Absurdism vs Existentialism -4 Differences(With Examples)

As you explore the realms of philosophy, you will inevitably come across two intriguing concepts: absurdism and existentialism. 

Both theories delve into the human plight for meaning and purpose, but they approach the subject from different perspectives. 

In this brief introduction, we will uncover the foundations of these two philosophical schools of thought and prime your intellectual curiosity for further examination.

Absurdism, coined by Albert Camus, centers on the idea that life is inherently absurd due to the constant struggle to find meaning in a world that lacks any inherent purpose. 

Existentialism, on the other hand, focuses on the freedom and responsibility of individuals to create their own meaning in life. 

While absurdism highlights the irrationality and futility of life, existentialism emphasizes personal choice and authentic self-expression. Let’s dive deeper into these fascinating perspectives and explore how they shape your understanding of the human experience.


Defining Absurdism

Absurdism is a philosophy built on the belief that the universe is irrational and meaningless, ultimately resulting in a conflict between one’s search for order and the reality of the world around them. 

This philosophy brings to light the tension that exists between our human desire for meaning and the apparent lack of meaning in the universe.

At its core, Absurdism is a rebellion against this notion of meaninglessness. It embraces the fact that while our very existence may seem absurd, we should still make an effort to find meaning in our lives. As you navigate through life’s uncertainties, absurdism can act as a philosophical reminder that the search for meaning is both essential and deeply human.

While absurdism might not always be an easy philosophy to digest, adding a bit of humor can help make it more approachable. 

Picture yourself staring into the vastness of the universe, realizing its indifference, and then laughing at the sheer absurdity of it all. As you reflect on these ideas, remember that humor and absurdism often go hand in hand – a cosmic joke worth a chuckle, if you will. So, as you delve deeper into this philosophical journey, don’t be afraid to smirk at the quirks of existence.

Read Also: Nihilism vs Pessimism

Defining Existentialism

You might have wondered what existentialism is all about. In simple terms, existentialism is a philosophical movement that focuses on the individual’s experiences and the unique nature of human existence. 

When diving into existentialism, you come across a famous phrase: “existence precedes essence.” It means that your existence is more than just a predetermined set of traits or a fixed essence; instead, you as an individual create who you are through your choices, actions, and experiences.

Some major themes in existentialism include authenticity, freedom, responsibility, and the absurd. The emphasis on authenticity is a call for you to live your life earnestly and genuinely, staying true to yourself. Existentialists also believe that your freedom to make choices carries with it a sense of responsibility for the consequences, which can weigh heavily on you at times. 

The absurd, a term closely related to existentialism, refers to the conflict between your desire for meaning and purpose and the apparent indifference or chaos in the universe.

find purpose

Now, imagine you’re at a party, and someone brings up Kierkegaard or Sartre. If you manage to casually mention existentialism’s key concepts in a down-to-earth manner, you might find yourself the life of the philosophical discussion – or, as the existentialists might say, an authentic and engaged being in a sea of uncertainty!

4 Differences Between Absurdism and Existentialism

As a reader interested in philosophy, you might have come across two key concepts that often pop up in conversation: Absurdism and Existentialism. While they might seem somewhat related, they do have some fundamental differences. Lucky for you, we’re about to explore four differences to help you better understand these philosophical approaches.

Remember, you’re not alone in this quest for understanding – many have grappled with these concepts before. So let’s dive into the world of philosophy and explore these four key differences, with some wit and smiles along the way!

1. Focus on Meaning

Absurdism emphasizes the tension between our inherent need for meaning and the universe’s apparent lack of it. It asserts that we are destined to search for meaning, only to find none – a quite paradoxical twist in the tale 

Existentialism, on the other hand, believes that we can create our own meaning and essence through awareness, free will, and personal responsibility. 

In other words, while Absurdism sees the treadmill of life as meaningless, Existentialism encourages you to define your own purpose while you’re on it.

Think of it like going to an art gallery. An Absurdist might find the whole experience rather pointless, while an Existentialist might focus on the emotions and interpretations they bring to each painting – making the visit worth their time.

2. Rebellion vs. Creation

Absurdism proposes that embracing the Absurd – that is, the inherent meaninglessness of life – requires both accepting it and rebelling against it by actively pursuing what life has to offer. 

Meanwhile, Existentialism focuses on creating one’s essence through personal experiences and choices. 

It’s about determining your life’s direction and making your existence more meaningful by your decisions.

So, if you were trekking through a dense existential forest, an Absurdist might be swinging through the tree branches – baffled yet determined – whereas an Existentialist would stroll confidently, carving their path and creating their epic story in the process.

