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Lecture 11


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PHIL 1100
Henry Jackman

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PHIL 1100 LECTURE NOTES – FALL Topic 14: Camus The Myth of Sisyphus: Suicide - “There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide…” o This is because no one kills themselves over not finding the answer to questions about whether god exists or other things - “I see many people die because they judge that life is not worth living. o People who felt tension very strongly, and not only does a perceived lack of meaning cause a perpetual drive to kill yourself, but various answers people do give to what gives their lives meaning are our often answers that they’ll stake their lives on (what??) - “I see others paradoxically getting killed for the ideas or illusions that give them a reason for living… I therefore conclude that the meaning of life is the most urgent of questions. (p.1) o If I decide god is my reason for living, that gives you your reason for living and gives you a reason to die for them, for example. o The philosophical question that we’re willing to die and willing to live for - “A world that can be explained even with bad reasons is a familiar world. But, on the other hand, in a universe suddenly divested of illusions and lights, man feels an alien, a stranger. (p.1) o Having a reason for something is often more important than the suffering or lack of it in the world. People often don’t commit suicide just because life is full of suffering, especially if they recognize why there is suffering. But, that suffering is easier to put up with if there is a point to it (for example if you’re suffering for your family).  If you think you’re suffering for no reason at all you may question whether you should commit suicide or not, since it’s pointless suffering  Suicidal feelings may not be tied to actual suffering, but also the lack of purpose that causes the urges  Very bad if life seems absurd because it shows you may not have an ultimate reason for doing anything - “Dying voluntarily implies that you have recognized … the absence of any profound reason for living, the insane character of that daily agitation, and the uselessness of suffering. (p.1) o Suicide can be viewed as a recognition that life is pointless – an understandable response if you think life has no purpose - “for a man who does not cheat, what he believes to be true must determine his action.” o A lot of people believe something to be true and somehow their beliefs don’t show up in their actions (e.g. moral beliefs). If you are a Christian for instance, there are a lot of things you believe you shouldn’t do, and they may do them anyway. What they believe to be true, the best action, may not show up in their actions - “belief in the absurdity of existence must then dictate his conduct. “ o If you think your life has no meaning then you should act in accordance with that, and a lot of people try to be honest and conclude that if life has no meaning, acting in accordance with that is to end that life. It’s not something Camus endorses – if there is no point to living that doesn’t mean you should necessarily kill yourself…if nothing has no point, then killing yourself doesn’t have a point either- nothing bad about continuing to live. o Committing suicide is hard – takes an effort to go against natural impulses to keep yourself alive. If nothing has any purpose, what is the point of putting in all that effort? Might be easier to “wander aimlessly” The Myth of Sisyphus: Sisyphus Sisyphus - A guy who wanted to test his wife’s love, so he told her “when I die, just throw my body in the street, it doesn’t matter what happens to it – don’t waste any time giving me a fancy burial”. He thought even if he says that, if his wife really loves him, she won’t be able to do that when he dies. Once he dies, his wife just throws his body in the street. Sisyphus sees this from hades and is upset, so he goes over to pluto and said look what my wife did to my body, can I go back to earth for a day and confront her. Sisypyhus does that, goes to earth, and it’s nice there. Hades was not nice, so he wants to live another life on Earth, despite the warnings to get back down to hades. Eventually, hermes pulled him back down where he was punished for staying. There was a giant mountain and Sisyphus had to role a gigantic boulder to the top. Once he’s almost done the boulder goes to the bottom and he has to start again, spending all of eternity continuously going through this loop. o Sisyphus has an absurd life – no point to anything he’s doing, and so this is manifestly absurd, but there is a sense where one can argue that it’s just more obvious he could serve as a metaphor for all of our condition - “The workman of today works every day in his life at the same tasks, and this fate is no less absurd. But it is tragic only at the rare moments when it becomes conscious. Sisyphus… knows the whole extent of his wretched condition … *yet+ … There is no fate that cannot be surmounted by scorn o There can be something good to come out of this – while it may be depressing to know your life is absurd with no real external point, this may also be someth
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