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If Kant's points are to be assimilated when adopting a moral stance which is consistent with man's dignity, such absolute terms are inevitably defined by dominant social structures, bringing us to the application of a normative theoretical structure. The inextricable relationship which theology and morality have shared throughout history tends to have a tangible impact on the way these hegemonic standards are defined.
And Kant, rejects any flexibility outright, however. Beyond its deviation from his established disposition toward moral absolutes, such variation violates Kant's maxim about man as an end rather than a means. Man is to be the motive for moral acts, with his dignity defining right and wrong. Indeed, as he pointedly phrases it, "the laws of morality are laws according to which everything ought to happen; they allow for conditions under which what ought to happen doesn't happen." (Kant, 1)
Like Kant, Camus asserts a clear ethical rejection of the act of suicide such as demonstrated in his the Myth of Sisyphus. Published in 1942, the original essay concerns the absurdity of life and the necessity to recognize this without succumbing to nihilism. However, as it addresses the subject of suicide as a possible outcome of recognizing the absurd meaninglessness of life, the Myth takes an explicit stance against the Kantian categorical imperative. Camus clearly rejects the emphasis on the broad social impact of individual decisions. To the point, his text remarks that "suicide has never been dealt with except as a social phenomenon. On the contrary, we are concerned here at the outset, with the relationship between individual thought and suicide. An act like this is prepared within the silence of the heart, as is a great work of art.' (Camus, 4)
The poetic impulses demonstrated here aside, Camus takes the view that the individual's unique battle with this absurd meaninglessness of life will take on its own proportions. To the point, Camus insists that there is an inherency in all men to consider the implications of suicide, whether or not this is any serious or actionable proportion. This is, Camus argues, because the sudden awareness or the persistent enduring of the apparent absence of meaning may well be far more devastating to man than "bad reasons in a familiar world." (Camus, 6)
And yet, Camus offers something compelling as a response to the equation between absurdity and despair. He concedes that this despair is a certainty, that our suffering is inherent and that meaninglessness is irreparable. But he offers hope as the rational alternative to suicide, arguing that "perhaps we shall be able to overtake that elusive feeling of absurdity in the different but closely related worlds of intelligence, of the art of living, or of art itself. The climate of absurdity is in the beginning. The end is the absurd universe and that attitude of mind which lights the world with its true colors to bring out the privileged and implacable visage which that attitude has discerned in it." (Camus, 12) Through the channeling of hope for moments of pleasure, insight, awakening or simplicity, one may embrace the absurdity of life as the only purpose in and of itself.
The direct reply that might be channeled from the absolutist ideals of Kant is that a great many men will lack the capacity to channel these characteristics. The abject misery and 'undermining' of self, to use terminology offered by Camus, that lead to suicide are too often symptomatic of an inherent incapacity or unwillingness to cope. Camus' offer for hope seems attractive only to those possessing the wherewithal to be unlikely candidates for suicide.
Both the views offered by Camus and Kant reject the ethicality of suicide. However, the Categorical Imperative serves as a fundamental basis for the view that suicide is inherently counterintuitive to the balance between good and evil, defined as these are in broad sociological ways. Though the absurdity described by Camus is sobering in its sensibility, it also strikes as a dangerous discourse to be had by the suicidal individual. This contrasts the authoritarian perspective offered by Kant, which appears more simply to forbid this type of destructive individualism.
Camus, a. (1942). The Myth of Sisyphus. Vintage.…[continue]
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