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

11 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.

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