Category Archives: Meaning of Life – Nihilism

Summary of David Benatar’s, Better Never to Have Been

David Benatar is professor of philosophy and head of the Department of Philosophy at the University of Cape Town in Cape Town, South Africa. He is best known for his advocacy of antinatalism. His article, “Why It Is Better Never to Come into Existence,” espouses the view that it is always a harm to be born, as does his book, Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence. Here is a summary of his basic argument.

It is commonly assumed that we do nothing wrong bringing future people into existence if their lives will, on balance, be good. This assumes that being brought into existence is generally beneficial. But Benatar argues that: “Being brought into existence is not a benefit but always a harm.”[i] While most maintain that living is beneficial as long as the benefits of life outweigh the evil, Benatar argues that this conclusion does not follow because: 1) pain is bad, and 2) pleasure good; but 3) the absence of pain is always good whether people exist or not, whereas 4) the absence of pleasure is only bad if people exist to be denied it. Here it is in matrix form:

Scenario A (X exists) Scenario B (X never exists)
(1) Presence of pain (Bad) (3) Absence of pain (Good)
(2) Presence of pleasure (Good) (4) Absence of pleasure (Not bad)

To support this asymmetry between 3 & 4 Benatar presents three arguments. The first is that: 1) while there is a duty not to bring people who will suffer into the world (supports 3), there is no duty to bring people who will be happy into the world (supports 4). Thus a lack of suffering is always good, whether or not someone exists to enjoy this absence; whereas a lack of happiness is not always bad unless people exist to be denied it.

His second argument is that though we think it strange to say we have children so they will benefit, we think it normal to say we should not have children because they will be harmed. We don’t think people should have as many children as they can to benefit those children, but we do think people should refrain from having children if this will cause them suffering.

His third argument to support the asymmetry is that while not having children may be bad or good for the living, not having been born is no deprivation for those who have never been born.

This fundamental asymmetry—suffering is an intrinsic harm, but the absence of pleasure is not—allows Benatar to draw his nihilistic conclusions. In other words, the measure by which the absence of pain is better than its presence is itself greater than the measure by which the presence of pleasure is better than its absence. This means that not existing is either a lot better than existing, in the case of pain or a little worse, in the case of pleasure. Or to think of it another way, the absence of pain and the presence of pleasure are both good, but the presence of pain is much worse than the absence of pleasure.

(Here is my own thought experiment to help explain this. Suppose that before you were born the gods were trying to decide whether to create you. If they decide to create you, you will suffer much if you have a bad life, or you will gain much if you have a good life. If they decide not to create you, you will gain much by avoiding a bad life, but suffer only slightly if at all by not existing—as you wouldn’t know what you had been deprived of.)

To further his argument, Benatar notes that most persons underestimate how much suffering they will endure. If their lives are going better than most, they count themselves lucky. Consider death. It is a tragedy at any age and only seems acceptable at ninety because of our expectations about lifespans. But is lamenting death inconsistent with his antinatalism? Benatar thinks not. While non-existence does not harm a possible person, death is another harm that will come to those in existence.

In response, you could say that you can’t be mistaken about whether you prefer existence to non-existence. Benatar grants that you may not be mistaken if you claim that you are currently glad to have been born, but you could still be mistaken that it was better to have been born at all. You might now be glad you were born and then suffer so badly later that you change your mind. (I too might wish I hadn’t been born, when I encounter what’s in store for me.)

Does it follow that no one should have children? Benatar claims that to answer yes to this questions goes against a basic drive to reproduce, so we must be careful not to let such drives bias our analysis. Having children satisfies many needs for those who bring children into existence, but this does not mean it serves the interests of the children—in fact, it causes them great harm.

One could reply that the harm is not that great to the children, since the benefits of existing may outweigh the harm, and, at any rate, we cannot ask future persons if they want to be born. Since we enjoy our lives we assume they will too, thus providing the justification for satisfying our procreational needs. Most people do not regret their existence, and if some do we could not have foreseen it.

But might we be deceiving ourselves about how good life is? Most of us assume life would be unbearable if we were in certain situations. But often, when we find ourselves in these situations, we adapt. Could it be that we have adapted to a relatively unbearable life now? Benatar says that a superior species might look at our species with sympathy for our sorry state. And the reason we deceive ourselves is that we have been wired by evolution to think this way—it aids our survival. Benatar views people’s claims about the benefits of life skeptically, just as he would the ruminations of the slave who claims to prefer slavery.

