(1)According to an ancient Greek myth, *Sisyphus betrayed the secrets of the gods to mortal men. For this the gods condemned him to push a huge stone to the top of a hill; as he neared the peak the effort became too much for him, and the stone rolled all the way down to the bottom. Sisyphus then had to begin his task again...but the same thing would happen, and Sisyphus must labour with his stone for eternity. The myth of Sisyphus serves as a *bleak *metaphor for the meaningless of human existence. Each day we work to feed ourselves and our family, and as soon as the task is done, it must begin all over again. We reproduce, and our children must take over the same task. Nothing is ever achieved, and it will never end, until our species is extinct.
The French existentialist writer *Albert Camus wrote an essay on the myth of Sisyphus. It begins with a famous line: '(2)There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide'. Camus continues: 'Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy'. Perhaps it does, for if we judge life not to be worth living --- and act accordingly --- we will not be in a position to ask any further philosophical questions. (3)But we should add that it is not so much a matter of passively judging whether life is or is not worth living, but of consciously choosing a way of living that is worth living. Even Sisyphus, Camus maintains, can do this. So the essay that began by facing us with the prospect of suicide ends on a positive note:
There is no fate that cannot be surmounted by scorn... The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy'.
In the concluding chapter of his book Good and Evil, Richard Taylor, an American philosopher, also draws upon the myth of Sisyphus in order to explore the nature of the meaning of life. Taylor asks an *ingenious question: in what way would the fate of Sisyphus need to be altered, in order to put meaning into his life? (4)Taylor considers two possibilities. The first is that instead of endlessly trying to get the same stone to the top of the hill, with nothing to show for his labours, Sisyphus might succeed in pushing different stones to the top of the hill, and there construct a noble temple. The second is that, although Sisyphus continues to push only the same stone, and always in vain, the gods, in a perversely merciful mood, implant in him a fierce desire to do just what they have condemned him to do --- push stones!
Taylor's two possibilities for putting meaning into the life of Sisyphus derive from two different views of the basis of *ethics. On the first, we can live a meaningful life by working toward goals that are objectively worthwhile. To build a temple that endures and adds beauty to the world is such a goal. The second possibility finds meaning, not in anything objective, but in something internal to ourselves --- our motivation. (5)Here it is our desires that determine whether what we do is worthwhile. Anything can be a meaningful activity, on this view, if we want to do it. (6)On this view, pushing a rock up a hill, only to see it role down as we near the top, starting again, and doing the same thing forever, is no less meaningful than building a temple. Meaning is subjective: an activity will have meaning for me if it happens to *tally with my desires: otherwise it will not.
*Sisyphus：ギリシャ神話の登場人物。この文章中に述べられている話は「シジフォスの神話」として有名。 *bleak = hopeless; depressing *metaphor = analogy; comparison *Albert Camus：アルベルト・カミュ。フランスのノーベル賞作家。「異邦人」「ペスト」など。 *ingenious = clever; smart; skillful *ethics：倫理学 *tally =match; fit