#6 in the series of which AC Grayling said, “I’ve never heard of it”.
What is existentialism? It is the use of pessimistic vocabulary to give apparent depth to shallow concepts. Dark is deep: this is our legacy.
There is an expression, “You never know”. There is also an expression, “The future is uncertain.” I prefer to say, “We must live without hope.” Alternatively, I say we live in despair. Either way, it makes you want to take up smoking, doesn’t it?
Any self-help book will tell you that many people don’t like to take responsibility for their lives and will sometimes pretend they have less choice than they do. I prefer to say that we suffer anguish.
God doesn’t exist and there is no moral code we can take off the metaphysical shelf and follow. That could sound positive and liberating, but I prefer to say we are abandoned.
People say that existentialism is a pessimistic doctrine. How can they think that when I tell them it’s all about anguish, abandonment and despair? It’s the most optimistic philosophy there is.
People say that if you are an existentialist, you can do whatever you want. Let me tell you a story. In the war, a young boy came to me and said, “Look, my mother needs me but so does my country. What should I do?” I said, “Don’t ask me. Work it out for yourself.” That’s why I’m France’s number one thinker and Camus isn’t.
Whatever you choose, you must choose. That sounds like a tautology, so let me rephrase it: You are condemned to be free. Still a tautology, but suitably bleak and deep sounding, so who cares?
In conclusion, I may look deeply serious, but inside, I’m having a laugh.