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Tolstoy and Camus Questions

by: 98megan.riley Notetaker

Tolstoy and Camus Questions PHI 105

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This material covers whether or not suicide is warranted if life itself doesn't have a purpose and what it means to continue live without having a purpose or without finding your own purpose.
Intro to Ethics
de Marneffe
Class Notes
ethics, suicide, meaning
25 ?




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This 3 page Class Notes was uploaded by 98megan.riley Notetaker on Tuesday October 4, 2016. The Class Notes belongs to PHI 105 at Arizona State University taught by de Marneffe in Fall 2016. Since its upload, it has received 2 views.


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Date Created: 10/04/16
105 Test Questions 8-24-16 What happens to Tolstoy that leads him to believe that he ought to kill himself unless he can discover the meaning of life? He is so consumed with the meaning of life and his fear of death that it causes him to suffer horribly. Tolstoy is depressed and the things he used to love no longer give him pleasure, such as his family and his work. He would rather end his suffering despite his fear of death if it meant that he wouldn’t feel like that anymore. In what way is Tolstoy’s situation even worse than the Eastern traveler’s in the fable he relates? The Eastern traveler sees his death and knows it is coming, however he can still ‘taste the honey’ (enjoy life) despite that. Tolstoy sees his own death and because of his suffering he can no longer ‘taste the honey’. Would Prozac completely address Tolstoy’s need to discover the meaning of life assuming it would work for him? Why or why not? No, it would not completely address his curiosity about the meaning of life it would just merely ease the suffering caused by his curiosity. It would be easier for him to search for the answer without the crippling depression but the Prozac would not get rid of his fear of the unknown. In the midst of his struggle, Tolstoy seems to assume that there are only 2 kinds of reason for him to want to go on living. Explain. He believes that the 2 reasons for living are enjoying life and if his life has cosmic meaning/purpose. Is this a sound assumption? No, because needing to feel that his life has meaning in order to be happy is not the only reason he wants to kill himself. He didn’t end up killing himself but only because he felt that it contradicted God’s plan. Tolstoy seems to assume that if he is unhappy and unlikely to ever be happy again, there is no reason for him to go on living unless his life has a cosmic purpose. Given that he is a father and a husband, what does this assumption seem to miss? His family technically gives his life meaning/purpose. He must provide for them emotionally as well as physically. He does not consider that killing himself might result in a negative outcome for his family. Why, according to Tolstoy, is “rational knowledge” unable to provide an answer to his question about the meaning of life? “Rational knowledge” can only provide answers between the infinite-infinite, or the finite-finite, but not between the infinite-finite. What is the only kind of system of belief that can answer Tolstoy’s question about the meaning of life and why? “Irrational knowledge” or “non-rational”. Religious belief is the only way he can answer his questions. He believes in this system because I can clearly identify the connection between the finite to the infinite. In what 3 specific ways does Christianity identify a connection between the finite and infinite, according to Tolstoy? How must I live? According to God’s law. What result will there be from my life? Eternal torment or eternal bliss. What is the meaning which is not destroyed by death? The union with the infinite God, paradise. Tolstoy seems to believe that it makes no sense to believe that one’s life has a cosmic purpose unless one believes that God exists. Explain why an atheist might agree. An atheist would agree because ‘cosmic purpose’ basically means that there is a higher power in control of a person’s life. Atheists do not look for a cosmic purpose because they don’t believe in a higher power. Why, according to Camus, is suicide a serious philosophical problem, as opposed to being merely a medical problem? It’s a fundamental philosophical problem, because whether it is warranted is dependent on the philosophical position. Give the premise that life has no meaning, what premises must be added to logically deduce the conclusion that we ought to commit suicide? P1: Life has no meaning P2: If life has no meaning, then it is not worth living P3: If life is not worth living, then we ought to kill ourselves C: We ought to kill ourselves Life might be ‘meaningless’ in 2 different ways. Explain. Life may be worthless or have no value. Explain why suicide seems warranted by the meaninglessness of life if it is understood in one way but not if it is understood in another. Life can have value without having a ‘cosmic purpose’. Because you have value, suicide is not warranted. What is absurd, according to Camus, and why is it wrong to infer from it that suicide is warranted? The absurdity can entail that life has no value but it does entail that life has no worth. The lack of a cosmic purpose does not entail that life has no value. Why does Camus name his book The Myth of Sisyphus? He wants to say that our situation is similar to Sisyphus’s. Sisyphus futilely rolls the boulder up every day just as we futilely look for the meaning of life. What is the proper response toward the absurd, according to Camus? Rebel against the idea that there has to be meaning. What specifically, according to Camus, gives life its value, and how does it do this? The rebellion is: Identifying worthwhile goals and committing to pursuing them despite there being no meaning to life. It’s the rebellion that gives life meaning. Camus “cannot conceive that a skeptical metaphysics can be joined to an ethics renunciation.” What does he mean by this and why does he think so? Our lives do have value but only when we give it value. We must find that value, which makes suicide unwarranted.


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