Monday, March 16, 2009

Aimless Reading: The C's, Part 5.1 (Albert Camus)

Camus, Albert
The Myth Of Sisyphus


I don't know where I bought this, but it appears to have been a library copy. I can't tell which library system it is from. I remember a philosophy teacher somewhere along the way mentioning that Camus said that the only truly serious philosophical problem is suicide. That sounded really serious to me when I was sixteen.

I don't think I actually read the book until I was in my early twenties, by which time I had read of quite a few other philosophical problems, most of which struck me as being more serious than the problem of suicide. Suicide, of course is a very serious psychological problem, a very serious moral problem, a very serious sociological problem. I don't see how it is a serious philosophical problem.

I find Camus' essays to be rather more moralistic than philosophical. They do not concern the way things are, but rather the way a person should act, which is how I would distinguish between the two. The opening of the essay more or less admits as much, attempting as it does to make the moral argument the philosophical one, or at the very least claim that the philosophical one is of lesser significance:

There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental questions of philosophy. All the rest--whether or not the world has three dimensions, whether the mind has nine or twelve categories--comes afterwards. These are games; one must first answer. And if it is true, as Nietzsche claims, that a philosopher, to deserve our respect, must preach by example, you can appreciate the importance of that reply, for it will precede the definitive act. These are facts the heart can feel; yet they call for careful study before they become clear to the intellect.

If I ask myself to judge that this questions is more urgent than that, I reply that one judges by the actions it entails. I have never seen anyone die for the ontological argument.

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