The Myth of Sisyphus is an existentialist philosophical essay from Albert Camus that starts with the following provocative assertion:
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 question of philosophy.
Of course Albert is shocking the reader with a deep up-front mixture of nihilism and solipsism, but his essay has so far been proved quite interesting. I’m particularly enjoying his concept of the absurd. For Camus, the absurd comes with the realization that the world doesn’t seem rational:
At this point of his effort man stands face to face with the irrational. He feels within him his longing for happiness and for reason. The absurd is born of this confrontation between the human need and the unreasonable silence of the world.
And he does make a point in the absurdity of our own habits:
We live on the future: “tomorrow”, “later on”, “when you have made your way”, “you will understand when you are old enough”. Such irrelevancies are wonderful, for, after all, it’s a matter of dying. Yet, a time comes when a man notices or says that he is thirty. Thus he asserts his youth. But simultaneously he situates himself in relation to time. He takes his place in it. He admits that he stands at a certain point on a curve that he acknowledges having to travel to its end. He belongs to time and, by the horror that seizes him, he recognises his worst enemy. Tomorrow, he was longing for tomorrow, whereas everything in him ought to reject it.
He goes on with a very rational critique on religion and the belief of an afterlife. He also makes a very elquent critique on Science. Being a scientific positivist myself, I cannot completely agree with his position, but as a human, I cannot help but be delighted by his poetry:
And here are trees and I know their gnarled surface, water and I feel its taste. These scents of grass and stars at night, certain evenings when the heart relaxes — how shall I negate this world whose power and strength I feel? Yet all the knowledge on earth will give me nothing to assure me that this world is mine. You describe it to me and you teach me to classify it. You enumerate its laws and in my thirst for knowledge I admit that they are true. You take apart its mechanism and my hope increases. At the final stage you teach me that this wondrous and multicolored universe can be reduced to the atom and that the atom itself can be reduced to the electron. All this is good and I wait for you to continue. But you tell me of an invisible planetary system in which electrons gravitate around a nucleus. You explain this world to me with an image. I realize then that you have been reduced to poetry: I shall never know.
I still haven’t finished the book so I’ll come back to this post in the future.