The bright side of suicide.

“When I die, and if I have to arrange it myself, I will consult nobody, and do it unassisted if I can. I entertain not a flicker of moral or practical doubt on the subject, and never have. Speaking only for myself — in such matters one should never judge for others — if Nature does not do the job in a timely manner I shall consider it a duty to take matters into my own hands. I can’t tell you how simple I find these arguments: so simple that I’ve hardly bothered to write about the issue. Suicide is the greatest of human freedoms, underwriting all the others, for it gives us the possibility of defying every thing and every one there is. The possibility of suicide is what makes life voluntary and each new day an act of will. No wonder the faith community gnash their teeth at suicide. God Himself, if He existed, would gnash His teeth at suicide: the supreme act of defiance, the final raspberry. The knowledge that I’m here by choice, that every breath I take I take by choice, injects into my soul a transcendent joy…

Is suicide not the greatest of all tokens of the primacy of the human will? How shall a man ever demonstrate with more finality that he is the captain of his soul, the master of his ship, than by taking it by his own choice on to the rocks? Self-inflicted death is the ultimate defiance, the one freedom in your life and mine which nothing and nobody — not even God — can take away. I have never contemplated suicide and hope I never shall. But to know that I can — to know that tomorrow I too could make that splendid, terrible two-fingered gesture to creation itself is more than life-enhancing: it is sublime.”

Matthew Parris

19 thoughts on “The bright side of suicide.

  1. Brian L May 6, 2016 at 18:24 Reply

    Ensuring that you’ve never made others who have to contemplate suicide is the biggest finger in the eye of ‘God’.

    As I’ve stated, and been ignored, on a Camus site, suicide is NOT the biggest philosophical question. Creation of consciousness is.

    • Francois Tremblay May 7, 2016 at 00:10 Reply

      Agreed! Suicide is not an issue if you take creation out of the picture.

  2. Lavendergrove August 5, 2016 at 15:55 Reply

    Francois,

    I don’t think there is any ‘bright’ side.

    The aspects of suicide that stir us so deeply, in addition to the experience of loss, are found in its suddenness and finality. Few acts, if any, carry the weight or PROFOUNDNESS of this sad statement of despair.

  3. Lavendergrove August 5, 2016 at 17:36 Reply

    But suicide changes nothing. You will always have already suffered and killing yourself entails that you will never even experience a future without suffering since experiencing ceases when you cease.

    Life isn’t the affliction, it’s ‘life with suffering’ that afflicts the individual (every one); therefore, the problem is how to minimize suffering. Eliminating life in order to eliminate suffering futilely attempts to “save the village by destroying the village” (or killing the patient in order to cure the patient), that is, doesn’t solve — even address — the problem at all.

    • Francois Tremblay August 6, 2016 at 00:16 Reply

      I agree that minimizing suffering is very important. However, I can’t deny the conclusions of antinatalism, because they are logically and spiritually airtight.

  4. Jillan August 9, 2016 at 18:45 Reply

    “I can’t deny the conclusions of antinatalism, because they are logically and spiritually airtight”

    True, antinatalism is incredibly easy to defend. Just think of the worst things that can happen to a person. What’s a little harder to defend is the decision to be an antinatalist and nonetheless remain alive – for reasons other than spreading the antinatalist gospel or otherwise being a utilitarian, that is. I know my preference is to be an antinatalist who affirms the lives of those already living. And yet there seems to be a potential inconsistency just in deciding to continue my own existence. If I say that a person should categorically not create a human life, because of the nonzero probability that their offspring will one day meet their end in agony and terror (whether buried alive, burned alive, trampled to death, etc), why not apply this reasoning to myself? It seems I should kill myself now, rather than face the risk that any of those things will happen to me one day. But because I hope for something better in my own case, I don’t do it. It seems hard to defend this difference in attitude without leaving the door open for a step away from categorical antinatalism. E.g. if I am willing to argue that a rational inspection of my life circumstances suggests that out of pure luck, utter contingency, my life has a good chance of being one of the lives that is worth it, then it may sometimes be possible to argue similarly even before a life is created.

    The usual defense of this particular asymmetry of attitude is, I think, that there is a moral difference between gambling with your own life (by choosing to go on living) and gambling with someone else’s (by creating a whole new life).

    Does Benatar have anything to say on this point?