3. The Absurd vs. Despair

Both Absurdism and Existentialism grapple with the human condition. However, Absurdism primarily deals with the Absurd, a term coined by Albert Camus to describe the conflict between the human need for meaning and the inability to find any in the universe. 

Existentialism, especially in the works of Søren Kierkegaard, addresses existential despair when facing the apparent purposelessness of life. Rather than simply embrace and rebel against meaninglessness, Existentialism seeks to overcome this despair and create meaning through personal choices and responsibility.

If this philosophical dilemma were a game of soccer, an Absurdist would kick the ball around with no particular goal to make sense of, while an Existentialist would step up and actively score meaningful goals – even if they’ve been placed on an empty field.

4. The Role of Religion

A significant difference between Absurdism and Existentialism lies in their stances toward religion. Absurdism maintains that seeking solace in religion or belief systems is a denial of the Absurd. 

Existentialism, however, can accommodate theistic perspectives, as seen in Kierkegaard’s religious existentialism. Existentialism allows for the pursuit of meaning through a relationship with God and emphasizes individual responsibility and autonomy.


Breaking it down, an Absurdist might think that belief in a higher power is just a comforting delusion, while an Existentialist might find meaning through their faith and personal choices that align with that spiritual path.

A Few Similarities Between Absurdism and Existentialism

You might be wondering how Absurdism and Existentialism, two philosophical schools of thought, are similar. 

Allow us to dive into a few key similarities that can help you better understand these two intriguing perspectives. Just remember, life is too short to not find some humor in philosophy.

Before diving deep into their similarities, let’s get you acquainted with their core principles. Absurdism is a stance that embraces the inevitable tension between humanity’s search for meaning and the inherently meaningless universe, while Existentialism focuses on the experience of an individual’s freedom and responsibility in creating their own meaning and purpose.

Dealing with Meaninglessness

First and foremost, you’ll notice that both Absurdism and Existentialism grapple with the issue of meaninglessness. They both acknowledge that life, its purpose, and its meaning can seem elusive and at times, may even be nonexistent. 

For example, Albert Camus, the French philosopher who championed Absurdism, famously proposed the concept of the “Absurd” to describe the inability of humans to find meaning in an indifferent universe. Existentialism, on the other hand, accepts this lack of inherent meaning but emphasizes the importance of individuals creating their own purpose.

As a result, laugh it up as you explore these philosophies, knowing that they both start with the seemingly bleak proposition of a meaningless universe. Finding humor in it, after all, might just be a way to cope and make sense of things.

Focus on Individuality and Personal Freedom

Moving on to the second similarity, it’s important to note that both Absurdism and Existentialism place a strong emphasis on the individual, personal freedom, and responsibility. 

When you’re deliberating over the choices you make in your own life, both of these philosophical stances encourage you to prioritize your independent, personal experiences and remain true to your authentic self.

For instance, when confronted with a challenging decision, Existentialism prompts you to make a choice based on your values and desires, highlighting your freedom and autonomy. In comparison, Absurdism, as exemplified by Camus, would remind you to embrace the “absurd” tension associated with the uncertainty of your choice and the unpredictable outcomes.

Rebellion Against the Status Quo

Last but not least, you’ll find that both schools of thought urge you to resist blindly conforming to societal norms and traditions.

It might be awkward at times to question the expectations of those around you, but remember, Absurdism and Existentialism encourage this rebellion since they emphasize the importance of an individual’s subjective experience and autonomy.

We can see this in Camus’ work, where he describes the rebellious nature of the individual in the face of meaninglessness. 

Existentialist thinkers like Jean-Paul Sartre also assert that individuals should be mindful of their choices and strive to maintain an authentic existence, rather than mindlessly adhering to the expectations of society. So, feel free to question the norm and carve out a meaningful life on your own terms.

Read Also: Ignorance vs Innocence


In the end, Absurdism and Existentialism are two philosophical stances that present different perspectives on the nature of life’s meaning. 

As you ponder your existence, Existentialism encourages you to forge your own purpose in life, while Absurdism asks you to embrace the inherent meaninglessness and live in the present. 

It’s up to you to decide which, if either, of these worldviews suits your personal beliefs and outlook on life.

Remember, philosophy is a journey, and sometimes that journey can involve bouts of laughter or lighthearted moments. Perhaps, as you explore Absurdism and Existentialism, you’ll find your own unique blend of the two, or an entirely different way of making sense of the often perplexing human experience. 

Whichever path you choose, know that asking these questions and engaging with ideas is an essential part of the human adventure.