Philosophy was quite enjoyable in the my own self study, that was until I got onto Camus and the myth of Sisyphus, I have to stay it has really depressed me lately. My main question is how does one deal with the fact that our lifes may be meaningless? Do I have to distract myself from it? Make up my own meaning? And if life is meaningless is suicide a logical answer? Why is it looked down on? I apologize for the loaded question but this has bothered me for quite some time.

  • See this question: philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/21342/… Nov 28 '16 at 5:28
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    In reality, aren't sports meaningless? But we enjoy watching and participating in sports. God is just have sport with us. We are sporting with God. Enjoy the sport, we are all just having fun with God. Nov 28 '16 at 15:15
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    @SwamiVishwananda. But life is not meaningless, and it's not just a game. I think your idea that God is merely "sporting" with us is rather disturbing.
    – user3017
    Nov 28 '16 at 16:06
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    Just for context: Camus, does not, in fact, come down on the side that says the Sisyphus' life is meaningless, and his choice not to die is unwarranted. He finds empathy with Sisyphus and resonates with a way in which the apparently empty form creates its own unarticulated meaning. E.g.: philosophy.stackexchange.com/questions/36624/…
    – user9166
    Nov 28 '16 at 18:20
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    @PédeLeão Virtually no one presupposes this and there is no logic at all behind that being the only thing that provides meaning. Proof: Very few absolute physicalists find their lives completely meaningless. You are asserting contentious nonsense that directly contradicts the everyday experience of normal humans for no good reason.
    – user9166
    Nov 28 '16 at 18:23

How to live a meaningful life in a world where the received wisdom of religion and culture is no longer taken for granted is one of the defining problems of the modern age, and the central question of the philosophy called "existentialism." In fact, however, people have been wrestling with it since antiquity. The Biblical book of Ecclesiastes is basically an extended meditation on the same problem (you might find it useful, it's a quick and easy read, and doesn't really assume any particular religious orthodoxy).

Camus and Ecclesiastes arguably come to similar conclusions, that you just solider on, living as best you can, without any particular rational justification. But other thinkers have offered less bleak solutions. Camus' contemporary Sartre counseled imposing your own will and sense of values upon the world, giving it your meaning, rather than seeking meaning from within it.

A very different approach comes from Plato, who teaches us that the meaninglessness and absurdity of the world we live in is a signal that there is another, deeper and more real level of existence that we can and must seek out, rather than aligning ourselves with the absurdities of superficial reality. A similar approach is advocated by existentialist predecessor Kierkegaard, who advocated direct communion with the divine, unmediated by the rules and restrictions of religion, as the only antidote to the drab meaninglessness of everyday life. Finally, we might bring all these together, and claim that being a good person, and doing good in the world is intrinsically meaningful at a deep level, regardless of the realness or rationality of the context, and regardless of the results.


Writting as someone who went through the tunnel of true nhilism, I can re-assure you that there are solutions to this problem, and it is possible to live as a nihlist.

The first thing that you have to realise, is that "purpose" is a form of impetus. A lack of impetus could never be a reason to do anything, and most forms of suicide are an act. So if there is no purpose or impetus, there is no reason to kill yourself. You might try to lie down and simply cease to live. Stop breathing. Not by holding a bag over your head, but by simply not taking any more breaths. If you do this, your concious will start to dull a bit, and then you WILL breath in again. Your body has impetus without the need for purpose.

You may also fear, that without purpose, happiness has no meaning or value. And this might make you feel sad. But it is important to remember that your sadness is no more meaningfull than happiness.

I live with impetus but without purpose.

  • But what about being forced (to some degree) to engage with the world in order to survive? And lets say I want to have children, and support a partner (assuming traditional gender roles) then why is it acceptable to both live without meeting & work as a kind of slave to keep the species alive (and that your child may very well resent being brought into existence, given the above) Mar 3 '18 at 22:15

It all depends on what you mean by 'meaningless'. Start with what you mean by 'meaning'. We say words have meanings because of their associations in conventional usage. I doubt that you mean this kind of meaning. Other things have meaning to those who know about causal relationships between the stimulus (the thing said to have meaning, say a certain pattern of a footprint)and some other points of interest (It's from a deer, made only in the last hour, and the deer went 'that a way'). The same pattern might have no such meaning to a city dweller who has no experience in such a thing. Both instances of meaning are related whereby some information/experience is said to have meaning because it can tell us more than just a random pattern. I rather doubt that this is the notion of meaning that you are concerned with as well. I think that you mean 'emotional meaning'. This refers to aspects of situations that you personally care about. It is not entirely unrelated to the earlier examples but seems much closer to your concern.

People will say that their lives are meaningless when they are emotionally disconnected from their activities. They are doing things that they don't care much about. Emotional meaning is all about YOU. Figure out what you want to do/ what you think that you should do, at least try to start sorting it out. Given some time, if you think it through, try different things you'll find your own direction, a direction (or directions) that you sincerely care about pursuing. Then as you make progress and suffer failures your life will be full of meaning.

