Biological Sciences

Second Major



Murphy, Sara

Advisor Department

Honors Program




philosophy; absurdism; suicidology; public health

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


In order to emphasize the significance of suicide as a subjective experience, this research project explores suicide through a philosophical lens, primarily focusing on the absurdist school of thought that gained prominence with the twentieth century French philosopher and writer Albert Camus. Despite recent advances in the scientific study of suicide, I argue that many of the historically divisive questions surrounding suicide are rooted in philosophy. My original work attempts to rectify the current disconnect between suicidality and philosophy through the analysis and application of Camus’ chief work on the subjects, The Myth of Sisyphus. Recognizing the efficacy of a multifocal approach, I provide supplemental interventions to Camus’ argument with other relevant existentialist concepts from Søren Kierkegaard and Martin Heidegger, as well as contemporary psychosocial theories involving the role of psychache in suicidality.

The three essential inquiries that this project contemplates are: 1) the relationship between reflective consciousness, that is, awareness of oneself, and suicidality; 2) the effect of personal meaning-making on one’s will to live or die; and 3) the extent to which suicide is an extreme response to the anxiety following one’s awakening to the disillusionment of “everyday” existence. Each inquiry is grounded in the philosophical concept of the Absurd, which Camus, Kierkegaard, and Heidegger address in similar terms. I argue that psychache and the absence of meaningful purpose in life overwhelm one to the point that suicide amounts to a confession that the absurdity of existence is too much; to the suicidal, it becomes the final and only option to escape the Absurd.

Bringing a topic as serious as suicide to the foreground of academia is a necessary step for awareness, education, and prevention. As I have learned in my research, multidisciplinary scholarly work concerning suicidality, existentialism, history, psychology, and public health are far and few between. The current approach toward suicide is overtly medical, as if a set of invariable symptoms results in a diagnosis of suicidality. The medical field and American culture in general often fail to recognize the coalescence of individualized factors present in this issue. The purpose of this research is to explore suicidality at its most basic level—through the experience as a conscious being. Although this type of focus is rooted in the subjective and can therefore never be tangibly pinpointed, it is worth examining the involved philosophical concepts in order to convey the ground from which suicide as an existential problem arises. In doing so, a new window into the complexity of the suicidal mind may be opened.