French Existentialism: Albert Camus' 'Myth of the Sisyphus'

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Friedrich Nietzsche had a profound effect on French existentialism, and his influence is readily apparent in the works of Albert Camus and Jean Paul Sartre. Nietzsche's teaching that reality is open to human making and imagination is nothing new; but Nietzsche's contention that nearly the whole of human existence is "framed" by whatever stamp human beings place on it is a radical break with past classical and Enlightenment philosophy. Indeed, the fact that Nietzsche's philosophy teaches that all morality and ends of human striving are constructs of the human mind lends itself to nihilism. Nevertheless, since ends and purpose of life are a result of man's making, it is plausible that men and women can set whatever goal they wish for themselves to give life meaning. Take for example, Albert Camus' Myth of the Sisyphus. Camus tells us in his Myth that "Myths are made of the imagination to breathe life into them." After discussing various interpretations of the Myth of Sisyphus, Camus takes issue with the interpretation that pushing the rock up the hill is an eternal punishment and that Sisyphus is some sort of tragic figure; instead, Camus allows that Sisyphus is joyful in his overcoming his punishment. Instead of bowing to the injustice foist upon him by the gods, Sisyphus endorses his fate, since he is "convinced of the wholly human origin of all that is human," he can reinterpret his condition and view his situation as one that gives him his reason for being--and since

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