Suicide is the Only Real Philosophical Problem

Suicide is the only real philosophical problem – Albert Camus’s script – and, he adds, we must answer that fundamental question by judging whether or not life is worth living.

Camus’s approach is well known (in his essay The Myth of Sisyphus) that he never saw anyone die due to an ontological approach (not even Galileo allowed himself to be killed for his scientific truth, and he did well – Camus says), but instead many people die, commit suicide because they believe that life is not worth living.

Although the WHO (World Health Organization) recognizes the difficulty of having reliable statistical data on suicide in all the countries of the world, it recognizes it as a very serious public health problem. I will not repeat figures that can be easily seen on their website (eg: every 40 seconds there is a death by suicide), but it is easy to see that Camus has a lot of evidence in his favor: the fat problem, the one that matters, remains exposed by suicide and it’s simple: judge whether life is worth living or not.

Whoever takes his life confesses, in a way, that he can no longer or does not want to continue living because he suffers too much and life does not compensate for that suffering. That pain has made something absurd in the human condition evident to him: living as if all our actions had a meaning or a purpose. But it happens that it is not difficult for that feeling of the absurd to take over us: it is even something that appears early, for example in adolescence, when we are stripped of some unpleasant truths, such as mourning for childhood and childhood parents, like the pain of growing up and not easily finding a place in the world (softly and relentlessly ‘demanding’ with its images and postures).

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Freud, in his impeccable text Discomfort in Culture, asks himself and compels us to meditate, if there is a meaning to life that allows us to find happiness in it. He questions the answers that religion offers, but also love (where we are the most fragile – Freud says – and the most unfortunate we know) and he is even very pessimistic about putting excessive hope in the advancement of science because he could not ignore the incisive presence of that ‘death drive’, which manifests itself as anguish, feelings of guilt and the need for self-punishment, which are part of human psychic suffering.

We know Camus’s answer: he opts to wait, to live as much as possible with what is given to us, with the time that is given to us (since we are just that: time). He says that it is a mistake to anticipate death, to jump into the jump. Camus thinks that the suicidal one gives in, that he meekly submits to death. Whoever commits suicide exhausts all that is given, that is, what has been received per gratia.

It is not easy to follow Camus’ proposal to continue living, with disciplined freedom that resists and rises to make the most of the time one has.

It is a lucid and at the same time devastating freedom: the freedom of those who know that the senses of life are illusions that can crumble, that the absurdity of living can appear to us around the corner. And that freedom is also an arid and uphill path, which sometimes seems to repeat itself as nonsense, in the manner of Sisyphus (that man punished by the Gods, condemned to push up the mountain a great rock that, shortly before arriving at the top, it falls downhill under its weight, and Sisyphus had to go down it and start again.)

Camus does not solve the problem, certainly. But he clarifies it lucidly and dares to propose to us. You can convince or not. You can challenge or seek other ways out. It proposes a dedication to the present, while we have it, as an act of rebellion that has no other cause than to resist the pain of nonsense.

I really like the end of his essay, where Camus tells us that Sisyphus turns to his rock, and can only own that moment, and can then embrace certain happiness. In front of that rock, “each mineral fragment of that mountain, full of darkness, forms by itself a world. The effort itself to reach the top is enough to fill a man’s heart. You have to imagine Sisyphus happy. ”

You have to imagine Sisyphus happy. It may be a joke, but it seems to me that Camus points to where all, or many at least, have had some experience: I refer to children’s play, that time in which everything was taken lightly and very seriously, at the same time.

Because in the end there seems to be the key to the time that is given to us, which is but a certain eternity of the present. And that key is to be able to combine the lightness and seriousness of the game, which is another way of speaking about the determination to wait and live the moment to the fullest.

Although the ghosts that tempt suicide prowl.

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Suicide is the Only Real Philosophical Problem. (2022, May 10). Retrieved from

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