Philosophy, Can Sisyphus Lead a Good Life

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December
07
December
07
Dalhousie University- Prof: Dr. Greg Scherkoske
Dalhousie University- Prof: Dr. Greg Scherkoske
Term Paper
Benjamin Hodara- B00531165
Can Sisyphus be leading a Good-Life in your view? What view if any would support a positive answer? Term Paper
Benjamin Hodara- B00531165
Can Sisyphus be leading a Good-Life in your view? What view if any would support a positive answer? 08
Fall
08
Fall

The question of happiness involves a multitude of theories. As a hotly debated topic in the realm of philosophy, there are several approaches to measuring happiness. Such approaches are based on either a subjective or objective viewing of life. Defining what constitutes a good life and determining its meaningfulness has proven controversial. Of relevance to this debate on happiness is the story of Sisyphus. Can a person condemned to continuously roll a huge boulder up a mountain, only to have it roll back down, be said to lead a good life? This essay will use the objective view to illustrate that Sisyphus’ life does not fit within the definition of a good life and that it is meaningless. It will be argued that it is impossible for Sisyphus to lead a good life because of his continuous, futile task that voids his life of value.

Martha Nussbaum has developed a set of objective standards by which to measure a meaningful and good life. In contrast to the subjective view of well-being, which refers to how people experience the quality of their life and consists of elements of satisfaction and pleasure, Nussbaum focuses on Aristotle and Marx’s thinking as it relates to the concept of flourishing. Nussbaum states, “The basic intuitive idea of my version of the capabilities approach is that we begin with a conception of the dignity of the human being, and of a life that is worthy of that dignity” (Nussbaum, 2006, p.74). According to Nussbaum’s capabilities approach, a good human life must include meaningful opportunities to rationally choose from as well as sound social relationships. She believes, “The core idea is that of the human being as a dignified free being who shapes his or her own life in cooperation and reciprocity with others, rather than being passively shaped or pushed around by the world…” (Nussbaum, 2006, p.72). In short, central to a good life is choice and interaction.

In the story of Sisyphus, it is apparent that he has no choice or interaction in relation to his punishment - the repeated task of rolling a huge boulder up a mountain. Sisyphus’ life fails to meet the threshold established in Nussbaum’s capabilities approach. Nussbaum theory is concerns the objective valuation of a good life. L.W. Sumner argues that happiness is subjective and that self-assessment is the most reliable measure of happiness because it must come from a personal stand point. However, Nussbaum’s capabilities approach sets a universal standard with a finite answer and is therefore subject to less doubt. Nussbaum established a non-exhaustive list of ten capabilities necessary to determine whether or not a person is living a good life (Nussbaum, 2006, p. 76-78). The first is to live a normal life span. Sisyphus is to spend eternity carrying out his punishment and this is far beyond a normal life span. The second is bodily health. This includes adequate nourishment and shelter. It seems as though Sisyphus’ task is continuous, meaning he does not stop for nourishment or to rest under shelter. The third capability is that of bodily integrity which includes freedom of movement, security against assault and freedom of choice in respect to reproduction. Sisyphus’ movement is limited to travel up and down a single mountain. His freedom in this respect is very limited. Fourth, senses, imagination and thought means being able to use the human senses to the full extent. Sisyphus’ repeated task is mundane and does not require much use of his imagination or human senses. The fifth concerns experiencing normal human...
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