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Fig 5.19 – Sisyphus and Absurdity

Text: Pages 260 and 261

In the Myth of Sisyphus Camus, the title from Homer’s Odyssey, Camus described how Sisyphus was punished for his trickery of avoiding death twice. For his punishment, Sisyphus was forced to roll an immense boulder up the hill only to find that as it reached the top it would roll back down the hill. Sisyphus was cursed to repeat this process throughout eternity. This led Camus to answer the three existential questions that would forever influence existentialism: Does the realization of the absurd require suicide? For Camus, the answer was a resounding “no!” Suicide, as the first option, was “escaping existence.” In the act of ending existence, existence only became more absurd. The second option of religiosity and spiritualism required the “leap of faith” described by Kierkegaard but was yet another form of suicide. The third option, the “solution,” was a dialectic process which balanced the acceptance of the absurdity of life with the act of rebellion against its absurdity. Finding personal, not religious, or philosophical, meaning was where one could find freedom and contentment.

In the end, Sisyphus must decide, like all of humanity, whether to give up the laboriously and meaninglessness of life or keep going. At the end of the book, Sisyphus resumed his endless task by accepting its absurdity. Camus concluded the book by asking the reader to imagine Sisyphus happy, symbolic of an option in French existentialism to happily accept the absurdity of human existence.

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