I didn't intend the above as a self help talk although if it sounds like one that's incidental but fine by me."Life" is a word, if you want it to have more meaning than that you are just alienated from your own activities and confusing meaning of a word with personal purpose. I make this as a philosophical point.

I believe it's called a category mistake.


First of all, there are many cultures, many myths, and we don't know which are more correct -- a priori.

So, there may be life after death, there may be not. We don't know.

If life has a reason or not, a "meaning" (whatever this could mean), we don't know.

Following our instincts of living in a community, the curiosity to understand the world enough to be happy on it, to have goals to be conquered in order to increase happiness, to learn that make others happy is the ultimate source of our own happiness (and this as is any social animal) -- I think all this give us enough reasons to live. Of course some moments are better, some are worse. Life comes to us as a wave, as tides up and down, up and down...

But if you have come to existentialism, the one that says there's no life beyond this one, then going to a gym, getting an attractive body and indulging in the delicious pleasures of sex looks by far a better choice than suicide, doesn't it?


Camus' conclusion that life is absurd and devoid of meaning fails in two aspects. Firstly, the majority of people continue to act as if life had a meaning and purpose. This makes Camus either a hitherto unparalleled genius having prophet-like revelations, or just a man writing about ideas which not even he acts as if were true.

Secondly, he confuses reasonable purpose with any purpose. Camus' three examples of the absurd life are all reasoned to be devoid of purpose because all the purposes to which each participant strives cannot ultimately succeed, for example the warrior knows that there will forever be another battle. What Camus does not acknowledge is that purpose which does not derive from reason is still purpose. The warrior is driven to partake in battles not because of any hope that he may achieve an ultimate win, nor despite the lack of such hope, but because of a deeply ingrained biological motivation produced by years of evolution. His hopes (or lack of them) are ad hoc stories told to explain the motivations that already exist.

We can see evidence of this in brain damaged individuals, where damage to the anterior cingulate can result in people flipping completely between vegetative comatose states and apparently motivated concious states entirely based on auditory or visual inputs which stimulate motivation pathways in the brain. Patients recovering from such damage have reported being completely aware of everything but having no desire to eact in any way except at the particular stimulus that came through the undamaged part of the anterior cingulate. Similarly, damage to this part of the brain can result in "Alien Hand" syndrome, where one loses control of one's hand, not in the sense that one cannot move it, but that it acts according to motives that your concious brain is unaware of.

The stories that we tell ourselves in order to bring some unity to the biological drives which underlay our actions are obviously important and a topic for interesting study, but when it comes to something like ending one's own life as a result of some conclusion reached by analysing those stories, the real biological motivations beneath then will usually step in and prevent such action.

Edit - as the information I thought relevant to this question has now been deleted twice without any reason having been provided, I will try to add it here. The philosophies of Camus, Satre Kierkegaard and many others have been tested against the real world in the lives of the philosophers themselves. In answering the question "how does one cope with.." I presume you are asking for a successful strategy. Camus left behind a wife who was hospitalised with depression and attempted suicide at least once. According to one biographer, this was directly related to his laissez-faire philosophy leading him to have multiple open affairs. Satre died of complications in part brought on by over-work, chain smoking and amphetamine abuse. Kierkegaard admitted in later life that his life had been one of immense suffering. None of these philosophers have given us any good reason to think that their way of looking at things brings about happiness for the agent or those around them. So, presuming you have any interest in your own happiness, or concern for the welfare of those around you, you'd be best looking at other ways of understanding the meaning of existence.

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    According to your theory, Camus' mistake is that "purpose which does not derive from reason is still purpose." In other words, life can't be absurd because that would require associating some measure of reason to it. Instead, life is simply irrational because purpose needs no reason; it only needs biological mechanisms to drive us. Is that a fair interpretation of your answer?
    – user3017
    Nov 28 '16 at 13:28
  • @PedeLeao Yes, that's basically it. For the large part of what we do, particularly big actions like suicide, reason is something our consciousness applies to describe the motivation, not the motivation itself. If all motive derived from reason we would struggle to explain alien hand syndrome.
    – Isaacson
    Nov 28 '16 at 13:33
  • Would you also agree that it is consistent with your theory that these mechanisms have nothing to do with life having any intrinsic value; rather, they have simply prevailed by being favorable to the replication of the genetic information that produced them?
    – user3017
    Nov 28 '16 at 13:42
  • @PedeLeao That depends on what you mean by intrinsic value. They certainly have "prevailed by being favorable to the replication of the genetic information that produced them", but I'm not sure I see how that robs them of intrinsic value.
    – Isaacson
    Nov 28 '16 at 13:52
  • A rock could be said to have value by the same standard, so when I speak of value, I'm talking about some other standard by which the continuity of life might be esteemed preferable to the continuity of a rock. (By the way, it wasn't me who downvoted you.)
    – user3017
    Nov 28 '16 at 13:59

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