3

What is wrong (if anything) with the reasoning in the following quote by Albert Camus, and why?

I see many people die because they judge that life is not worth living. I see others paradoxically getting killed for the ideas or illusions that give them a reason for living (what is called a reason for living is also an excellent reason for dying). I therefore conclude that the meaning of life is the most urgent of questions.” (The Myth of Sisyphus)

How can he "see" many people die, if he is not a psychiatrist or psychologist? Or more abstractly, if he is not present in their conciousness?

The jump to the conclusion is rather abrupt - is it not laden with faulty reasoning?

  • He seems to think dieing is a bad thing. Does he defend such a view? – Neil Meyer May 11 '14 at 17:40
  • @NeilMeyer I think he's being quite careful to avoid resting his claim on a judgement about whether dying is good or bad. – Lucas May 11 '14 at 18:38
  • 'How can he "see" many people die' - he was part of the French resistance in WWII as a kind of journalist in Combat: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Combat_(newspaper). He has literally seen many people die. The conjugation of seen into see might be a translation artifact, or simply his style of language use. – obelia May 12 '14 at 0:10
  • @obelia He may have actually seen many people die, but "see" is probably used to mean something more towards "understand". e.g. "can you see what's going on here", "oh, I see, ..." etc. The same usage exists for voir in French. I really doubt it is a translation artefact, or even particularly stylistic. My best examples of similar usages would be something in between the vision meaning and "understand", a indirect inference about mental state from direct experience, like we would say "I see you're a little upset", "I've seen people struggling", "You look like your having a good time" etc – Lucas May 12 '14 at 1:51
2

How can he "see" many people die, if he is not a psychiatrist or psychologist? Or more abstractly, if he is not present in their conciousness?

This just means that he knows this is something that happens, the word see is often used like this in English. Generally, word see is often used to refer to facts which are more objectively true, or at least have some privileged position - compare with "I hear that ...". This association has roots that go back at least as far as Aristotle's Metaphysics (see Jonas, The Nobility of Sight).

The jump to the conclusion is rather abrupt - is it not laden with faulty reasoning?

It's rather short, but I wouldn't call it abrupt. He gives examples of people lives depending on the answer to the question "what is the meaning of life". These examples are ones we are all familiar with and understand. As the answer to the question is something that determines how people live and die, he concludes that it is an important (i.e. "urgent") question.

2

How can he "see" many people die, if he is not a psychiatrist or psychologist?

Camus father died in the battle of Marne in the first world war, he lived in poverty in a poor quarter of French Algiers, and he joined the French resistance in the second World War. Though he wasn't a witness to the Hiroshima bombing he was alive enough to its horrors to be one of the few French editors to register his disgust and opposition at such wanton carnage, and was on the side of the pied-noirs on the outbreak of the Algerian Revolution.

One can judge from this that he had plenty of experience, and some measure of insight in that awful business of living and dying for finding the problem of bringing meaning to life the most 'urgent of problems'.

I see many people die because they judge that life is not worth living.

In the myth of Sisyphus, Camus points out that there is no meaning in death, so suicide, a solution he contemplates for paradox of living, is an evasion of the problem and not a solution.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy