Jump to content
Objectivism Online Forum

When is suicide rational?

Rate this topic


coirecfox
 Share

Recommended Posts

Redfarmer,

You wrote: "If you wanted an explanation of what I meant, why didn't you just ask for one instead of playing games?"

But I did! That's why I asked you who determines what a "proper" understanding is, as it was clear that merely agreeing with you that art "concretizes" values was apparently not enough.

You wrote: "What I have been trying to get at is that you seem to be implying that the example from Atlas Shrugged is not valid for determining whether suicide could be life-affirming or not."

No, I am telling you (I don't need to imply) that a fictional example does not provide what I asked for---an example from real life (reality). I asked for an example from real life---that was my request---and you insist on reading more into my inquiry than I intended.

You wrote: "Your insistance for a "real life" example seems to imply as much and seems to be an indicator that you won't accept suicde can be life-affirming unless it is a person who has actually committed suicde. "

You're right about that! I require some indication that a theory has some basis in fact. In this case, since suicides are unfortunately common, we can look at the reasons people commit suicide (which is not the case with the nuclear holocaust analogy that you attempted to make). I am merely asking for examples of "life-affirming" suicide.

You wrote: "You're creating a false dichotomy between values in "real" life and values in a fictional story such as Atlas Shrugged."

No, I'm asking that the values in a fictional story correspond to the values observable in reality, if I am to draw real-life conclusions and real-life lessons from the story. It has nothing to do with the characters, mind you: a space-alien story that reflects values that correspond to observable reality is perfectly fine. If the values in a fictional story are simply meant to entertain, or serve some other purpose, then I don't ask or expect the values to correspond to observable reality.

You wrote: " You also have yet to explain why you think an example has to be from real life rather than a fictional story for it to be accepted (as you seem to be saying when you reject the example of Galt)."

Because I like reality.

Dear Sherlock,

Scientists believe eventually the world will blow up and everything living on Earth will die as a result. Please demonstrate that this will be a bad thing using real life examples of planets blowing up.

By the way, I should have told you to assume that humans are still alive at whatever point this is.

Edited by redfarmer
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • Replies 89
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Redfarmer,

You asked, "Please demonstrate that this will be a bad thing using real life examples of planets blowing up."

In this case, it is easy to say that based on the values observable in reality (that is, those observable values held---rightly or wrongly--- by real, live human beings) that the earth blowing up and all life being extinguished would be a bad thing because it can be shown that humans value life. And not only human life, but other forms as well: science studies all forms of life because life itself is valuable and, in studying life, we gain knowledge that further enhances life. If human beings did not value life, there would be no reason to say that the earth blowing up would be a bad thing. Neither would there be any use in studying anything, let alone the life and death of planets. But humans do value life---it is observable in reality---and so it is reasonable to say that the earth blowing up would be a bad thing.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Redfarmer,

You asked, "Please demonstrate that this will be a bad thing using real life examples of planets blowing up."

In this case, it is easy to say that based on the values observable in reality (that is, those observable values held---rightly or wrongly--- by real, live human beings) that the earth blowing up and all life being extinguished would be a bad thing because it can be shown that humans value life. And not only human life, but other forms as well: science studies all forms of life because life itself is valuable and, in studying life, we gain knowledge that further enhances life. If human beings did not value life, there would be no reason to say that the earth blowing up would be a bad thing. Neither would there be any use in studying anything, let alone the life and death of planets. But humans do value life---it is observable in reality---and so it is reasonable to say that the earth blowing up would be a bad thing.

Exactly! You used an abstraction to demonstrate that the Earth blowing up would be a bad thing. This is the same thing Ayn Rand did with the characters of Galt and Dagny. Based on the fact that a loved one is one of the most precious things on Earth to a person, most people would rather die than watch that person be tortured and/or killed in order to abstract information from them. A real life example is not necessary.

As I said to Dagny above, this would exclude people with mental illness and certainly could only be considered rational in extreme circumstances.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Redfarmer,

You wrote: "You used an abstraction to demonstrate that the Earth blowing up would be a bad thing."

No, I did not. Using values that are observable in real life, I applied it to your hypothetical situation. The values I am referencing are not fictional, they are observable in reality. Your "value", that suicide is "life-affirming", is not based on any values that are observable in real life, but is based on fictional characters. You have given no examples of real-life "life-affirming" suicides.

