Albert Camus, a French philosopher and author, was one of the key figures associated with existentialism and absurdism, philosophies that explore the meaning and value of human life in an indifferent universe.
In his essay “The Myth of Sisyphus,” Camus introduces the idea of the “absurd” as the conflict between our desire for meaning and the silence of the universe. He identifies the problem of suicide as the most pressing philosophical question because it directly concerns the value of life.
“There is but one truly serious philosophical problem and that is suicide,” means that, from an existentialist perspective, deciding whether life is worth living is the most fundamental question. This is not an endorsement or promotion of suicide, but rather a challenge to confront the question of life’s meaning honestly.
In Camus’s view, if life is inherently meaningless, as he suggests it is, the decision to continue living becomes a profound act of rebellion against the absurd. Instead of committing physical suicide, Camus advocates for “philosophical suicide,” where one rejects the notion of inherent meaning, embraces the absurd, and forges their own purpose. In this sense, the problem of suicide serves as a lens through which all other philosophical inquiries must be considered.