Concerning suicide Essay

This essay has a total of 2467 words and 11 pages.

concerning suicide

Concerning Suicide

It seems absurd that a man can injure himself (volenti non fit injuria [= to the willing
no injustice is done]). The Stoic therefore considered it a prerogative of his personality
as a wise man to walk out of this life with an undisturbed mind whenever he liked (as out
of a smoke-filled room), not because he was afflicted by actual or anticipated ills, but
simply because he could make use of nothing more in this life. And yet this very courage,
this strength of mind -- of not fearing death and of knowing of something which man can
prize more highly than his life -- ought to have been an ever so much greater motive for
him not to destroy himself, a being having such authoritative superiority over the
strongest sensible incentives; consequently, it ought to have been a motive for him not to
deprive himself of life.

Man cannot deprive himself of his personality so long as one speaks of duties, thus so
long as he lives. That man ought to have the authorization to withdraw himself from all
obligation, i.e., to be free to act as if no authorization at all were required for this
withdrawal, involves a contradiction. To destroy the subject of morality in his own person
is tantamount to obliterating from the world, as far as he can, the very existence of
morality itself; but morality is, nevertheless, an end in itself. Accordingly, to dispose
of oneself as a mere means to some end of one's own liking is to degrade the humaity in
one's own person (homo noumenon) which, after all, was entrusted to man (homo phaenomenon)
to preserve.

To deprive onself of an integral part or organ (to mutilate oneself), e.g., to give away
or sell a tooth so that it can be planted in the jawbone of another person, or to submit
oneself to castration in order to gain an easier livelihood as a singer, and so on,
belongs to partial self-murder. But this is not the case with the amputation of a dead
organ, or one on the verge of mortification and thus harmful to life. Also, it cannot be
reckoned a crime against one's own person to cut off something which is, to be sure, a
part, but not an organ of the body, e.g., the hair, although selling one's hair for gain
is not entirely free from blame.


Concerning Wanton Self-Abuse [= masturbation]

As one's love of life is intended by nature for the preservation of his person, so is his
sexual love intended for the preservation of his kind, i.e., each is a natural end. ...
Now, the question arises whether the use of one's sexual capacity, as far as the person
himself who uses it is concerned, stands under a restrictive law of duty; or whether, not
having the end of reproduction in view, he be authorized to devote the use of his sexual
attributes to mere brute pleasure and not thereby be acting contrary to a duty to himself.

A lust is called unnatural when a man is stimulated not by an actual object but by
imagining it, thus creating it himself unpurposively. For his fancy engenders a desire
contrary to an end of nature and indeed contrary to an end more important even than that
of the love of life, since it aims only at preserving the individual, while sexual love
aims at the preservation of the whole species.

That such an unnatural use (and so misuse) of one's sexual attributes is a violation of
one's duty to himself and is certainly in the highest degree opposed to morality strikes
everyone upon his thinking of it. Furthermore, the thought of it is so revolting that even
calling such a vice by its proper name is considered a kind of immorality; such is not the
case with suicide, which no one hesitates to opublish to all the world with all its
horrors (as a species facti). It is just as if mankind in general felt ashamed of being
capable of such treatment, which degrades him even below the beast. Even the allowed
bodily union (in itself, to be sure, only animal union) of the two sexes in marriage
occasions much delicacy in polite circles, and requires a veil to be drawn over the
subject whenever it happens to be mentioned.

However, it is not so easy to produce a rational demonstration of the inadmissability of
that unnatural use, and even of the mere unpurposive use, of one's natural attributes as
being a violation of one's duty to himself (and indeed in the highest degree where the
unnatural use is concerned). The ground of proof surely lies in the fact that a man gives
up his personality (throws it away) when he uses himself merely as a means for the
gratification of an animal drive. But this does not make evident the high degree of
violation of the humanity in one's own person by the unnaturalness of such a vice, which
seems in its very form (disposition) to transcened even the vice of self-murder. The
obstinate throwing away of one's life as a burden is at least not a weak surrender to
animal pleasure, but requires courage; and where there is courage, there is always respect
for the humanity in one's own person. On the other hand, when one abandons himself
entirely to an animal inclination, he makes himself an object of unnatural gratification,
i.e., a loathsome thing, and thus deprives himself of all self-respect.


Concerning Servility

Man in the system of nature (homo phaenomenon, animal rationale) is a being of little
significance and, along, with the other animals, considered as products of the earth, has
an ordinary value .... But man as a person, i.e., as the subject of a morally-practical
reason, is exalted above all price. For such a one (homo noumenon) he is not to be valued
merely as a means to the ends of other people, or even to his own ends, but is to be
prized as an end in himself. This is to say, he possesses a dignity (an absolute inner
worth) whereby he exacts the respect of all other rational beings in the world, can
measure himself against each member of his species, and can esteem himself on a footing of
equality with them.

The humanity in one's own person is the object of the respect which he can require of
every other being, but which he also must not forfeit. Consequently, he can and should
value himself by a measure at once small and great, according to which he regards himself
as a sensible being (according to his animal nature) or as an intelligible nature
(according to his moral predisposition). But since he must regard himself not merely as a
person in general but also as a man, i.e., as a person having duties which his own reason
has imposed upon him, his insignificance as a human animal cannot injure the consciousness
of his dignity as a rational man. And he should not disavow the moral self-esteem of such
a being, i.e., he should pursue his end (which in itself is a duty) neither cringingly nor
servilely (animo servili) as though seeking favor, nor should he deny his dignity; but,
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