I know that suicide is not considered polite conversation but I have been obsessed with it since last week Friday; when I learned of the death of a very good friend of mine. He was missing from his home for 4 days when his body was discovered in such a manner that suggest suicide, as well as the fact that he was also described as being despondent at the time of his disappearance. The tragic truth is that my friend and I had grown apart but still stayed in intermittent contact. I am well aware of his difficulties but erroneously thought that he was coping. I also do not have experience dealing with death and grief and as such find myself ill equip to handle this situation.
The thought of suicide is something that I am more than experienced with; particularly in my own battles. Nevertheless, I have relegated it to my past, yet its fascination has never truly left me. Now with this new development and the suspected suicide of my friend, I find myself beyond perturbed.
I am obviously emotional. I loved my friend very much. There’s was a period in my life, when he was my best friend and my boy friend. We were each others confidant and shared all our secrets. I am sad and mad as hell. I grieve for his suspected pain, I am angry at what could have been the ultimate selfish action and I feel guilty that I couldn’t save him – although he did not give me the chance to do so.
Now all that remains is the question – Suicide: Brave or Cowardly?
Before I look at a bit of the philosophy on suicide, I must mention that my favorite William Shakespeare play happens to be “Hamlet” and Hamlet’s soliloquies reside permanently in the forefront of my memory.
By now it is painfully clear that my morbid fascination with suicide is very pervasive; to the point that I frequently recall quotes such as;
O that this too too solid flesh would melt,
Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew!
To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?—To die,—to sleep,—
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to,—’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To die,—to sleep;—
Sigh* yet there continues to be several arguments for and against suicide and so I will include a few of the more popular arguments; obtained from the following source Philosophy of Suicide
Arguments against suicide
There have been many philosophical arguments made that contend that suicide is immoral and unethical. One popular argument is that many of the reasons for committing suicide – such as depression emotional pain, or economic hardship – are transitory and can be ameliorated by therapy and through making changes to some aspects of one’s life. A common adage in the discourse surrounding suicide prevention sums up this view: “Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” However, the argument against this is that while emotional pain may seem transitory to most people, and in many cases it is, in other cases it may be extremely difficult or even impossible to resolve, even through counseling or lifestyle change, depending upon the severity of the affliction and the person’s ability to cope with their pain. Examples of this are incurable disease or severe, lifelong mental illness.
The French-Algerian absurdist philosopher Albert Camus saw the goal of absurdism in establishing whether suicide was necessary in a world without God. For Camus, suicide was the rejection of freedom. He thinks that fleeing from the absurdity of reality into illusions, religion or death is not the way out. Instead of fleeing the absurd meaninglessness of life, we should embrace life passionately.
G. K. Chesterton calls suicide “the ultimate and absolute evil, the refusal to take an interest in existence”. He argues that a person who kills himself, as far as he is concerned, destroys the entire world.
John Stuart Mill argued, in his influential essay “On Liberty”, that since the sine qua non of liberty is the power of the individual to make choices, any choice that one might make that would deprive one of the ability to make further choices should be prevented. Thus, for Mill, selling oneself into slavery or killing oneself should be prevented in order to avoid precluding the ability to make further choices.
Neutral and situational stances
Japan has a form of suicide called seppuku, which is considered an honorable way to redeem oneself for transgressions or personal defeats. It was widely accepted in the days of the Samurai and even before that. It was generally seen as a right only permitted to the samurai class; civilian criminals would thus not have this ‘honor’ and be executed. This reflects a view of suicide as brave and correct rather than cowardly and wrong.
Arguments in favor of suicide
There are arguments in favor of allowing an individual to choose between life and suicide. Those in favor of suicide as a personal choice reject the thought that suicide is always or usually irrational, but is instead a solution to real problems; a line of last resort that can legitimately be taken when the alternative is considered worse. They believe that no being should be made to suffer unnecessarily, and suicide provides an escape from suffering.
Herodotus wrote: “When life is so burdensome, death has become for man a sought-after refuge”. Schopenhauer affirmed: “They tell us that suicide is the greatest act of cowardice… that suicide is wrong; when it is quite obvious that there is nothing in the world to which every man has a more unassailable title than to his own life and person.”
Schopenhauer’s main work, The World as Will and Representation, occasionally uses the act in its examples. He denied that suicide was immoral and saw it as one’s right to take one’s life. In an allegory, he compared ending one’s life, when subject to great suffering, to waking up from sleep when experiencing a terrible nightmare. However, most suicides were seen as an act of the will as it takes place when one denies life’s pains, and is thus different from ascetic renunciation of the will, which denies life’s pleasures.
Liberalism asserts that a person’s life belongs only to them, and no other person has the right to force their own ideals that life must be lived. Rather, only the individual involved can make such decision, and whatever decision they make should be respected.
Philosopher and psychiatrist Thomas Szasz goes further, arguing that suicide is the most basic right of all. If freedom is self-ownership—ownership over one’s own life and body—then the right to end that life is the most basic of all. If others can force you to live, you do not own yourself and belong to them.
Confucianism holds that failure to follow certain values is worse than death; hence, suicide can be morally permissible, and even praiseworthy, if it is done for the sake of those values. The Confucian emphasis on loyalty, self-sacrifice, and honor has tended to encourage altruistic suicide. Confucius wrote, “For gentlemen of purpose and men of ren while it is inconceivable that they should seek to stay alive at the expense of ren, it may happen that they have to accept death in order to have ren accomplished.”
Poll – Your Thoughts
Now that I’ve read all these philosophies, I feel no better about my friend’s death – I want to respect his choice and wish him bon voyage but I am finding it very difficult. What are your thoughts? I would love to know so please take the poll below.