    • Francois Tremblay August 9, 2016 at 19:37 Reply

      “True, antinatalism is incredibly easy to defend. Just think of the worst things that can happen to a person.”
      I probably can’t!

      “What’s a little harder to defend is the decision to be an antinatalist and nonetheless remain alive – for reasons other than spreading the antinatalist gospel or otherwise being a utilitarian, that is. I know my preference is to be an antinatalist who affirms the lives of those already living. And yet there seems to be a potential inconsistency just in deciding to continue my own existence. If I say that a person should categorically not create a human life, because of the nonzero probability that their offspring will one day meet their end in agony and terror (whether buried alive, burned alive, trampled to death, etc), why not apply this reasoning to myself?”
      I don’t think there’s any inconsistency there. Antinatalists are against bringing new people into this world. But while we’re here, we have values and desires which can only be fulfilled by continuing to be alive. While I totally support anyone’s decision to kill themselves, and I’ve openly supported suicide on this blog, I don’t think the prospect of suffering should necessarily entail suicide.

      The main difference is that not breeding does not entail any suffering (except for the hurt ego of people who want to breed).

      “It seems I should kill myself now, rather than face the risk that any of those things will happen to me one day. But because I hope for something better in my own case, I don’t do it. It seems hard to defend this difference in attitude without leaving the door open for a step away from categorical antinatalism. E.g. if I am willing to argue that a rational inspection of my life circumstances suggests that out of pure luck, utter contingency, my life has a good chance of being one of the lives that is worth it, then it may sometimes be possible to argue similarly even before a life is created.”
      But you can’t equate both standards. The standard for a life already started to be worth continuing is much lower than the standard for starting a new life. Benatar makes that point in his book.

      “The usual defense of this particular asymmetry of attitude is, I think, that there is a moral difference between gambling with your own life (by choosing to go on living) and gambling with someone else’s (by creating a whole new life).”

      I would say that is one important argument, yes. But not by far the only argument.

  5. Stewart_NP August 11, 2016 at 17:54 Reply

    Landergrove,

    It amazes me that conversations about whether people have a “right” to commit suicide persist. It’s really not a matter of whether people ought to have a right, unless we mean by this a formal legal permission to act. The question that ought to be asked is whether there are sufficient resources to alleviate suffering people’s pain so much that they (not those of us judging from the outside) would want to continue living. There’s a deeper question of self ownership, but the immediately salient question is whether we realistically have the resources to take others’ pain away reliably and sufficiently. If we don’t then we have no business preventing others from doing what they feel they must to end their suffering.

    It’s stunning that so many in the lay and professionals assume that the medical, public health, and community (not to mention the financial…) resources as they exist are enough to address suffering globally that we, arrogantly, can dismiss others’ evaluation of their own moment-by-moment existence. Suicide hotlines, as recently reported on in the news in a large scandal of state veterans suicide prevention hotline workers’ wholesale abandonment of their responsibilities, are very often overstaffed by volunteers. They’re overworked and uncompensated (financially), and as a result they often can’t or are disinclined to help. Nor is it any guarantee that mere words, concepts can cure what ails someone suffering.

    Doctors and psychologists do not in fact understand precisely what causes depression. There are associations among biological and social variables, but no precise cause-effect relationship. Depression may even be a natural response to certain experiences one cannot control, and genetics reveal there’s a mood “set-point” that may predispose some to becoming depressed. Predilection to certain moods may be a matter of variation. Consequently, the therapies–drug, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, DBT — may work well enough for some, but can’t guarantee relief for sufferers in general. Worse, it’s anathema just to admit this in professional circles that have reputations and financial investments to protect, creating a significant intellectual and social bias on a subject we all should own, share in talking about.

    And just to mention one more area in which assumed resources may be sorely lacking, community members–family, coworkers, employers, acquaintances–are under no obligation to be understanding or supportive. Many deeply depressed human beings are abandoned for being “burdens” to others–the same others who, ironically, then refuse to allow these burdensome individuals the dignity of choosing a way out of life and suffering. Add to this the financial pressures inherent in surviving in a capitalist culture that asserts no one has a “right” to a job or general entitlement to money, which is a prerequisite of modern survival; and the additional challenges different people may face–minorities, those judged aesthetically unappealing, older citizens, etc–and the mere practicalities of surviving become more and more challenging even without factoring in the emotional elements of surviving. That the rest of us “do it” shouldn’t be a mandate for every other human.

