Every human being tries to find the meaning of their life. The myth about Sisyphus is known as the symbol of the meaninglessness of human toil. There are a lot of different interpretations of this myth. Is human life meaningful or not? Richard Taylor and Albert Camus have different points of view on this question.
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Richard Taylor’s point of view is opposed to the ancient myth of Sisyphus that presupposes the meaninglessness of life. Sisyphus is known to be punished by the gods for his betrayal. His punishment is senseless about his work. He rolls the stone to the top of the hill and the stone then immediately backs down and Sisyphus has to do one and the same work all his life. This myth presents the meaningless existence of a human being. Sisyphus does not have any sense of life doing the repetitive toil.
His every day is a sort of struggle and this struggle is for nothing. This myth has a lot of interpretations. It has been believed that it symbolizes the perpetual rising and setting of the sun, others understand it as man’s eternal struggle and unquenchable spirit (Taylor, p. 583). Taylor interprets the myth in another way.
Factually, he points out that Sisyphus has the aim namely to roll the stone to the top of the hill but the gods make this toil pointless as a kind of punishment for him. The results may be achieved only if people work hard. It is a well-known truth that “A cat in gloves catches no mice”.
Taylor presents another picture of this myth. He imagines if “all these stone instead of rolling back to their places as if they had never been moved, were assembled at the top of the hill and there incorporated, say, in a beautiful and enduring temple, then the aspect of meaningless would disappear” (Taylor, p. 583).
People are accustomed to see the results of their work. If they do not find them they make the conclusion that everything has been done in vain. As far as we do not observe such results of Sisyphus’s work the conclusion of meaningless seems to be justified. Another presupposition provided by Taylor is the desire to work. He imagines that the gods making such punishment to Sisyphus may inspire him to do his work. In this case, if Sisyphus likes to do what he is doing his life is happy.
From this point of view, it is not the punishment for Sisyphus to roll the stone as far as he wants to do it. In this case, the gods are presented by Taylor as merciful towards the fate of Sisyphus. Sisyphus may be presented as a happy man who likes to roll stones and he wants this work to be endless. Factually, the essence of toil is not changed from this point of view but Sisyphus’s attitude is presented in another way in this presupposition.
Taylor provides the definition of meaninglessness in his work: “meaninglessness is essentially endless pointlessness” (p. 584). Any activity has meaning if there is a resultant culmination of it. It helps to observe the myth about Sisyphus in another way. Life is happy when there is a meaning. We may explain the essence of existence if we find the meaning of human actions. The life that seems to be meaningless may acquire a meaning for a particular person.
There are a lot of examples of endless repetitions surrounding us. For example, the sunrise and sunset or regularly rains are repeated regularly and it may seem to be meaningless for the essence of action itself but we understand the importance of these actions. Factually, we have found the meaning for these actions and they seem to be meaningful for us. Human lives are connected to the nature.
The only difference is that we have consciousness about what we do and how we do and this consciousness claims to find the meaning in everything done by us. The mankind has the history while the animals do not. Every new generation differs from others but all people try to find the meaning of their valuable life.
Factually, all human activities have the point but this point may be difficult to understand by other people at sight. Every human deed may be explained and has certain goals and as a result, it has meaning. The difference is that the notion of meaning may be interpreted in different ways by every man. What seems to be senseless to one man requires a deep meaning for another man.
According to Taylor each human life resembles the myth about Sisyphus. The life of people is like Sisyphus’s climbs and our every achieved goal resembles every Sisyphus’s step. The difference is that when Sisyphus returns to push the stone up again human life ends and their activities are continued with their children. Comparing a human life with Sisyphus’s steps add some senseless to human activities. Taylor offers to look at this situation from another point of view.
As we may imagine that Sisyphus’s stones may be the temple so human actions have some results but these results seem to be the sand-swept pyramids comparing to the eternity (Taylor, p. 586). There are a lot of survived ruins that might be meaningful for past generations. There might be people who had the sense of life to build a big house which is ruins nowadays. Every small piece of junk was a valuable thing in the past with its particular meaning. Factually, all human civilization has the same fate as Sisyphus but it does not mean that our life is meaningless.
Taylor points out that the meaning of human life is closely connected to the desires and feelings. It is very important that the work that people do will be liked by them. If people are fond of the work that they do during all their life their life has a deep meaning particularly for these people as in Sisyphus’s case. Factually, it is possible to find meaning in every human action. Sisyphus’s life also may be meaningful if we find this meaning. If a human being does something his actions may be explained. Some actions may seem senseless to other as far as our feelings and desires are irrational.
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Albert Camus has another point of view. He considers human life to be absurd drawing a parallel between the myth about Sisyphus and a human life. He finds this myth to be tragic as far as Sisyphus has conscious and he realizes all senselessness of this situation. If everything seems to be so meaningful it will not be the punishment for him.
Camus points out that it should be remembered that the primary interpretation of this myth presupposes the senselessness of life as far as it is the gods’ punishment. Although human activities have results these results are temporary. If we look at the whole Earth taking into account the notion of eternity we realize that all our actions are senseless in a global meaning.
All human life is man’s desire to achieve their goals. People work hard to realize their dreams during their life. When they understand what they have been achieved with their toil they do not have time to enjoy it as far as the death takes all these achievements from them (Camus, p. 579).
From the above said, we may conclude that there are different interpretations of the myth about Sisyphus. We have presented two opposite points of view namely Richard Taylor’s search for meaningful in this myth and in a human life and Camus’s belief in meaninglessness of all earthly things. As for me, I support Richard Taylor’s point of view as far as every human action is meaningful. Even human feelings and desires may add this meaning to our life.
Camus, Albert. “The Myth of Sisyphus” Philosophical Meaning: 578-571. Print.
Taylor, Richard. “Is Life Meaningful?” Philosophical Meaning: 582-588. Print.