Benatar concludes: “One implication of my view is that it would be preferable for our species to die out.”[ii] He claims that it would be heroic if people quit having children so that no one would suffer in the future. You may think it tragic to allow the human race to die out, but it would be hard to explain this by appealing to the interests of potential people.

Summary – It is better never to come into existence as being born is always a harm.


[i] David Benatar, “Why It Is Better Never to Come into Existence” in Life, death, and meaning, ed. David Benatar (Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 2004), 155.
[ii] Benatar, “Why It Is Better Never to Come into Existence,” 167.

Commentary on the Varieties of Nihilism

For the past ten days or so I’ve been discussing various views about the meaning of life that I’d classify as nihilistic. I’d now like to briefly summarize my response to nihilism.

I believe that suffering and death count strongly against meaning—they detract from meaning. I also believe that the challenge posed by nihilism is the challenge for contemporary individuals and culture. We have argued that rejecting or denying nihilism, by accepting a religious metaphysics for example, is philosophically problematic, inasmuch as there are good reasons to doubt the truth of these systems. Accepting nihilism is either self-defeating, useless, or both. Finding meaning by affirming nihilism is a brave response but it is not all that different than accepting nihilism in the end. So questions remain. Why give up so easily? What do we gain by embracing nihilism?

Camus’ Sisyphus supposedly found happiness in his revolt, but one has to wonder whether that suggestion is mere romanticism. And neither Nagel’s nor Feinberg’s irony provides solace; they merely counsel passive acceptance. Maybe we should simply reject meaning and all salvific narratives, reveling in the pleasures and joys of this world, the extraordinary ordinary. But can we really do it? In Our Town Wilder suggests we cannot, it is too hard to appreciate life while you live it. When responding to Emily’s query as to whether human beings can appreciate life every minute while they live it, the narrator tells her: “No—saints and poets maybe—they do some.”80 But even if we could affirm nihilism would this be satisfactory? If we think of Critchley as advocating living lightly, Kundera responds that such a life is unbearable; perhaps even more so than living heavily.

We thus find ourselves at an impasse. Nihilism looms large and none of our responses are completely viable. Rejecting nihilism seems intellectually dishonest, passively accepting it appears fatalistic, actively rejecting it with Camus is futile, embracing it looks pointless, and yet our consciousness of it is unbearable. The only way forward—if we do not want to accept the verdict of nihilism—is to consider other responses. It is to these responses that we now consider over the next few months.

Summary of Joel Feinberg’s, “Absurd Self-Fulfillment”

Joel Feinberg (1926 -2004) was an American political and social philosopher. He is known for his work in the fields of individual rights and the authority of the state, thereby helping to shape the American legal landscape. He taught at Brown,  Princeton, UCLA, Rockefeller University, and at the University of Arizona, where he retired in 1994.

In “Absurd Self-Fulfillment” (1992) Feinberg begins by considering Richard Taylor’s suggestion that Sisyphus could be compelled or addicted to pushing stones. (We will discuss Taylor in the next chapter.) Let us suppose the gods make this part of his nature like walking or speaking; suppose further that Sisyphus gets self-fulfillment from rock pushing as it expresses something basic to his genetic nature. Now Sisyphus’ work is typically thought absurd because it is pointless labor that comes to nothing. Philosophers have had differing responses to these issues. Pessimists regard all lives as absurd and respond with scorn, despair, cynicism, etc. Optimists think lives can be partly or wholly fulfilled and therefore good; they respond with hope, satisfaction, positive acceptance, etc. While absurdity and self-fulfillment are different, Taylor suggests that lives can be both absurd and self-fulfilling, like Sisyphus’ rock pushing. So Feinberg asks: what is the relationship between absurdity and self-fulfillment? Can they go together?

Absurdity in individual lives for Feinberg is characterized by: 1) extreme irrationality, as in obviously false beliefs; or the disharmony or incongruity between two things such as means and ends, premises and conclusions, or pretensions and reality; 2) Nagel’s account, the clash between the subjective and objective view of our lives. Nagel’s absurdity is not relevant to Sisyphus, but if added to the story it would add to the absurdity of his situation; 3) pointlessness—activities with no point or meaning; 4) futility—activities with a point but incapable of achieving their goal; and 5) triviality—activities that produce some trivial advantage but are not worth the cost of their labor. So the absurd elements in life fall into one of five categories: 1) pointless, 2) trivial, 3) futile, 4) Nagel’s absurdity, and 5) incongruous or irrational. As for the alleged absurdity of human life in general, Feinberg considers the sense of the absurd in Taylor, Camus, and Nagel.

