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York University
PHIL 1100
Henry Jackman

PHILOSOPHY 1100: THE MEANING OF LIFE Lecture Notes: Camus 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 group 1936 (age 23): Completes M.A. in Philosophy 1937 (age 24): First book of essays, Expelled from Communist Party 1940 (27): Marries Francine Faure, troubled more for francine. Lasted longer. 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" 2.1: Suicide: 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 to which 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
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