PHILOSOPHY 1100: THE MEANING OF LIFE Lecture
1. Albert Camus (1913-1960), Life
1913: Born November 7, Algeria 1914 (age 1): Death of Father in
WWI 1923 (age 10): Scholarship in Algiers
1930 (age 17): Tuberculosis
1934 (age 21): Marries Simone Hie-not a success, only lasted
about a year or two.
1935 (Age 22): Joins French Communist Party Completes B.A-
thought promoting independence for Algerians. Starts own theatre
1936 (age 23): Completes M.A. in Philosophy
1937 (age 24): First book of essays, Expelled from Communist
1940 (27): Marries Francine Faure, troubled more for francine.
1942 (age 29): The Stranger, The Myth of Sisyphus
1943 (age 30): Editor of Combat
1947 (age 34): The Plague
1951 (age 38): The Rebel
Break with Sartre
1956 (age 43): The Fall
1957 (age 44): Nobel Prize
1960 (age 47): Death in car crash
2. "The Myth of Sisyphus"
Camus begins his essay by claiming that suicide is the "one truly
serious philosophical problem" (p.1). While no one is willing to
die or kill over more traditional philosophical problems, such as whether God's essence includes existence (a topic which relates to
the 'ontological argument' Camus mentions), the question of
whether life has a meaning can be practically much more pressing.
As he puts it:
I see many people die because they judge that life is not worth
living. I see others paradoxically getting killed for the ideas or
illusions that give them a reason for living (what is called a reason
for living is also an excellent reason for dying). I therefore
conclude that the meaning of life is the most urgent of questions.
(p.1) not only a perceive like a meaning causes a potential drive to
kill oneself but also various answers people do give to what gives
their life meaning are often answers that kills them. For example,
nation or God.
If we realize that life is, as he would put it, absurd, it can seem as if
our reasons for living disappear, and suicide may seem to be a
natural reaction to the perceived meaninglessness of our existence.
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... This divorce
between man and his life, the actor and his setting, is properly the
feeling of absurdity. All healthy men having thought of their own
suicide, it can be seen, without further explanation, that there is a
direct connection between this feeling and the longing for death.
(p.1) havin a reason for something is often more imp than the
suffering in the world, people often suffer and if they recognize
their suffering for a reason there isn’t going to be any drives in
their lives? If suffering for family, its okay. Makes suffering
worthwhile. If suffering pointless, just kill yourself. On the other
hand, if you think life has no point at all, even if your life has no
suffering it may seem tempting to suicide.
Not everyone who feels this sense of absurdity feels like
committing suicide, but Camus suggests that every 'healthy' person
who occasionally feels like committing suicide knows this feeling
of absurdity. Suffering alone will not make us think about ending
our lives. People can put up with a tremendous amount of suffering, provided that they think that there is a reason for the
suffering. Take away that reason, and the suffering becomes much
less bearable. Indeed, if one takes away any reason to go on living,
then suicide may seem like an option. This was how things
appeared to Tolstoy who thought constantly of suicide even when
he had no external source of suffering at all. Even a happy life
requires some effort to live (even if its just to get out of bed in the
morning), and if there is no reason to live, it might seem as if there
is no reason to make any such effort. There may seem to be, then,
an intimate relation between having a sense of the absurd and a
temptation to end one's own existence, and this temptation is
Camus' topic. As he puts it: The subject of this essay is precisely
this relationship between the absurd and suicide, the exact degree
suicide is a solution to the absurd. The principle can be established
that for a man who does not cheat, what
he believes to be true must determine his action. Belief in the
absurdity of existence must then dictate his
conduct. It is legitimate to wonder, clearly and without false
pathos, whether a conclusion of this importance
requires forsaking as rapidly as possible an incomprehensible
condition. (pp.1-2) if you think your life has no meaning then ct in
accordance with that, is to end that life. Not obvious that is what
you should do, if there is no point in living doesn’t mean you
should necessarily kill yourself as there is no point in dying either,
so nothing bad about continuing to live.
killing yourself amounts to confessing... that life ... "is not worth
the trouble." Living, naturally, is never easy.
You continue making the gestures commanded by existence for
many reasons, the first of which is habit.
Dying voluntarily implies that you have recognized, even
instinctively, the ridiculous character of that
habit, the absence of any profound reason for living, the insane
character of that daily agitation, and the uselessness of suffering. (p.1)
The sort of 'cheating' that Camus mention