For Taylor life is absurd (pointless, meaningless) because our repetitive activity ultimately comes to nothing. And even if we do achieve something, say build a cathedral, this does not cancel out the absurdity since in the end they all come to nothing; all our achievements ultimately vanish. But what would a non-absurd existence be like? This is important because unless we know what non-absurdity is like, we have nothing to contrast an absurd situation with. Initially Taylor suggests this would entail Sisyphus building an enduring and beautiful temple. But from a distance of a million years all lives seem pointless and all achievements are temporary—they do not overcome meaninglessness. So the building of the temple does not seem to remove absurdity. Suppose then, Taylor argues, that the gods allow Sisyphus to finish his temple and admire it? Taylor argues that then Sisyphus would be eternally bored, so again this would be absurd. Feinberg suggests that Sisyphus could enjoy his achievement and then die, thus not having to endure the boredom; or even better the gods could preserve him and his temple forever. But then Taylor could respond that Sisyphus would still be bored since he would have nothing left to do. Either nothing we do lasts or, if it does, we are bored when we have finished. In the end any conceivable life would be absurd for Taylor.

For Camus humans want a cosmic order, significance for their labor, and an intelligible life. But life has no order, destroys our work, and is alien to us. In short the things we want—a caring universe with which one is connected and in which we are immortal—are precisely the things we cannot have. What we get is death. This confrontation between the things one needs—most notably immortality—and the thing one gets—death—is the birthplace of the absurd. There is also the absurdity of the cycle of working for money to buy food so that one can work for money and round and round. You could say that these activities are intrinsically valuable, but Camus argues that we are simply driven to do all these things. And then there is the absurdity of so much animal life—they reproduce and then die. Their lives seem to have no other reason than to perpetuate their species. Are not human lives similar? What these examples show is that “life is pointless because justification for any of its parts or phases is indefinitely postponed…” [i] We do A for the sake of B, and B for the sake of C, etc. Camus’s response to absurdity is to rebel, revolt, and live the best one can, since there will always be a divide between what our nature wants—intelligibility and immortality—and the little we can get. For Camus, self-fulfillment may be construed as being “intensely and continuously conscious of my absurdity…”[ii] We fulfill ourselves by recognizing the absurdity of our situation.

For Nagel the absurd derives from the incongruity between our serious view of ourselves and our apparent triviality from the universal perspective. As Feinberg points out, following Nagel, the life of a mouse might not seem absurd to the mouse but it is absurd from our point of view. According to Nagel our lives are like that too, seeming to matter from the inside but absurd from the outside. Feinberg captures this idea with a distinction between absurd persons—who have a flawed assessment of their importance—and absurd situations—which are a property of one’s situation. However, whatever the difference in the details between the three authors for all of them life is absurd: for Taylor because achievements do not last and effort and outcome are in tension; for Camus because the universe is indifferent to our needs; and for Nagel because of the clash between our pretensions and reality.

Feinberg now introduces a new kind of absurdity—when the situation one is in differs from the situation one thinks they are in. For example, if Sisyphus thought his rock pushing was important he would be woefully mistaken about the true nature of his predicament. We are all in the situation of being much less important than we think we are. Thus we should not take ourselves too seriously. Still, Feinberg concludes that while some elements of life are absurd, the arguments that all life is absurd are not convincing. Within life some things seem absurd and some things do not.

Turning to self-fulfillment, there are at least four models of self-fulfillment in the ordinary sense: 1) satisfying one’s hopes or desires; 2) achieving one’s goals; 3) bringing closure to things; and 4) doing the natural or realizing potential. It is this last conception that philosophers have focused upon primarily—so much so that to not fulfill one’s nature indicates a wasted life whereas a fulfilling life is often defined as using one’s natural talents. Feinberg now explores how Sisyphus might be wired to fulfill his nature by rock pushing. He might have: 1) an appetite for it; 2) a peculiar talent for it; 3) an instinct for it; 4) a general drive to do it; or 5) a compulsive impulse to do it as Taylor suggests. Feinberg argues that no matter how the gods wired Sisyphus his life does not seem capable of being fulfilled, precisely because the gods fixed his life, not allowing him discretion in living his life. As Feinberg says, “If he can fulfill his nature without these discretionary activities, then he has really assumed the nature of a different species.”[iii] However, if the gods told him to do it in his own way, to exercise discretion in how to push his rocks, then he could be fulfilled, although his life would still be pointless. Thus life can be absurd and fulfilling at the same time.

