This is not a debate whether the acceptance of the absurd is superior/inferior/equal to physical suicide, but as the title says.

I think physical suicide should come at-least in-between.

  • is this a question or a statement?
    – amphibient
    Feb 23, 2018 at 18:52
  • Question for the people who did agree with Camus on this point. Feb 23, 2018 at 19:56
  • @Themobisback. I don't disagree with Camus but have addressed my answer to your original question, 'why ?', Camus held this view and have tried to answer it clearly, accurately and fairly. To have taken sides on the issue or to explain where my sympathies rest, would have extended my answer unduly. I am sorry if the answer falls short of what you wanted. But thank you for asking the question; it focused my mind on a point I had not considered in Camus.
    – Geoffrey Thomas
    Feb 24, 2018 at 18:47

1 Answer 1


I take Camus' view of absurdity as given for the purposes of the question and focus on the relative status of physical and philosophical suicide. I also concentrate on why Camus assigns the two suicides the relative status he does rather than on whether his view of absurdity justifies his preference.


We need just briefly to outline Camus' notion of the absurd. It is a contrastive view; and what it contrasts with is the idea of the world as a rational unity. Plato, the neo-Platonists and Plotinus all believed in their different ways that the apparently disconnected diversity of things, the mismatches and antagonisms, dead ends and tragedies, were reducible to or could be explained in some degree by an ultimate unity or rational order. There is a discoverable rational pattern that makes sense of the apparent disorder of actions and events.

Camus rejects this take on the world. There is, he thinks, no ultimate unity, no rational pattern in terms of which the world and our experience of it make sense.

He also thinks, to deepen the absurdity, that even if there were a God or an Absolute or a Platonic world of Forms - something transcendent that made sense of the world - this would be another absurdity. For we would be unable to explain the rift or separation between the world and the transcendent. Why should there be this transcendent world ? And how can it relate to our own ?


Why live in an absurd situation ? Why not quit it by suicide ? This would be philosophical or metaphysical suicide - suicide informed by a sense of the inherent absurdity of existence.

Camus' response, his resistance to philosophical suicide, is convoluted. Hus thinking seems to go something like this :

1 The world is absurd.

2 This is a fact.

3 Facts should be faced, endured.

4 To commit suicide in face of absurdity is to opt out of facing the facts by destroying oneself.

5 Life is worth living because there is value in persisting in the face of absurdity.

I have reconstructed Camus' position as best I can. How Camus can get from the absurdity of the world to the evaluative claim that facts should be faced, endured, is hard to see - even, I'm inclined to say, impossible to justify. But I set out to sketch Camus' position, not to critique it. I have given his account of philosophical suicide and his case against it.


It is well known that Camus does allow and even commend suicide - what the question terms 'physical' suicide - in certain conditions. Camus believes in the value of freedom and justice. (How so, in an absurd world, is another puzzle.) He invokes the idea of the 'just assassin' ('The Rebel', tr. Anthony Bower, New York: Vintage Books, 1958, 282-6). The logic is roughly this. One may be faced with a choice between murdering X and allowing X to perpetrate or perpetuate slavery, the denial of freedom, and injustice. In murdering X one destroys someone who is denying the value of life to others, withholding its value from them. But in murdering X one is destroying the value of X's own life. To affirm the value of a life one has destroyed, one must destroy one's own life. Life is so great a value that when one takes it from another, one must compensate by taking it from oneself.


Whatever else may be unclear it is at least clear that, and why, Camus devalues, in fact condemns, philosophical suicide and excuses physical suicide. The cogency and consistency of the body of ideas within which Camus works is another matter.

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