In The Myth of Sisyphus, Camus says that there are two methods of thought to conclude that the meaning of life is the most urgent of questions: those of La Palisse and Don Quixote:

Whether the earth or the sun revolves around the other is a matter of profound indifference. To tell the truth, it is a futile question. On the other hand, 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. How to answer it? On all essential problems (I mean thereby those that run the risk of leading to death or those that intensify the passion of living) there are probably but two methods of thought: the method of La Palisse and the method of Don Quixote. Solely the balance between evidence and lyricism can allow us to achieve simultaneously emotion and lucidity.

I understand that he is trying to emphasize the boldfaced sentence. But, can someone elucidate who these people are and what their methods of thought are?

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    I think the main idea appears in the last sentence, see extended commentary in Novello, Albert Camus as Political Thinker, p. 51ff:"La Palisse represents the compelling, ‘mathematical’ evidence (MS, p. 230) of death and absurdity (MS, p. 222)... Don Quixote represents the lover who is only capable of seeing his own idea... Don Quixote is aware of his own short-sightedness; therefore, he is free from the fetishistic belief in the objectiveness of ‘blind‘ hope and of the ‘dialectique savante et classique‘ (MS, p. 222)".
    – Conifold
    Sep 15, 2021 at 5:07

1 Answer 1


La Palisse was a French nobleman who liked jokes based on truisms. When he died his comrades famously made a song about it, saying "if he wasn't dead he would still be alive". To Camus he probably represents the cold application of logic, "evidence". "If life is not worth living, then we'd better die" is the kind of truism la Palisse was famous for.

On the other hand Don Quixote is a novel character who aspired to a life of knighthood, and fought monsters who existed only in his own imagination. The most famous episode being him charging at windmills he thought to be giants. Don Quixote had no quest, faced no peril, so he invented them. To Camus he represents people who invent their own meaning to life, sometimes to the point of absurdity. "Lyrism", or the ability to ascribe meaning in the meaningless. Like the people who persuade themselves a pizza shop is some kind of pedo-satanic parlor front to a world conspiracy, and find a goal to their life in "fighting" said conspiracy. Or, closer to home, people who find meaning in raising their children, forgetting that those lifes will be just as meaningless as their own, humanity being bound to disappear without a trace any way.

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