Feinberg now asks whether it would matter if one found fulfillment in something that from the outside appeared trivial. Suppose one enjoys playing ping-pong and socializing with others who like to play. If that tendency follows from one’s nature, then one will probably be fulfilled by playing. Now suppose that someone does not succeed in finding playing partners or others interested in ping-pong and instead goes to philosophy discussion groups weekly, something one finds boring. Now their lives seem unfulfilled. While this may not be bad from an objective point of view—philosophy may be more important than ping-pong—for them it is really bad; they do not like philosophy, they like ping-pong! Even if it is objectively absurd to like to hit ping-pong balls all day, they naturally enjoy doing it; it is good for them to fulfill their nature in this way precisely because the desire is natural to them. Moreover, self-fulfillment necessitates that we have self-love. “And the truest expression of self-love is devotion toward one’s own good, which is the fulfillment of one’s’ own (who else’s) nature—absurd as that may be.”[iv] Thus, self-fulfillment matters because without it we cannot have self-love as well as the reverse.

We see then that our lives are not absurd from the inside—we have goals and purposes—but may be so from the outside. What attitude should we take toward a fulfilling life that we decide is absurd from the outside, that will come to nothing in the end? These attitudes Feinberg calls “cosmic attitudes,” ones we have toward the entire universe. Feinberg agrees with Nagel that irony is the appropriate attitude; it is “an attitude of detached awareness of incongruity…a state of mind halfway between seriousness and playfulness.”[v] Feinberg argues that one can appreciate this incongruity, like one appreciates humor, and there is a kind of bittersweet pleasure in it. Feinberg says we ought to respond not with tears, anger, or amusement, but with a “tired smile.”  Thus neither pessimism—the view that all lives are worthless—nor optimism—the view that all lives are worthwhile—is warranted. After having a good life and then considering Camus, Taylor, and Nagel, Feinberg sees the cosmic joke and is tickled. “Now he can die not with a whine or a snarl, but with an ironic smile.”[vi]

Summary – There is no objective meaning. We can find some subjective meaning by acting in accord with our nature; our lives can be both fulfilling and absurd. All we can do is passively accept this nihilistic state of affairs with an ironic smile. Feinberg goes a bit further than Nagel, nearly embracing nihilism.


[i] Joel Feinberg, “Absurd Self-Fulfillment,” in The Meaning of Life, ed. E.D Klemke and Steven Cahn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 164.
[ii] Feinberg, “Absurd Self-Fulfillment,” 165.
[iii] Feinberg, “Absurd Self-Fulfillment,” 175.
[iv] Feinberg, “Absurd Self-Fulfillment,” 178.
[v] Feinberg, “Absurd Self-Fulfillment,” 179.
[vi] Feinberg, “Absurd Self-Fulfillment,” 181.

Summary of Walter Stace’s, “Man Against Darkness”

Walter Terence Stace (1886 – 1967) was a British civil servant, educator, and philosopher who wrote on Hegel and Mysticism. In “Man Against Darkness” (1948), Stace claims that the loss of faith in God and religion is responsible for the bewildering state of the world today. This loss of religious faith is depressing since it leaves us without a scaffold upon which to build ethics. But he also agrees with Sartre and Russell—there are no gods, there is no source for morality, and we live in a universe that is purposeless and indifferent to our values. Thus the only possible values for human beings are those they create.

The cause of the decline of the influence of religion is modern science, but not a particular discovery of science. Rather it is the spirit and assumptions of science that have undermined religious belief. The worldview of science propagated by Galileo and Newton prefigured 18th-century skepticism by removing the idea of final causes and purposes from the heavens. In essence, western civilization was turning its back on the notion of a cosmic order, plan, and purpose. Henceforth astronomy would be understood in terms of the kind of causes that allow us to predict and control and “the concept of purpose in the world was ignored and frowned upon.”[i] In this context Stace quotes Whitehead who says that nature is “merely the hurrying of material, endlessly, meaninglessly.”[ii]

This highlights the fundamental division in Western thought: those before Galileo thought the world had a purpose; many after him did not. This destruction of purpose in the universe is the key event that signaled the end of religion’s preeminence in culture, inasmuch as religion cannot survive in a world where everything is thought futile. Science has left us with no reason for things to be as they are: “Belief in the ultimate irrationality of everything is the quintessence of what is called the modern mind.”[iii] Another consequence of the decline of the religious view was the ruin of morality, for if morality could not be anchored beyond humankind then it must be our own invention. But as humans differ in their desires and preferences, inevitably morality would be seen as relative. It was in Hobbes that this moral philosophy first flowered and, despite the attempts of Kant and others, the objective basis for morality has been lost. In short moral relativism follows from the worldview first illuminated by Galileo—a cosmos devoid of final causes and thus meaningless.

