The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual yes, we know, that's such a bad word ought to be: Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license. Friday, December 27, The philosophy of suicide by Massimo Pigliucci In a forthcoming episode of the Rationally Speaking podcastJulia and I discuss the philosophy and science of suicide, i. In this post I will focus on the philosophical side of the discussion, for which an excellent summary source, with a number of additional references, is this article by Michael Cholbi in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, to which I will keep referring below.
The novel consists of a series of letters from a young, sensitive artist by the name of Werther. Over the course of these letters, we learn that Werther has become involved in a tragic love triangle.
He believes that in order to resolve the love triangle, some member of it will have to die. Not being inclined to commit murder, Werther resolves to kill himself.
This he duly does by shooting himself in the head. Some even went so far as to kill themselves, just as Werther had done. Suicide is a prevalent and persistent feature of human society.
According to the WHO, approximatelypeople per year commit suicide. Many view this as a serious social public health? Others may be less sure.
In this post, I want to give a very brief overview of some of the key questions and ethical frameworks one can apply to this difficult topic. It is merely intended to raise some relevant questions and provide a structure for thinking about the issue.
Please note that this post will only barely touch upon the topic of euthanasia and assisted suicide. This is because it is a value-laden term. At first glance, this is a simple and appealing definition. It seems to capture the core phenomenon of self-killing pretty succinctly.
There are, however, all sorts of cases that would test the limits of this definition. Many people may take their lives under conditions of coercion, duress or necessity. Take the example of Hitler. He killed himself in order to avoid the humiliation of execution. Was his decision voluntary?
Or the soldier who throws himself on a grenade in order to save his comrades? Harder issues arise when we consider the relationship between responsibility and suicide. Hill uses the example of the Christian martyrs and Socrates to illustrate this point.
The early Christian martyrs were given the option of renouncing their Christianity or being fed to the lions. Others were responsible for their deaths; they should take the blame. Or what about Socrates? He drank hemlock and thereby killed himself, but he had previously been sentenced to die by the Athenian government.
Does that count as a suicide? Admittedly, the judgment in Socrates case is clouded by the fact that he had the option of exile too. This has knock-on implications for the ethics of suicide.
The ethical assessment of the Christian martyrs is likely to be very different from the assessment of Hitler. This is something that should be borne in mind. In his discussion, Hill suggests that we focus on paradigmatic cases of voluntary and intentional killing first, and then expand our analysis to cover the borderline cases.
Four Key Questions about Suicide Assuming we have a basic grasp of the phenomenon of suicide, we can proceed to subject it to some philosophical scrutiny. Hill suggests that there are four important questions to be asked: Was the person mentally competent and sufficient rational and self-governing to be responsible for the act of self-killing?
I think this is possibly the most important question. In many cases, the default assumption is that the person who commits suicide lacks mental competency or rationality.
Indeed, the act of killing oneself is often taken to be conclusive evidence of this. That this is the default assumption seems to be proven by the fact that people only accept the rationality of suicide in certain extreme cases, e.
The thought of a rational, fully competent adult, who faces nothing more than the ordinary slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, ending their lives is too much countenance.
Such an individual must be mentally or rationally deficient. This is for two reasons. The other reason for rejecting this default assumption is more controversial.David Hume’s “Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion” shields suicide while Emile Durkheim’s “Suicide and Modernity” unearths the causes.
Durkheim and Hume label suicide differently because their perspectives varied from the moral structures in their positions. Their causative ideas of suicide are just as dissimilar as their definitions.
Hume, Suicide and Justice Gordon Graham, Princeton Theological Seminary In this paper I want to explore some of the moral issues surrounding suicide and their relevance, if any, to the concern with justice which must inform a penal system.
Mar 09, · Hume, on the contrary, thinks that suicide is morally permissible, also on the grounds of his analysis of duties.
He talks about three types of duties: to god, to ourselves, and to others. I will skip the first category, since I don’t think there are any gods toward whom we have any timberdesignmag.com: Rationally Speaking. Dec 27, · Suicide is an important, even urgent, topic, as the number of suicides has increased over the past 50 years, with about 1 million people taking their lives timberdesignmag.com: Rationally Speaking.
David Hume gave voice to this new approach with a direct assault on the Thomistic position in his unpublished essay “Of suicide” (). Hume saw traditional attitudes toward suicide as muddled and superstitious.
Articles Kant On Suicide Paul Edwards disagrees with Kant in this recently-discovered paper.. All Enlightenment thinkers who wrote on the subject – Hume, Voltaire and Rousseau among others – agreed that the religious condemnation of suicide was not only preposterous but also entirely lacking in charity.