    If we cannot take others’ pain away, then it is cruel and presumptuous of us to demand they stay alive.

  6. Pauline August 19, 2016 at 16:04 Reply

    Francois,

    I saw this article yesterday.

    SUICIDE IS NOW BEING CALLED AN EPIDEMIC IN THE US: ‘WE ARE NOT MAKING PROGRESS’

    “Suicide in the United States is at a 30-year high, and experts are studying statistics to find explanations for the gradual but steady increase…. It’s a very important report, and the results are very striking. The rate has increased so much since 1999, especially during the second half of that period. If this was a finding of some other problem that results in death, it would be on the front page of every newspaper. People would be pressuring the politicians to come up with solutions. Hopefully, this [report] would be a wake-up call and a call to action on the part of our country.”

    http://www.inquisitr.com/3430507/suicide-is-now-being-called-an-epidemic-in-the-us-and-we-are-not-making-progress/

    What do you make of it? What is causing all of it?

    • Francois Tremblay August 19, 2016 at 16:09 Reply

      I couldn’t tell you. From what I understand, rates of suicide have a lot to do with perceived purpose, meaning, and status. What this has to do with the last 15 years in the US, I don’t know.

  7. Jeremy December 21, 2016 at 05:33 Reply

    I am now completely ready to die, and at peace with this decision. I simply… do not want to be here. Sure, there are reasons and logic, arguments and the like. But, my gut, and my heart, tells me it is time for me to move on from here. The universe will go on, people will go on, and it is selfish of people to expect, nay DEMAND I stay. When I have already checked out of the hotel I never had a choice of staying in to begin with.

    I believe this world is not for me, and have for a long time. Am I depressed? Sure – people cycle through these things regularly. Is it clinical depression? What is that but a term or phrase used to label. I do not want drugs, I do not want counselling. Because, I do not want to be.

    The thought of my end now fills me with a peace I don’t think I have experienced in this existence. I believe we are the sum of a gazillion atoms, uniquely formed to make who i am, with a sum of experiences in my 40 odd years to create this being. I believe, when I die those atoms will gradually scatter, and parts of them may form use for another creature on this planet, or indeed this universe in years to come.

    What I do know is this particular combination, right here and now, cannot stand this place any longer. And in a lot of ways the thought of freedom from that, gives me comfort.

    • Francois Tremblay December 21, 2016 at 05:36 Reply

      Jeremy, I support you. Good luck in whatever path you take.

  8. Lynnda February 11, 2017 at 15:56 Reply

    I hate to sound heartless, but is suicide such a big concern for evolution? With so many people in the world, could this actually be part of nature (in some strange way) to attempt to limit population or “select out” those of “non fitness”? Blasphemy against conventional doctrine this idea may be, but has anyone seriously looked at it from the cold hard logic of evolution?

    To live in a “la la land” where death is not taken as a normal and inevitable part of life seems to me to be out of touch with reality, even if that death is slightly (and artificially) brought forward.

  9. Dietrich April 1, 2017 at 18:53 Reply

    I strongly disagree with Matthew Parris.

    While we cannot clearly say why life is worth living, suicide is not so much a judgment against life as an abdication of judgment. If we are honest about the source of the problem, then, we cannot condone a solution that pretends, in essence, that the problem does not exist. Suicide does this by eliminating the value of the mind, that is, of the thinking being, man.

    Suicide is the ultimate performative contradiction. If we understand the confrontation that is the apriori of our thinking, we will see that suicide attempts to ignore it, and thus cannot be the conclusion of any clear reasoning. Rather than solve a problem or make a judgment, it declines to wrestle with or endure the actual difficulty that confronts us in favor of a simple exit from mental distress.

    • Francois Tremblay April 2, 2017 at 00:16 Reply

      Suicide is not a performative contradiction. It may be hypocrisy, as you claim, but that’s a different matter.

  10. Clara April 2, 2017 at 04:30 Reply

    Dietrich-

    Wait, what?

    Of course suicide is a solution, because once completed, you don’t need to deal with the problem anymore.