Another consequence of the scientific worldview is the loss of belief in free will. Once the idea of a chain of causation is understood it is but a short leap to seeing human action as predictable as a lunar eclipse, to a fatalistic account of human action. And though the subtle arguments of the philosopher may be able to undermine the determinist’s case, the belief in various sorts of determinism—the belief that human beings are puppets in a vast cosmic drama—has penetrated the modern mind.

In response to the present condition, philosophers have advanced subtle arguments that are not understood by laypersons; religious leaders have sought to revive religion but their pleas do not move modern people, accustomed as they are to a vast, uncaring universe. A religious revival calling for a return to a pre-scientific religion will ultimately fall on deaf ears; the world has grown up too much for that. And science will not save us either: “though it [science] can teach us the best means for achieving our ends, it can never tell us what ends to pursue.”[iv] The masses must “face the truth that there is, in the universe outside of man, no spirituality, no regard for values, no friend in the sky, no help or comfort for man of any sort.”[v]

While we may have justifiably suppressed this truth before it was known, it is now too late. So we must learn to live without the illusion that the universe is good, moral, and follows a plan. We need to learn to live good and decent moral lives without the illusion of religion and a purposeful universe. “To be genuinely civilized means to be able to walk straightly and to live honorably without the props and crutches of one or another of the childish dreams which have so far supported men.”[vi] Such a life will not be completely happy but “it can be lived in quiet content, accepting resignedly what cannot be helped, not expecting the impossible, and being thankful for small mercies,”[vii] Humankind must grow up, put away its childish fantasies, and strive “for great ends and noble achievements.”[viii]

Summary – There is no objective meaning, but we can be content and noble.


[i] Walter Stace, “Man Against Darkness,” in The Meaning of Life, ed. E.D Klemke (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000) 86.
ii] Stace, “Man Against Darkness,” 86.
[iii] Stace, “Man Against Darkness,” 87.
[iv] Stace, “Man Against Darkness,” 90.
[v] Stace, “Man Against Darkness,” 91.
[vi] Stace, “Man Against Darkness,” 92.
[vii] Stace, “Man Against Darkness,” 92.
[viii] Stace, “Man Against Darkness,” 93.

Summary of Albert Camus’ “The Myth of Sisyphus”

Albert Camus (1913 – 1960) was a French author, philosopher, and journalist who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1957. His most famous works were the novels La Peste (The Plague)  and L’Étranger (The Stranger) and the philosophical essay The Myth of Sisyphus. He died in a car accident in France.

In “The Myth of Sisyphus” (1955) Camus claims that the only important philosophical question is suicide—should we continue to live or not? The rest is secondary, says Camus, because no one dies for scientific or philosophical arguments, usually abandoning them when their life is at risk. Yet people do take their own lives because they judge them meaningless, or sacrifice them for meaningful causes. This suggests that questions of meaning supersede all other scientific or philosophical questions. As Camus puts it: “I therefore conclude that the meaning of life is the most urgent of questions.”[i]

What interests Camus is what leads to suicide. He argues that “beginning to think is beginning to be undermined … the worm is in man’s heart.”[ii]  When we start to think we open up the possibility that all we valued previously, including our belief in life’s goodness, may be subverted. This rejection of life emanates from deep within, and this is where its source must be sought. For Camus killing yourself is admitting that all of the habits and effort needed for living are not worth the trouble. As long as we accept reasons for life’s meaning we continue, but as soon as we reject these reasons we become alienated—we become strangers from the world. This feeling of separation from the world Camus terms absurdity, a sensation that may lead to suicide. Still most of us go on because we are attached to the world; we continue to live out of habit.