You wrote: "Based on the fact that a loved one is one of the most precious things on Earth to a person, most people would rather die than watch that person be tortured and/or killed in order to abstract information from them."

If that were true, then history would be replete with examples of such suicides, but you haven't given any. I would argue that most people, in the situation you describe, would do whatever is necessary to rescue the beloved, even at the risk of their own lives, instead of stupidly killing themselves just when the beloved needs them the most.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 months later...
The values I am referencing are not fictional, they are observable in reality. Your "value", that suicide is "life-affirming", is not based on any values that are observable in real life, but is based on fictional characters.

The values which Ayn Rand referred to were not fictional. Because Romeo and Juliet are fictional characters, does that imply that love is not 'observable in real life'? The reason that people respond so strongly to such characters is because those values are so evident in real life. Likewise, the reason that people respond so strongly to Rand's characters is because of those value's existence 'in reality'.

No one has ever committed suicide to protect ones they love? There have been countless stories from the battlefield in which one person will dive on a grenade to save his platoon. In fact, I can send you links to such reports if you would like. I fail to see the purpose of this 'real life evidence,' but perhaps you will choose a different (and more substantial) argument now that I've indulged you.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  I fail to see the purpose of this 'real life evidence,' but perhaps you will choose a different (and more substantial) argument now that I've indulged you.

Fortunately Sherlock has been banned.

Of course I'm sure there's someone around here willing to step in and answer as she would have. :)

I just wanted to let you know though since she won't be able to answer herself.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 months later...

A friend of mine who is an Objectivist told me that if American were socialized, she would kill herself.

Is this moral?

Her argument was thus: without liberty, no productivity is possible. Therefore the choice becomes: to die biologically (kill oneself) or to die spiritually (live in a slave society.) She said that she would always choose to die biologically. This doesn't make sense to me. Spiritual life requires biological life. Why sacrifice ones biological life, if ones spiritual life is to go, too? This seems like extraneous death to me.

My argument was thus: without liberty, there are (practically) no values; without values, all choices are amoral. So, if no liberty exists, why even give a damn? It doens't make any difference whatsoever whether or not you live. There are no values.

Yet, I don't see how even a slave state can strip men of *all* values. After all, there are still interpersonal values such as love, admiration, etc. I can't imagine a state with no values at all, and I don't see it as being possible.

However, Megan (the friend) disagreed. She held that without rights, even such values as love and admiration are meaningless; they are secondary values, and without the primary values (achievement, production) they are rendered worthless.

Both of our arguments don't seem right to me. The basic question I want to throw out is: is it *ever* necessary to destroy ones biological life? If so, when?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

She is being a bit hyperbolic. Modern America isnt exactly a bastion of freedom, nor is it that far ahead of places like Britain, Austrialia or New Zealand. If America were to become 'socialised' (and I'm not really sure what that means here, since it is pretty socialised already), she could always just move to one of the above 3 countries, or several others. I doubt it would result in a radical decline in her freedom.

Either that or she could join some kind of underground resistance movement and plot the downfall of the Empire. That would be pretty cool.

Edited by Hal
Link to comment
Share on other sites

How is America pretty Socialised already?

To answer your question ignok, i agree with you. One can never have a complete death of one's spiritual values. Even if that did happen, that's no reason to kill our biological life. At worst, i would try to fight against such a system and would feel better if i got killed in the process than to if i killed myself.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Both of our arguments don't seem right to me. The basic question I want to throw out is: is it *ever* necessary to destroy ones biological life? If so, when?

Necessary? Philosophically speaking something is necessary only if it is not subject to determination by choice. Something can only be moral if it IS open to choice. So, the idea of "moral necessity" is a self-negating oxymoron.

No one can tell you what you should or shouldn't have to bear. If you think you can go on hobbled and chained, that's your decision. If someone else doesn't, that's their decision. You can't ever say for certain one way or the other for someone else, because it really depends on your personal values, goals, and means of acheiving them.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

However, Megan (the friend) disagreed. She held that without rights, even such values as love and admiration are meaningless; they are secondary values, and without the primary values (achievement, production) they are rendered worthless.

I have two suggestions. First, beware of the fallacy of perfectionism: If I don't have all of X then I have nothing of it. Liberty, in particular, usually exists in degrees. Socializing medicine won't destroy all of liberty in the U. S., just as it hasn't in other countries.

