Albert Camus was a leading figure in the philosophical school of thought known as absurdism. Absurdism holds that life is inherently meaningless, and it’s absurd for humans to seek meaning or purpose in an indifferent universe.
The quote, “Should I kill myself, or have a cup of coffee?” is a stark, somewhat darkly humorous expression of this perspective. It juxtaposes an act of extreme finality (suicide) with an act of mundane daily life (drinking coffee), highlighting the absurdity of both. In the face of life’s inherent meaninglessness, both options might appear equally valid or absurd. However, the quote also echoes one of the central themes of Camus’s philosophy: the idea that awareness and acceptance of life’s absurdity can lead to a kind of freedom.
In his essay “The Myth of Sisyphus,” Camus argues that, rather than leading to despair or suicide, accepting the absurdity of existence can lead to a life that is rich, passionate, and consciously chosen. So, in this context, the quote could be seen as an illustration of the absurdity of life and the radical freedom that comes with acknowledging it. Whether to end one’s life or to simply continue with the ordinary routines of existence becomes a conscious choice made in the face of an indifferent universe.