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Albert Camus: The Myth of Sisyphus

Warning: This essay perhaps seems a bit depressing at first, but it's not that bad once you read into it. Feel free to comment on my lesson if you have anything to say.

It's philosophy time!
One of my favourite stories from Greek mythology is the myth of Sisyphus, which has been outlined and popularized by writer Albert Camus in his essay The Myth of Sisyphus. Here's some basic information I'd like to share with you on this philosophical matter!

Basic information
Title of essay: The Myth of Sisyphus
Author: Albert Camus
Date published: 1942
Literary movement: Absurdist (which basically reflects on the meaninglessness of life)

So what's so great about this essay?
Basically Al (that is, Albert Camus) asks us what the point of life is, and if we should kill ourselves if life has no meaning. His answer is no. He says that we should revolt, and find meaning in the meaninglessness.



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Here's a breakdown…

Chapter 1: An Absurd Reasoning
Albert says that the only way we can discover the meaning of life is by either a) taking a leap of faith in God or 2) coming to the conclusion that life is meaningless. Al also asks the only philosophical question which he thinks is most important: If we conclude that life is meaningless, does that mean we should commit suicide?

  • Our lives are built on the hope of tomorrow, yet every day brings us closer to death
  • True knowledge of the world is impossible

Al explains that once you accept that life is meaningless, you will become free to do whatever is in your passion.

Chapter 2: The Absurd Man
But wait, Al…you said that life is meaningless, so we should just accept that and do whatever we want since it's meaningless anyway - but where do the boundaries lie? We simply can't just do what we please, especially if it is ethically wrong or if it hurts other people.

Al presents 3 examples of the Absurd Man:

  • Don Juan. He was a fictional character in literature who was a serial seducer - but lived life passionately and to the fullest.
  • The actor. The actor depicts brief lives for brief fame. He explains that in 3 hours, an actor can show a character's entire lifetime.
  • The conquerer. A warrior forgoes all promises of eternity, in order to fully engage and affect human history. He choose action over contemplation, realizing that nothing can last - and that no victory is final.

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Chapter 3: Absurd Creation
"If the world were clear, art would not exist."
Here, Al explores the "absurd art" which is prevalent at the time. He basically points out that "Absurdism" ultimately means losing hope for meaning, faith or any explanations.

Absurd art to him is ephemeral. The absurd artist isn't trying to make an important, lasting statement, nor is he wanting to give answers to something. He's simply reflecting on the world as he sees it.

Albert also makes note of Franz Kafka at the end of the book - concluding that he's an existentialist, but chooses to make a leap of faith rather than accept his absurd condition.

Chapter 4: The Myth of Sisyphus
Ah, my favourite part. In this chapter, Camus describes the ancient Greek story. Here's the myth.

A king named Sisyphus was punished by the gods for imprisoning Death - for a short period time, everyone was immortal. The gods put a stop to this and as a punishment, he was cursed to roll a huge boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll down again everytime - and had to repeat this for eternity.

But Sisyphus keeps doing this task, over and over again. It's only depressing when he becomes conscious of his condition. Camus says that because Sisyphus realizes the uselessness of his task, he reaches acceptance and is satisfied with his life of menial work. Can you imagine doing the same thing over and over again the rest of your life? It would drive you crazy. But Camus makes a good point in using that Sisyphus's meaningless, repetitive work as a metaphor for modern lives spent working at futile jobs in factories and offices.

"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."



Al ends his essay with these words:
"The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy."



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  1. MayMay saidTue, 28 Oct 2008 21:08:17 -0000 ( Link )

    This is deep, Tiff! Very enlightening lesson here. Sure makes you think about life from a different angle. Ever hear the Tupac saying, “Why am I dying to live, if I’m just living to die?”

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  2. teresajanay saidWed, 18 Mar 2009 06:37:31 -0000 ( Link )

    I have just one question………………..what does “absurd” mean in the story??

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  3. oLahav saidThu, 19 Mar 2009 13:04:12 -0000 ( Link )

    Absurd means illogical, ridiculous, and against reason and common sense. In this story, the absurd part is the fact that life is meaningless, yet people strive to find meaning out of the meaninglessness (at least as I see it).

    I think the victory would be the acceptance of the meaningless. Death doesn’t actually have much to do with the philosophy and more with the Myth- in Greek Mythology Death was an entity, and Sisyphus locked him up so that people would be immortal. But when the G-ds found out they were mad and that’s why they punished him.

    Does that clear things up a bit?

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  4. teresajanay saidFri, 20 Mar 2009 22:22:18 -0000 ( Link )

    Somewhat! This is a very interesting story but I’m still having trouble understanding the purpose or the meaning….

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  5. teresajanay saidMon, 06 Apr 2009 18:39:01 -0000 ( Link )

    In the story, what are some ways Camus uses storytelling?

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  6. oLahav saidMon, 06 Apr 2009 18:57:39 -0000 ( Link )

    Camus uses storytelling in his essay, when he describes the Myth of Sispyhus and uses that to explain his own ideas. I think that’s what it is anyway.

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  7. teresajanay saidWed, 22 Apr 2009 13:57:34 -0000 ( Link )

    Is Milgram’s Perils of Obedience and Camus’s Myth of Sisyphus similar? In what way(s)?

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