I see in several sources that Camus is "against nihilism"(though there are also a few that state he utilizes elements of nihilism), however,

(Sorry for referring to Wikipedia. Didn't have enough time to dive into more original research)

The Wikipedia entry for The Myth of Sisyphus says:

Camus claims that when Sisyphus acknowledges the futility of his task and the certainty of his fate, he is freed to realize the absurdity of his situation and to reach a state of contented acceptance. With a nod to the similarly cursed Greek hero Oedipus, Camus concludes that "all is well," indeed, that "one must imagine Sisyphus happy."

which appears to me no different than nihilism at all. In nihilism, you accept the fact that the world is inherently without any meaning, and thus are freed and will be able to live a totally happy life, doing whatever you want, which seems to be exactly what Camus is stating here.

It seems to me that the only possible difference is that Camus insists that people have to "keep living for the sake of confronting the absurd that is essential in life", while nihilism doesn't insist you have to keep your life for anything. You can just die right away.

Suicide, then, also must be rejected: without man, the absurd cannot exist. The contradiction must be lived; reason and its limits must be acknowledged, without false hope. However, the absurd can never be accepted: it requires constant confrontation and constant revolt.

(which by the way seems to be another contradiction, because it seems that Camus is against any sense of hope/purpose in life, yet this sounds exactly like a "purpose"(The contradiction must be lived; reason and its limits must be acknowledged") to keep living instead of dying.)

Also, my above doubt extends to the following statement

"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)."

because many people who get killed in action/live on are probably exactly living out what he defines as Sisyphus' life: fully acknowledging the futility of his task and the certainty of his fate, while still carrying out the task.(Just for the sake of example, what if a hypothetical Sisyphus falls down the mountain and dies while moving the stone? Is that "getting killed for a reason for living"?) Then what does he exactly suggest people to do, if getting killed for anything is "wrong"? Is it ever possible that one does not get killed/get into danger, except for doing absolutely nothing at all? We all have to occupy ourselves with certain missions, some of which might be with passion(another of Camus' criteria for life), exciting and dangerous, even if we know it's futile. Isn't that actually conforming to, instead of against, what he proposed. Judging a deed by whether one preserved his/her life after the process doesn't appear to be a very convincing standard anyway. According to him, life is pointless in itself, except for the purpose of "living the contradiction", which, however, probably is already done in the process.

And also, is there a reason why Camus seems to be so against suicide/death, after all?

I don't know whether my interpretation makes any sense.

Thanks in advance!

  • This isn't really an answer; but an extended comment. I'd be curious as to whether Camus was responding to the myth of the Eternal return of Nietzsche; Sisphus's task after all is essentially a repetition, a return. N after all said, were one to live out exactly the same life, after ones death, would the prospect fill one with despair; its a 'myth' to shake people awake - I suppose; its also aligned with Sartrean Existentialism; its also notably against the Indian concept of karma (deed) which specifically that the next life is morally connected to this; and not a repetition. One can also re Commented Jan 21, 2015 at 14:06
  • i think you read too much sarcasm into the last quote. i.e. i don't think survival is the ultimate arbiter of value for camus, just that non survival isn't preferable
    – user6917
    Commented Jan 21, 2015 at 14:35
  • See my answer here: philosophy.stackexchange.com/a/10796/5304
    – dgo
    Commented Nov 13, 2015 at 18:37
  • Think what's crucial in understanding Camus is why it is that life is absurd. It is strange to read him, without realising why that is: because our (IMHO who he writes for and as) life is worthless.
    – user6917
    Commented Jun 3, 2016 at 23:27
  • I remember when i was occupied with Camus and the likes, boy am i glad i'm past that. Such a depressing and pitiful philosophy. Hihilism and Existentialism doesn't bring any joy or peace of mind, just sorrow, more uncertainty and depression.
    – Bach
    Commented Mar 19, 2018 at 18:36

3 Answers 3


Why is Absurdism against Nihilism? Absurdism, as presented by Camus in the Myth of Sisyphus, allows the individual to have belief systems. These belief systems are formed by consciously appropriating elements of preexisting philosophies. Also by observing the consequences of actions, a moral code can be built. I've not as well read on Nihilism, but I think this capacity to have beliefs and morality sets Absurdism 'against Nihilism'.

Why does Camus not support suicide? Suicide is not approved of in The Myth of Sisyphus because of the emphasis on accepting despair. Suicide would go against this tenet, as it is the act of someone overcome by despair.

What about being killed for an ideal? The point Camus is making in the last quotation is about the power of ideals. He is saying that if you adopt pre-existing ideals they will limit you, possibly to the extent of killing you. In Absurdism the individual should create their own belief systems; see the first paragraph of this answer.


I think the difference between Camus absurd-ism- indeed existentialism in general , and nihilism lies in the subjective and objective divide.

For Camus and Sartre humans are thrown into an absurd and objectively meaningless situation, and science bares this out, we all know that the universe has an end date, and that "death is the old joke that comes to each anew". What are we to do about it? Camus emphasised rebellion, Satre: Freedom- they are both highly individualised starting points.

True nihilism is a rejection of value and meaning in anything whether it be subjective, inter-subjective, or objective. But in existentialism the world is loaded with subjective meaning- and it is not abit tarnished for not being objective or ultimate


Me two drachmas ...

Albert Camus' (requiescat in pace) philosophy is Absurdism and its central premise is the juxtaposition of desire for meaning and not finding meaning. Nihilism is the claim there is no meaning ... to life or anything else for that matter.

There's a differnce there ... between not finding meaning (Absurdism) and there is no meaning (Nihilism) ... I suppose.

That is to say ... Absurdism is epistemological while Nihilism is metaphysical.

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