Those who have not taken the time to explore the wonderful world of
philosophy may consider it as having very little practical value or
benefit in the real world.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The word philosophy is derived from the Greek words "philo"
meaning love and "sophia" meaning wisdom. Therefore it is
the love of wisdom and the seeking of knowledge in understanding the
nature of the universe, man, and the human condition.
What could be more relevant?
How does philosophy contribute to personal development?
and the works of some of the greatest thinkers in the history of the
world is invaluable in helping us determine who we are and what we are
doing here. Contemplating what the great philosophers have found to be
meaningful and worthy assists us in establishing our own views on
life, our purpose, and our
William Ralph Inge said: "The object of studying philosophy is
to know one's own mind, not other people's".
More than just a pursuit of knowledge, philosophy is also an
activity; one that teaches us to analyze, assess and reason. It is an
instrument for acquiring and honing critical thinking and problem
solving skills. Anyone pursuing a career in law is required to take
courses in philosophy for the purposes of cultivating logical and
If it were not for philosophy and logic, knowledge about ourselves
and the world we live in would be very limited.
Each month this section will feature a philosopher from a different
period in history and his contributions to Western thought. Enjoy the
information and allow it to expand
your thinking and viewpoint.
This Month's Philosopher
Albert Camus (1913-1960)
Camus was a French author and philosopher born on November 7,
1913 in French Algeria to a poor agricultural worker, Lucien Auguste
Camus, who died in the Battle of the Marne in 1914, and to Catherine
Marie Cardona, a house keeper of Spanish descent.
After the death of his father, Camus, his mother and brother lived
under meager and difficult conditions until he was awarded a
scholarship to attend high school at the Grand Lycée. It was there
during his high school years that Camus became an avid reader of Gide,
Proust, and Verlaine, among others and learned Latin and English.
In 1933 Camus enrolled at the University of Algiers to pursue his diplome
d’études superieures, specializing in philosophy, while also
obtaining certificates in sociology and psychology. His graduate
thesis at the University of Algiers explored the relationship between
Greek philosophy and Christianity, specifically the relationship of
Plotinus to Augustine.
Although he did not consider himself a philosopher and actually
opposed systematic philosophy, Camus' views helped give rise to the
philosophy known as
absurdism. He was also linked with Sartre and existentialism due
to his belief of individual freedom, however he rejected the label
stating: "No, I am not an existentialist. Sartre and I are always
surprised to see our names linked…"
Camus' most important work contributing to the theme of 'absurdity'
in philosophy is
The Myth of Sisyphus. Human existence, according to
Camus, is absurd. This absurdity derives from our attempts to make
sense of a senseless world. He tells us "the absurd is born of
the confrontation between human need and the unreasonable silence of
the world." For Camus 'absurd' is that which arises out of a
comparison of the ridiculous with the sublime, such as the fate of
Sisyphus who was condemned by the gods to eternally push a boulder up
a hill only to have it roll back down again after he reached the top.
For Camus, Sisyphus' fate aptly demonstrates the futility and
hopelessness of labor. We, like Sisyphus, live our lives accomplishing
nothing. Everything we seem to accomplish, are committed to, or
inspired by, is destined to extinction when the universe ultimately
Why then, in such a pointless existence and irrational universe
"should I not commit suicide?" asks Camus. He considered the
question one that existentialist philosophers such as
failed to both ask and answer. He states that they failed to stick
with the original premise of their philosophy which is that the absurd
is a consequence of the encounter between a rational human being in an
irrational world. Instead, they each made an attempt to resolve the
conflict which is irresolvable because it is a given of human
existence. To try to resolve it is to deny the very phenomenon one
For Camus, suicide is merely another attempt at resolving it. The
answer, according to Camus, is therefore to accept, like Sisyphus, the
fully conscious experience of being alive. In the face of the absurd
we must metaphorically 'revolt.' Revolt is the awareness of an
inevitable fate, but without the resignation that might accompany it.
We must imagine Sisyphus happy for 'being aware of one's life to the
maximum… and is living to the maximum…' Thus, Camus rejects
suicide as an option, for we cannot solve the problem of the absurd by
negating its existence. It is a necessary state of the conflict
between man and his world. Suicide would be a defeat and a denial of
the very condition of man's existence.
The paradox in what Camus calls the absurd is that existence itself
has no meaning so we must learn to bear irresolvable emptiness. Like
Sisyphus, we cannot help to continue to ask about the meaning of life,
only to see our answers topple back down, however,
we can arrive at meaning and purpose by making it for ourselves. It is
the individual, not the act, that gives meaning to any context.
Although Albert Camus was not technically a philosopher by training or
profession, his numerous literary works, essays and speeches made
significant contributions to a broad range of issues in moral and
political philosophy. The Nobel committee, in awarding him the prize
for literature in 1957, stated that Camus' efforts "illuminate
the problem of the human conscience in our time."
Sadly, Albert Camus was at the height of his career when he died
tragically in an automobile accident in Villeblevin, France on