Existentialism is one of the philosophical currents that have most influenced contemporary thought and the history of Psychology. Because of its influence, for example, appeared the Humanist Psychology of Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers, among others, authors who greatly emphasized the importance of the subjective aspects of consciousness.

Now, to understand what existentialism is, it is not enough to know the trace it left in a part of Psychology. It is preferable to know its foundations, among which we find the existentialist theory of Albert Camus . Next we will see the main aspects of this author’s philosophy.

Who was Albert Camus? Brief biography

Camus was born in French Algeria in 1913 . Due to the death of his father in the First World War, he grew up with his mother in an environment of great poverty and precariousness.

In early adulthood he studied philosophy at the University of Algiers, and later, at the age of 25, moved to Paris, where he became involved in political movements and began to serve in the French Communist Party. Shortly afterwards he was expelled from it because of his disagreements over the objectives pursued in political action. During the Second World War he was active in the underground press and wrote some of the works that made him famous.

Some time after the armed conflict disappeared, in 1957, he received the Nobel Prize for Literature. He died in a car accident at the age of 46.

Camus’ existentialist theory

Camus’ philosophical interests were a reflection of the turbulent times in which he lived. On the one hand, the serious armed conflicts called into question the idea of progress caused by technological advances, and on the other hand, the great ideological movements seemed to show that a common frame of reference had been lost. The human being had lost a vector, a direction towards which to move in order to reach goals pursued by all and unequivocally positive.

Existentialism explores this feeling of disorientation, as we will see in the main characteristics of Albert Camus’ theory.

1. The subjective feeling of sense

Albert Camus begins by recognizing that human beings spontaneously develop a very strong sense of purpose, linked to their own identity. In other words, we internalise the idea that life has meaning , without anyone having to educate us in that direction. In turn, as we will see, this gets us into trouble without hardly knowing why, without noticing that we have fallen into a trap from the beginning.

2. The absence of the meaning of life

At the same time, another of the main components of Albert Camus’ existentialist theory is the principle that life, in reality, has no meaning. It is a conclusion that the philosopher reaches simply by examining the arguments in favour of a meaning to life, and without finding a single reason why this should exist.

At the same time, all the recent scientific discoveries began to explain more and more veiled plots of knowledge until that moment, so there was no need for the figure of a god that could give meaning to humanity. Camus thought that we are entirely human, and as such we are alone .

3. The contradiction of life

The two previous elements insinuate a contradiction within our existence. We believe that our lives have meaning, but this is false, and when reality gives us signs of this, we become frustrated, we perceive it as an attack on our identity and an existential crisis appears that generates much discomfort .

Thus, for Camus, coming to live in a desirable way implies overcoming this contradiction, looking beyond it and accepting that tension that causes the void of meaning.

4. Assuming nonsense

How do you get to live well? The solution lies in assuming the absence of a meaning built from outside and building it oneself. This is the revolutionary idea inherited by many thinkers interested in self-realization. If the absence of a meaning in life can be suffocating, at least is an indicator that we are free to assign a totally original and proper meaning to everything we do.

In this way, from Albert Camus’ existentialism, each person has the responsibility to trace his or her own history. Regardless of the objective facts that occur to him, it is one who interprets his life path according to the narrative he has built up about it.