadow follows a body’ “

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  2. “Logic: leads to contradiction. For by asserting that all is true we assert the truth of the contrary assertion and consequently the falsity of our own thesis. ”

    I don’t understand this claim. Can someone help?

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  3. I wonder if Camus is arguing that all “foundations of knowledge” approaches fail?
    Sense data – but we are often misled by our senses
    Logic – seems such a mechanical approach that leaves out life itself
    God – seems so relativistic

    The mind’s first step is to distinguish what is true from what is false. However, as soon as thought reflects on itself, what it first discovers is a contradiction. Useless to strive to be convincing in this case. Over the centuries no one has furnished a clearer and more elegant demonstration of the business than Aristotle : “The often ridiculed consequence of these opinions is that they destroy themselves. For by asserting that all is true we assert the truth of the contrary assertion and consequently the falsity of our own thesis (for the contrary assertion does not admit that it can be true). And if one says that all is false, that assertion is itself false. If we declare that solely the assertion opposed to ours is false or else that solely ours is not false, we are nevertheless forced to admit an infinite number of true or false judgments. For the one who expresses a true assertion proclaims simultaneously that it is true, and so on ad infinitum.”

    This vicious circle is but the first of a series in which the mind that studies itself gets lost in a giddy whirling. The very simplicity of these paradoxes makes them irreducible.

    You have already grasped that Sisyphus is the absurd hero. He is as much so through his passions as through his torture. His scorn of the gods, his hatred of death, and his passion for life won him that unspeakable penalty in which the whole being is exerted toward accomplishing nothing. This is the price that must be paid for the passions of this earth. Nothing is told us about Sisyphus in the underworld. Myths are made for the imagination to breathe life into them. As for this myth, one sees merely the whole effort of a body straining to raise the huge stone, to roll it and push it up a slope a hundred times over; one sees the face screwed up, the cheek tight against the stone, the shoulder bracing the clay-covered mass, the foot wedging it, the fresh start with arms outstretched, the wholly human security of two earth-clotted hands. At the very end of his long effort measured by skyless space and time without depth, the purpose is achieved. Then Sisyphus watches the stone rush down in a few moments toward that lower world whence he will have to push it up again toward the summit. He goes hack down to the plain.

    More of the text here.

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