Second, love is not a value. It is an emotion, that is, a response to a value, not the value itself.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...
Necessary?  Philosophically speaking something is necessary only if it is not subject to determination by choice.  Something can only be moral if it IS open to choice.  So, the idea of "moral necessity" is a self-negating oxymoron.

No one can tell you what you should or shouldn't have to bear.  If you think you can go on hobbled and chained, that's your decision.  If someone else doesn't, that's their decision.  You can't ever say for certain one way or the other for someone else, because it really depends on your personal values, goals, and means of acheiving them.

"Necessary" was the wrong word to use, I'm sorry. I am a nascent Objectivist and still have to get the hang of using language how it ought to be used.

Let me restate the question: "Is it more virtuous to merely survive while allowing your life to be squeezed out of you by others, or to give up both your biological and proper life by way of commiting suicide?"

I would think that it is evil to commit suicide under any condition. If life is the standard of value, why destroy ones life?

P. S.- It's "ingok", not "ignok." It stands for "Ingo Kleinsorge", which is my self-proclaimed "German Name." I am a rampant geek when it comes to foreign languages.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Suicide is not evil under all situations. If you reach a state where you believe that you cannot acheive any positive values, suicide is perfectly moral. If I had to choose between living in misery and not living at all (neutral), I would choose the latter. John Galt even threatens to committ suicide if something happens to Dagny, in AS.

Edited by Moose
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Suicide is not evil under all situations.  If you reach a state where you believe that you cannot acheive any positive values, suicide is perfectly moral.  If I had to choose between living in misery and not living at all (neutral), I would choose the latter.  John Galt even threatens to committ suicide if something happens to Dagny, in AS.

Why do you call not living at all "neutral?" It is a negative, because a value (ones life) is actively being destroyed. So then, the basic question is whether to take ones own life (a negative) or allows ones life to be taken through slavery or murder (another negative.) Which is the more negative, and why?

You can't argue that "choosing between the lesser of two evils" is pointless. True, you are not achieving a value, but you are, to the best of your ability, preserving one. You are not achieving a value if you cooperate with a mugger in order to retain your life, but you are preserving one.

In the situation my friend described (think along the lines of Communist Russia rather than a socialized America, if it helps) why is it better to take ones own life rather than allow it to be taken? Aren't they equal evils, since you will lose your life anyway? This situation is comparable to the Strikers' in AS, since they ruin their own life's work, rather than allow it to be drained by the blood-sucking altruists. But the two situations *are* different, because in the latter a value is in fact gained (freedom from interference in ones production), while in the former situation (with Comm. Russia) no value is gained either way. You are going to lose your life no matter what you do. So why should it matter who is the destroyer? Isn't is unselfsish to believe that your moral standing is at the mercy of some slave-drivers actions?

(P. S. - Sorry about "copying" Megan Robinson's fish avatar. I'll find a replacement soon.)

Edited by ingok
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 months later...
To live it not a value, but to live happily is. If a person is being denied happiness, or is in a position where they CANNOT seek values, suicide is justifiable. For example, if a person is in a postion where they are denied freedom of thought and choice and are SIMPLY surviving by breathing, suicide would be viable option.

Its not cowardice. It takes a lot of guts to make a decision like that.

I'm sorry, but at this point in my life I am firmly stuck to the belief that LIFE itself IS a value. No life should be unjustly taken away and I don't think it can ever be justified to take your own life because as an idealist I always retain a belief in Hope and Possibility against all odds. I wouldn't want people saying during my comma, "oh, he's a vegetable so we mightas well get rid of him". It's simply too sad ti think about lifes being taken away when it isn't a person's time. (and by "time", I mean that the body has not yet exhausted all of its ability, I'm not refering to God or predestination).

I’m agreeing with Megan here… and to bring up an example:  before he was captured John Galt makes it clear that he will accept being tortured - but should the villains decide to torture Dagny he would take his own life.  In this situation John could be in tremendous pain (he is being tortured after all) but he knows that his pain is temporary, however know of Dagny being tortured or killed since they needed him at any cost, would make his values unachievable and life not worth living.  Anyways, food for thought.

He does this because it isn't right for her to be tortured or his sake. He is willing to face the pain and take whatever comes in order to preserve the principle that life should not be at the expense of others. It isn't necessarily suicide.

