When Is Suicide Morally Permissible or Morally Required?

Topics: Suicide, Death, Morality Pages: 7 (2511 words) Published: March 29, 2002
For the purposes of this essay the assumption will be that there is no after life or god. Eliminating the concept of god in a sense dissolves the issue of sinfulness and blameworthiness. Therefore a relativist stance will be adopted and the absolutist stance rejected. The issue of cowardice also should be addressed as arguably a soldier going to certain death is not a coward and few people would be able to harm him/herself. The taking of life can be considered under three categories, as an exercise in rational philosophical thought, as an action that has boundaries proscribed by the law, and lastly in a theological sense. It also is worthwhile and imperative to allude to the fact that suicide is only one form of extinguishing life, and that within a social context other forms of taking life are accepted and sometimes necessitated by a particular event. A social stance will be therefore taken to delineate the boundaries and supposed morality or immorality of suicide.. For instance the Augustinian view of suicide is based on the sixth commandment, ? thou shalt not kill?. However one could equally argue that Jesus committed suicide by giving up his life for others despite the fact that Augustine would accept him as the son of God and attribute to him foresight and the ability to have saved himself. The translation of the sixth commandment is ? thou shalt not kill unlawfully? and the whole moral idea is further rendered ambiguous by the fact that suicide is not condemned in the bible, most noticeably the suicide of Judas Iscariot. The Catholic idea of double-effect, that death must have a positive outcome is open to debate, in that can we effectively differentiate between martyrdom, self-sacrifice and suicide, despite intention the agent dies. Jesus himself stated and enacted ? greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for another.? However if we adopt an epistemological stance and assume as a premise we are bereft of antecedent evidence of the implications of death, suicide is always an irrational conclusion. As we cannot understand the super-intelligent or conceive of intelligence, due to the parameters of our own minds, that supersedes that of our world-view surely it is impossible to determine any superhuman perspective or prerogative and apply it. The deontological arguments can produce little proof that supports their premise that suicide is innately, intrinsically wrong outside the bible which is far removed from being definitive. There is also the question of other cultures. Suicide is mainly frowned upon in the western world whereas in Japan suicide may be seen as something which is noble and required to protect honour which the continuation of life would invalidate. The passage of time has also seen the emergence and rejection of different attitudes. During the persecution of Christians in Rome it was perceived as acceptable that a Christian virgin should commit suicide rather than be deflowered, raped by a Roman soldier. The Romans and Greeks both had the opinion that suicide was a responsible socially acceptable and sometimes necessary course of action, Socrates drank hemlock in the company of his friends. In certain parts of rural India it is still permissible for the wife of a deceased man to commit suicide by throwing herself onto his funeral pyre. Murder as opposed to suicide places the victim in an involuntary position the salient difference in suicide is that the victim is the facilitator of his/her own death and therefore the transaction is a voluntary one. For the suicide there is no question of symmetry or consent. It may be a rational argument to commit suicide in the context of prolonged physical or psychological anguish. It can be a plausible course of action and an effective one for alleviating the problem. However there are areas that bring ambiguity, for instance a temporary mental imbalance in either the sense of Durham or Naughton, when the ability to rationalise outside the constraints...

Bibliography: Battin, Margaret. ?The Least Worst Death?. Oxford, 1994
Grant, Richard B. ?Morality and Rationality of Suicide? from Moral Questions ed. Rachel, James.
Locke, James. ? Two Treatises for Government? chapter 2.
Nagel, Thomas. ? Mortal Questions?, chapter 1.
Rachels, James. ? Active and Passive Euthanasia? from Moral Questions ed. Rachel, James
Warburton, Nigel. ?Philosophy: The Basics?. Second edition, Routledge, 1995
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