But is suicide a solution to the absurdity of life? For those who believe in life’s absurdity it is a reasonable response—one’s conduct should follow from one’s beliefs. Of course conduct does not always follow from belief. Individuals argue for suicide but continue to live; others profess that there is a meaning to life and choose suicide. Yet most persons are attached to this world by instinct, by a will to live that precedes philosophical reflection. Thus, they evade questions of suicide and meaning by combining instinct with the hope that something gives life meaning. Yet the repetitiveness of life brings absurdity back to consciousness. In Camus’ words: “Rising, streetcar, four hours in the office or factory, meal, four hours of work, meal, sleep, and Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday…”[iii] Living brings the question of suicide back, forcing a person to confront and answer this essential question—should I go on?

Yet of death we know nothing. “This heart within me I can feel, and I judge that it exists. This world I can touch, and I likewise judge that it exists. There ends all my knowledge, and the rest is construction.”[iv] Furthermore I can’t know myself intimately anymore than I can know death. “This very heart which is mine will forever remain indefinable to me. Between the certainty I have of my existence and the content I try to give to that assurance, the gap will never be filled. Forever I shall be a stranger to myself …”[v] We know that we feel, but our knowledge of ourselves ends there.

What makes life absurd is our inability to know ourselves and the world’s meaning even though we desire such knowledge. “…what is absurd is the confrontation of this irrational and the wild longing for clarity whose call echoes in the human heart.”[vi]The world could have meaning: “But I know that I do not know that meaning and that it is impossible for me just now to know it.”[vii] This tension between our desire to know meaning and the impossibility of knowing it is a most important discovery. In response, we are tempted to leap into faith, but the honest know that they do not understand, and they must learn “to live without appeal…”[viii] In this sense we are free—living without higher purposes, living without appeal. Aware of our condition we exercise our freedom and revolt against the absurd—this is the best we can do.

Nowhere is the essence of the human condition made clearer than in the Myth of Sisyphus. Condemned by the gods to roll a rock to the top of a mountain, whereupon its own weight makes it fall back down again, Sisyphus was condemned to this perpetually futile labor. His crimes seem slight, yet his preference for the natural world instead of the underworld incurred the wrath of the gods: “His scorn of the gods, his hatred of death, and his passion for life won him that unspeakable penalty in which the whole being is exerted toward accomplishing nothing.”[ix] He was condemned to everlasting torment, and the accompanying despair of knowing that his labor was futile.

Yet Camus sees something else in Sisyphus at that moment when he goes back down the mountain. Consciousness of his fate is the tragedy; yet consciousness also allows Sisyphus to scorn the gods which provides a small measure of satisfaction. Tragedy and happiness go together; this is the state of the world that we must accept. Fate decries that there is no purpose for our lives, but one can respond bravely to their situation: “This universe henceforth without a master seems to him neither sterile nor futile. Each atom of that stone, each mineral of that night-filled mountain, in itself forms a world. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”[x]

Reflections – Camus argues that life is meaningless and absurd. Still we can revolt against the absurdity, and find some small modicum of happiness. Essentially Camus asks if there is a third alternative between acceptance of life’s absurdity or its denial by embracing dubious metaphysical propositions. Can we live without the hope that life is meaningful, but without the despair that leads to suicide? If the contrast is posed this starkly it seems an alternative appears—we can proceed defiantly forward. We can live without faith, without hope, and without appeal.

I believe we are called upon to live without appeal, as appeals are intellectually dishonest. But perhaps there are other alternatives than: 1) accepting absurdity; 2) embracing hopeful metaphysics; or 3) Camus’ defiance. Perhaps we can just say we don’t understand life at all, but we affirm it anyway. (Sort of a Nietzschean move.) We just try to live without being sure of anything. Then we might ground the meaning of our lives in the small part we can play in bringing about a more meaningful reality, by working to transform reality. This is no answer, but a way to live.


[i] Albert Camus, “The Myth of Sisyphus,” in The Meaning of Life, ed. E.D Klemke (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981), 72.
[ii] Camus, “The Myth of Sisyphus,” 73.
[iii] Camus, “The Myth of Sisyphus,” 74.
[iv] Camus, “The Myth of Sisyphus,” 75.
[v] Camus, “The Myth of Sisyphus,” 75.
[vi] Camus, “The Myth of Sisyphus,” 75.
[vii] Camus, “The Myth of Sisyphus,” 76-77.
[viii] Camus, “The Myth of Sisyphus,” 77.
[ix] Camus, “The Myth of Sisyphus,” 79.
[x] Camus, “The Myth of Sisyphus,” 81.