Sherlock,

We're experiencing a disparity in terms. When you say depressed you mean clinically depressed. I do not  mention depression, I mention a sadness produces as a reaction in a rational person.

Emotions in rational people arise from a correct system of value.  Happiness or  a happy life is at the top of this heirarchy. A person's goal is to achieve and sustain this happiness, and in a situation where this is impossible, a person's decision to take her life is rational.

Its a fallacy to say that everyone who commits suicide has a mental disorder. Does every person that kills himself have mental problems, or does every person with mental problems kill himself?

This aside, a rational decsion to end ones life is not a contradiction on terms. We see it in Atlas Shrugged for a reason. Life (or achieving value) is precious. I would not choose to live if value (the very purpose os ANY life, volitional consciouness aside). To live, just to survive would deprive me of any purpose. Yes, I would commit suicide.

http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/crito.html

I know I just refuted these at the begining of my post, but I actually like your argument. It seems more clear to me now even though I still cannot ethically support a suicide. I think if I were in a situation where I could no longer live to achive new values or produce anything for myself any longer, I know there are hundreds of people in my life that look to me for support because, I guess like Rand's characters, I've always represented something greater for them. I think I'd keep myself alive simply to preserve that. I'd keep myself alive in the torture simply because of my conviction that "IT IS POSSIBLE. AND IT'S WORTH LIVING FOR".

LIFE is an end in itself, as I am. I do not need anything else to justify my desire to live.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

"Someone also mentioned teenagers being sad. I was a depressed teenager once, but I knew that once I left home and went to college life would change. Although I was depressed and on the brink of suicide, the obvious potential of the rest of my life prevented me from taking my own life. A situation that warrants suicide is a permanent one, it is one the denies value to you for the rest of your life...yes...like Socrates. "

Yes, I'll add to this and include myself as well. I mean, everyone has their moments of doubt, but usually it takes very little to change my mind.

:-)

I had a friend once who met me after swimming practice and we somehow ended up discussing the topic of suicide. She told me,

"You know, it's probably impossible to get me to actually commit suicide. I mean, I think of it occasionally as any person does, but I guess my metality is that if I feel like commiting suicide, then I always have the option to call one of those Teen Hotlines. So I would callone of Hotlines and it would go on as follows:

(ring, ring)

(please wait while we connect you to a counselor)

Counselor: Hi my name is Susan, how can I help you?

Me: Hi, umm.... I keep thinking I should take my own life.

Counselor: But dear, if you took your won life, do you realize that you would never see flowers again?

Me: Really??? No Flowers!?!?

Counselor: No....not one

Me: Ok, then I guess I change my mind.

(Hangs up)

>>>> Ok, I know this is extremely stupid but I couldn;t help but laugh because I'm sure if I called a hotline and they said something like that to me, I'd probably change my mind too. Usually when I'm on the verge of suicide, I'm so depressed that my mind closes itself off to any good concept. Just being reminded of a single good thing I enjoyed in my life would keep me alive at least for a couple more minutes. Basically, anything good helps. We just have to be reminded of our values.

I also agree with another essay I read last week about a woman with multiple sclerosis. She wrote about a time that she had been asked by her doctors if she would sign off on a legal permission to be "terminated" in the case that her illness got so bad that she could no longer move or speak.

She said she simply could not sign it. Let me try to quote it directly:

"Gradually I came to understand that the Nancy who might one day lie inert under a bedsheet, arms and legs paralyzed, unable to feed or bathe herself, unable to reach out for a gun, a bottle of pills... was not the Nancy I was at present, and that I could not presume to make decisions for that future Nancy, who may well not want in the least to die. Now the only provision I've made for the future Nancy is that when the time comes, she is not to be treated with machines. If she is unable to communicate by then, I hope she will be satisfied with these terms.

My life is a lesson in losses. I learn one at a time."

I think I would feel the same way. I couldn't make a decision for someone I will someday be. It feels the same as it would to intrude on the choice of someone else.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 weeks later...
"Necessary" was the wrong word to use, I'm sorry. I am a nascent Objectivist and still have to get the hang of using language how it ought to be used.

Let me restate the question: "Is it more virtuous to merely survive while allowing your life to be squeezed out of you by others, or to give up both your biological and proper life by way of commiting suicide?"

