The Myth of Sisyphus  Book Summary - The Myth of Sisyphus  Book explained in key points
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The Myth of Sisyphus summary

Albert Camus

An influential existentialist essay about living your life with greater passion and freedom

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    The Myth of Sisyphus
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    The feeling that life is meaningless is a consequence of certain unavoidable experiences in life.

    If you were to ask someone, “Why do you choose to stay alive?” you might get a host of different answers. Some feel an obligation to family. Others might be driven by a curiosity about what life has in store for them. And some may have never considered the question at all and would reply with an exasperated eye roll.

    Camus argues that the most common reason people choose to go on living is a general sense that our activities in life are worth doing.

    This is especially true when we’re young, and life seems full of hope and promise. We’re driven by ambitions. We think of ourselves as progressing. And we feel that our actions have good reasons behind them.

    But there comes a time in a person’s life when nagging doubts begin to nibble at this optimism. There are two experiences, in particular, that are prone to challenge life’s sense of purposefulness: the repetitive nature of our days and an increasing consciousness of our impending death.

    The key message here is: The feeling that life is meaningless is a consequence of certain unavoidable experiences in life. 

    In the grind of the nine-to-five work cycle, where eat, sleep, work, repeat is the mantra of our lives, the repetitive quality of our actions makes itself known. We begin to feel more like machines than people. And constant repetition is enough to drive out any passion we once found in our work. In the exhaustion that we feel at the end of a workday, it’s not uncommon for us to wonder what all this is really for.

    To make matters worse, the inevitability of the final destination death only looms more and more prominently over our lives as we grow older. It serves as an ever-present reminder that nothing we do in life is of any lasting consequence.

    In light of these two unpleasant experiences, it’s not uncommon for an individual to feel that her struggles and suffering in life are pointless.

    This feeling that life has no ultimate value or meaning is what Camus calls the absurd.

    The reason the absurd is so critical to the present discussion is that it’s directly related to the question of suicide.

    It’s often assumed that if life has no meaning, then it isn’t worth living.

    If this is true, then it presents a very real, very urgent, dilemma for anyone who feels this way about their life. Do they go on living in denial of the uncomfortable truth that colors their whole perspective, or do they end their life?

    The overarching problem in these blinks is to examine whether meaninglessness does imply worthlessness or if it’s possible to live a good life in a meaningless world after all.

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    What is The Myth of Sisyphus about?

    The Myth of Sisyphus (1942) is an influential essay that contributed significantly to the philosophical movements of existentialism and absurdism. The essay asks whether life is worth living in a world emptied of religious meaning and considers whether suicide is the only appropriate response to the void of meaninglessness. Ultimately, the essay advises against suicide, arguing that the meaninglessness of existence is, in fact, the condition for a fulfilling life lived with freedom, passion, and happiness.

    Best quote from The Myth of Sisyphus

    There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide.

    —Albert Camus
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    Who should read The Myth of Sisyphus ?

    • Atheists who want to know how to live a meaningful life without faith
    • Armchair philosophers interested in significant works of Western thought
    • Anyone who could use a boost of inspiration and passion in their lives

    About the Author

    Albert Camus was a French philosopher, novelist, and journalist whose work centered around existentialist themes. He’s perhaps most famous for his works of literature, especially The Stranger, The Plague, and The Fall. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1957.

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