Albert Camus on suicide, the absurd and the meaning of life

This article was first published on Big Think in March 2018. It was updated in March 2023.

Albert Camus was a French-Algerian writer who preferred not to be called a philosopher. He is often associated with the existentialist school of thought, although he preferred to be considered separate from it. His way of life and way of thinking is very different from most philosophers and even existentialists with whom he is associated.

His ideas on how to live and cope with existence are bold and often less than comforting. Regardless, he can give us insight into how to deal with our existential fear and offers us some tips on how to live our meaningless lives.

About suicide

“There is only one really serious philosophical problem – suicide,” Camus argues in his essay. The myth of Sisyphus. Starting with the question of whether life is worth living, Camus puts the problem of how we should live right at the center of his thought.

For many people, a life without meaning is not worth living. Camus understands this and takes up the matter face to face. He concludes that suicide is of little use to us, since there can be no more meaning in death than in life, and addresses questions about what is worth living for. However, when it comes to what meaning we can find, he is of little help.

Meaning of life

Camus makes a rather bold statement about the meaning of life: it doesn’t exist and we can’t make it. He claims that this impossible for us to find a satisfactory answer to the question of the meaning of life, and any attempt to impose a meaning on the universe will end in disaster, as any meaning we choose will be sent later. He further denies that science, philosophy, society, or religion could ever create a meaning to life that would be immune to the problem of the absurd.


The whole philosophy of Camus is based on the idea absurd. People have a drive to find meaning in things, and where there is none, we usually try to create it. However, since the universe is cold and indifferent to this search for meaning, we will always encounter absurd situations where our attempts to find meaning fail. Our life is meaningless and will remain so.

However, Camus does not consider this senselessness to be something bad. He explains that realizing that life is absurd is the first step to a fulfilling life. Despite the fact that the problem of living in a world devoid of meaning is great, it needs to be solved like any other.

What makes life worth living then?

In his work, he praises the sun, women, the beach, kissing, dancing and good food. He loved sports and was a football champion in his youth. He took great pleasure in the little things and encouraged us to do the same. Just because life is meaningless doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyable! Indeed, meaninglessness is just a background fact, like gravity, to be reckoned with.

absurd hero

Camus criticized those who try to endure the meaninglessness of life by imposing meaning on it. While this may comfort us, these meaning systems themselves are doomed to failure in the long run. The universe remains indifferent to us, random events happen, and we again face meaninglessness.

He points out that Kierkegaard, for example, understood that life is absurd, but fled to God instead of accepting the fact. The French existentialists also did this in a secularized way, which is why Camus did not identify with them.

Camus tells us that the answer is to accept the meaninglessness. A person who really knows that life is absurd and goes through it with a smile, absurd hero. Camus was a real-life example, and he saw literary examples of Don Juan and Sisyphus that we might look at. “We must imagine Sisyphus happy,” he tells us, for a ridiculous hero can live a life as meaningless as rolling a boulder uphill forever and still find pleasure in it.

He also encourages us to abandon the idea of ​​an afterlife, not only because it is unlikely, but also because trying to live in such a way that we are guaranteed to get into the next life distracts from this one. Trying to justify this life by pointing to the next is just another way of denying the meaninglessness of life, however you put it.

So what should I do today?

Camus recommends that you: go outside, enjoy the sunshine, take a walk on the beach, play football, have lunch at a cafe with a friend, give up despair and accept the meaninglessness of existence, choosing to continue living. what you like to do, despite the lack of meaning in your actions.

Can we find meaning in life that satisfies our need for it? Camus says no, but that shouldn’t be a problem. We still live here and now and have every opportunity to have fun. Life is worth living and should be accepted as it is. While it is difficult to face meaninglessness without retreating into the loving arms of religion, science, society, or even creating meaning on our own, Camus encourages us to face the absurd with a smile.

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