  11. Nigel Pendleton April 2, 2017 at 22:19 Reply

    Matthew Parris wrote:

    “The knowledge that I’m here by choice, that every breath I take I take by choice, injects into my soul a transcendent joy. That we can let go whenever we want is for me the deepest sort of thrill”

    So Matthew Parris argues against legalised assisted suicide but not against assisted suicide as such. What he is against is a ‘creep towards the state regulation of death’ and I must say that I certainly agree with that. ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ cards are about the limit.

    But what caught my eye was the expression of his libertarian view of the politics of one’s own life. Who may exercise authority over my own life? Not the state, certainly; not you, except to help me if I ask you to and you agree. For it is I, me, who am the sovereign over my own life. And for Parris, an atheist and something of a Lucretian, (‘death is nothing to me’) this means the right to exercise sovereignty not over some phase of my life, but over my life, period.

    There is more:

    “The possibility of suicide is what makes life voluntary and each new day an act of will. No wonder the faith community gnash their teeth at suicide. God Himself, if He existed, would gnash His teeth at suicide: the supreme act of defiance, the final raspberry”

    It’s this attitude, and the argument itself, that interests me, not Parris’s jejune theology. (What’s childish is the idea that God cannot have brought to pass what has already been done, so to speak. I can end my life so God cannot end it; my life has been ended by my decision so its ending cannot have been God’s decision too. God regularly uses what is against his will to serve his will. Does he receive another raspberry when someone is suddenly knocked down and killed by a speeding joy-rider?).

    Parris’s attitude is surely self-deceiving. What he is saying is that the freedom to end one’s life whenever one wants is also the freedom to keep it. The deep thrill I get every morning comes from reflecting upon the fact that, before sundown, I could have chosen to end my life, but that if I decide not to make that choice then I shall safely arrive at the end of the day, to be presented with the same choice when tomorrow dawns. ‘The knowledge that I’m here by choice’. That I’m here by choice seems plainly false; false, even, that I’m here by my parents’ choice, though they most certainly had a hand in the matter. ‘That every breath I take I take by choice’. Even allowing for a modicum of journalistic hyperbole, this also seems rather over the top.

    The first question is, Am I free to end my life whenever I want? (Metaphysically free, that is, not morally free.)

    To start with, we may be able to let go whenever we want, but surely the relevant question is, can we want to let go when we have the opportunity to do so? Could there ever be a reason for me to want to stop breathing? Maybe so. But that prospect is not something that that we are capable of reviewing at a distance, or even regularly (once a month, say, or once a year). We may be able to will a choice, physically able, with no one or no thing holding us back. But can we always, or once a week or once a month, indefinitely, want what we could will if we wanted it? Maybe I shall be driven by extremity to want what I can will. But the dawn of the day when I am driven to it will not be one on which I reflect on the transcendent joy of the fact that I possess such a power, the power to turn off my own light. The realisation that (as Parris puts it) I am no longer useful and life is no longer fun will hardly be trumped by the transcendentally joyous realisation that I can flip the switch. That sort of talk is for the op ed page. It may be joyous, on a summer’s morning now, but I wager it won’t be joyous once it becomes a live option.

    And the second question is, Am I free to keep my life?

    As a political conservative, Parris already knows the answers to this question. He knows that life is full of contingencies, of unintended consequences, of unforeseen calamities, human weaknesses, corruptibility and corruption. That’s part of what makes him the political animal that he is, distrustful of the plans and the policies of the state any more than is strictly necessary, simply because the state can no more see into the future than he can. We can no more plan our lives than the state can plan the future of its people. That’s a good reason not to trust the state or to extend its power over death, or over life. So it is strange to find him writing of “The knowledge that I’m here by choice”.

    The reasons for nor trusting the state more than is strictly necessary, Parris believes, are a part of the human condition. They offer themselves universally, and so they provide an equally good reason for not trusting ourselves. Our lives are not in our hands. We do not know what a day may bring. And so this is also a reason to go easy on the hubris. Realising this, we just might be tempted to take the initiative, simply to affirm the contrary point, that I’m master of my own fate. But that won’t be a joyous thing to do, either.

    So, neither free to keep my life, nor free to end it; not at least free in any sense that is transcendently joyous. To say otherwise, and to mean it, is to be seriously self-deceived.

    • Francois Tremblay April 2, 2017 at 22:31 Reply

      Buddy, I’m an Anarchist. I trust the State far, far less than any political conservative. Conservatives love the State, they just love different parts of it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: