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From the section "An Absurd Reasoning: Absurdity and Suicide" of The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus:

I therefore conclude that the meaning of life is the most urgent of questions. How to answer it? On all essential problems (I mean thereby those that run the risk of leading to death or those that intensify the passion of living) there are probably but two methods of thought: the method of La Palisse and the method of Don Quixote. Solely the balance between evidence and lyricism can allow us to achieve simultaneously emotion and lucidity. In a subject at once so humble and so heavy with emotion, the learned and classical dialectic must yield, one can see, to a more modest attitude of mind deriving at one and the same time from common sense and understanding.

Later in the same section he writes:

Shades of meaning, contradictions, the psychology that an “objective” mind can always introduce into all problems have no place in this pursuit and this passion. It calls simply for an unjust—in other words, logical—thought. That is not easy. It is always easy to be logical. It is almost impossible to be logical to the bitter end. Men who die by their own hand consequently follow to its conclusion their emotional inclination.

I understood the first quote to mean that Camus recommends an approach that blends pure reason and emotion. But the second quote says there is only room for logic in this pursuit if it is to be done right. Clearly I'm misreading things, because there seems to be a bit of a contradiction here. Could someone please explain this to me?

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tl;dr

The apparent contradiction is of a piece with the "absurd reasoning" that Camus deploys in the essay.

Introduction: The absurdity of existence

The starting point of The Myth of Sisyphus is that life is absurd. We seek to find meaning in life, yet our lives, shaped by circumstances outside our control and doomed to end, do not lend themselves to meaning. For Camus, absurdity consists in the gap between our quest for logic, rationality, and/or purpose, and the futility of this quest. This experiential gap between the yearning for meaning and the meaninglessness of existence is where Camus situates "the fundamental question of philosophy", viz. "whether life is or is not worth living". (p. 3)

This is the context for the first passage quoted in the question. The few sentences immediately preceding are clarifying:

I see many people die because they judge that life is not worth living. I see others paradoxically getting killed for the ideas or illusions that give them a reason for living (what is called a reason for living is also an excellent reason for dying). I therefore conclude that the meaning of life is the most urgent of questions. How to answer it? (p. 4)

As quoted in the question, Camus goes on to say that the answer to "Is life worth living?" can follow one of two examples:

  • La Palisse ("judge that life is not worth living")
  • Don Quixote ("getting killed for the ideas or illusions that give them a reason for living").

Let us look into these two alternatives in some detail.

La Palisse, or suicide as truism

Jacques de la Palice (1470–1525) was a nobleman whose tombstone read:

Ci-gît le Seigneur de La Palice: s'il n'était pas mort, il ferait encore envie.

Here lies the lord of La Palice; if he were not dead, he would still provoke envy.

The prevalent use of the long s (ſ) led to a widespread misreading of this epitaph:

s'il n'était pas mort, il ſerait encore en vie.

If he were not dead, he would still be alive.

Rather unfairly, therefore, La Palisse's name became a byword for a truism or tautology so self-evident that it is laughable, or for a logical statement that is trivially true. Camus says:

One kills oneself because life is not worth living, that is certainly a truth—yet an unfruitful one because it is a truism. (p. 8)

This is unfruitful because if one's answer to "is life worth living?" is no, then the obvious next step is suicide; but that La Palissean truism does not actually answer the question itself, it acts on the assumed answer.

Don Quixote, or hoping oneself to death

The eponymous hero of Cervantes' novel goes off on what he considers heroic adventures, but his firm belief that he is (e.g.) battling giants merely indicates his inability to see that he is only tilting at windmills. For Camus, the alternative to accepting life's meaninglessness is ascribing a meaning to life. Like Quixote, one can believe that certain actions bestow life with meaning, or presume that they are necessary for a meaningful life. For example, one's children, one's art, one's career, one's patriotism, or one's religion all give life meaning, which in turn implies that all are worth dying for. But such causes are merely quixotic pursuits in the face of absurdity. Given the futility of existence, they represent merely one's vain hope that life has some meaning. Camus explicitly specifies hope as the alternative to suicide:

What is one to conclude, how far is one to go to elude nothing? Is one to die voluntarily or to hope in spite of everything? (p. 16)

To be clear: Camus is not positing hope as the answer to the fundamental question "in the face of absurdity, is life worth living?" He is saying that given the question, the alternatives have hitherto been either a La Palissean suicide or a quixotic hope. His rhetoric indicates that he disagrees with both these. Over the course of his essay, he posits another answer, one modeled on Sisyphean endeavor: no, life is not worth living; however, one is tasked with living anyway. But we are far ahead of ourselves.

Resolving the seeming contradiction: absurd reasoning

Let us answer, not Camus' foundational question, but the question asked here: are the two passages cited contradictory? The first passage clearly states that both "evidence and lyricism" are needed to find a solution that bridges the lucidity of La Palisse and the emotion of Quixote. With the second quote, the surrounding sentences again provide crucial context:

Does the Absurd dictate death? This problem must be given priority over others, outside all methods of thought and all exercises of the disinterested mind. Shades of meaning, contradictions, the psychology that an “objective” mind can always introduce into all problems have no place in this pursuit and this passion. It calls simply for an unjust—in other words, logical—thought. That is not easy. It is always easy to be logical. It is almost impossible to be logical to the bitter end. Men who die by their own hand consequently follow to its conclusion their emotional inclination. Reflection on suicide gives me an opportunity to raise the only problem to interest me: is there a logic to the point of death? I cannot know unless I pursue, without reckless passion, in the sole light of evidence, the reasoning of which I am here suggesting the source. This is what I call an absurd reasoning. (p. 9)

The key phrase here is absurd reasoning. Consider the implications of this oxymoron. If I say "your reasoning is absurd", I typically mean "you're being illogical". Yet Camus says that the answer to the fundamental question depends on being "logical to the bitter end" and reaching conclusions "in the sole light of evidence". So what is this absurd reasoning?

Camus says that he is "here suggesting the source" of such reasoning. The source is the condition of absurdity. Over the course of his essay, he argues that absurdity cannot be reasoned away; indeed, it depends on the gap between our reasoning faculty and the unreasonable world. This acceptance of the limits of logic is itself logical, but it is logical in the light of our experience of absurdity. Camus insists that the point of philosophy is to dwell within the absurd, which means accepting that a logical world-view is incompatible with an illogical world:

When Karl Jaspers, revealing the impossibility of constituting the world as a unity, exclaims: "This limitation leads me to myself, where I can no longer withdraw behind an objective point of view that I am merely representing, where neither I myself nor the existence of others can any longer become an object for me," he is evoking after many others those waterless deserts where thought reaches its confines. After many others, yes indeed, but how eager they were to get out of them! At that last crossroad where thought hesitates, many men have arrived and even some of the humblest. They then abdicated what was most precious to them, their life. Others, princes of the mind, abdicated likewise, but they initiated the suicide of their thought in its purest revolt. The real effort is to stay there, rather, in so far as that is possible, and to examine closely the odd vegetation of those distant regions. Tenacity and acumen are privileged spectators of this inhuman show in which absurdity, hope, and death carry on their dialogue. The mind can then analyze the figures of that elementary yet subtle dance before illustrating them and reliving them itself. (p. 9)

The last couple sentences of this quote exemplify Camus' method. The mind examines the three themes of absurdity, hope, and death with tenacity and acumen—i.e., it pursues logic (with acumen) to the bitter end (with tenacity). Instead of remaining outside this subtle dance of absurdity, hope, and death, though, the mind illustrates and relives its figures. Like Jaspers, Camus can no longer withdraw into objectivity, but must live within the arid wastelands his relentless logic has reached. The beauty of Camus' prose here corresponds to the lyricism he has stated is necessary to arrive at a full answer to the foundational question. And his answer is one that undercuts the dichotomy between La Palisse and Quixote, because it involves accepting the absurdity of existence, an acceptance that stems on the one hand from both the emotional experience of absurdity and the lucid examination of this experience, and results on the other in an equipoise between emotion and lucidity.

References

Camus, Albert. The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays, translated by Justin O'Brien. New York: Vintage Books, 1991. Translation originally published by Alfred A. Knopf, 1955. Originally published in France as Le Mythe de Sisyphe by Librairie Gallimard, 1942.

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