I would think that it is evil to commit suicide under any condition. If life is the standard of value, why destroy ones life?

P. S.- It's "ingok", not "ignok." It stands for "Ingo Kleinsorge", which is my self-proclaimed "German Name." I am a rampant geek when it comes to foreign languages.

what exactly is evil? what if the person is emotianally destressed or unstable. what if the person dosent value

life?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I don't think it's immoral to kill yourself under ANY circumstances, but were the US to be socialized that would be an immoral reason and an immoral time to kill yourself. It reminds me of the old railroad tramp Dagny picks up at the end of AS, he tells her he's going out west to see if there's any work, she asks him "do you think you'll find any?" and he says no, but he's going to try anyway because "it would be wrong to let your life slip away without at least making a try for it."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

This subject came up sporadically in a few threads, but never with the attention it deserved.Due to recent events, I have taken an interest in this subject.When is it rational for one to kill one's self? Where is the line between a calculated decision to end one's life, and the evil of Self-murder.Aside from the issue of terminal illness (which we likely wouldn't be here if we disagreed about that), when does it become more rational, more true to one's self, and more moral to choose not to continue living?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Such situations are extremely rare.

The entire point to life is happiness. Happiness is really the experience that makes life worth living--it is the ultimate value; there's really no point to life without it. (Note: the concept "ultimate value" is different from the "fundamental value," which is reason, and the "standard of value," which is life.)

Happiness is the long-term emotional state which comes from the achievement of values. This means that, if literally no values are possible, no measure is happiness is possible, and there's really no point in being alive. I can't personally imagine being in such a situation (not living in the Western world, anyway), but I don't deny that it might be possible.

An example of a moral suicide was portrayed by Ayn Rand in We The Living. Andrei comes to realize that he has spent his entire life working toward a goal that necessarily leads to destruction and evil; due to a huge error in thinking, he has worked to create a cultural and political atmosphere which, ultimately, makes value nearly unachievable. He loses the woman he loves. Other men may still be able to achieve some value in his situation, but since his entire life prior to the recognition of his error was put toward an evil goal, he has even lost self-esteem, which is the value that let's a person know his happiness is worth the effort.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Since this is a problem I have given a lot of thought, I will give my current state of knowledge.

As far as I see it, the main thing you have to see here is the concept of 'man's life'. It has been stated that man's life is an end in itself. But what does that mean? My problem was that I confused 'life' with 'bare survival'. And this was wrong. Life means more. It means, as Ayn Rand said: 'Man's live qua man'.

The fact that you live as a man determines the framework of how you should lead your life. Since you exist, you have identity, you exist as a human being and as nothing else. It's a fact you cannot deny. But what follows from that identity? As a volitional being you have to choose your actions. They don't happen automatically, which leads to the need for a moral code.

Now this is quite abstract, but it is helpful in this context and it is needed for a good answer.

What happens if a good life is impossible to you? This is what happens only rarely, because there is almost always a way out, waiting to be found. But if it is true that your happiness on earth has become impossible, your life as a human being has ceased its purpose. You are now incapable of functioning according to your identity. You have no more values to pursue and no reason to live. If you think about this, this is the reason why many suicides happen. People think that their goals in life cannot be attained.

Your wife leaves you and you think that you cannot find happiness without her. You commit suicide.

You don't get the job you've worked for to get all your life. You commit suicide.

This happens all the time, but I think there's a problem with this. There's a nice quote I heard once:

Suicide is a long term solution to a short term problem.

And most of the times it is. It's very rate that happiness on earth becomes impossible. That's why commiting suicide is the coward's way out most of the time. The only reason because of which it becomes moral is if you don't even have the chance to fight for your life. If this is absolutely true, (which practically never happens), then -and only then- is it reasonable to commit suicide.

But since this never happens, it's the most stupid thing to do.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

When is it rational for one to kill one's self?
The rationality of a choice is based on a being's purpose -- does the action further the purpose of not? You have to first have a purpose, namely existence, in order for it to be rational to stay alive. It is rational to eat because it furthers the purpose of existing. It is irrational to eat fatal doses of poison if your purpose is to stay alive. So if existence is not your primary purpose and nonexistence is, it is rational to kill yourself. You cannnot use reason to decide whether to exist or not exist -- you simply decide. Given that decision, other choices are rational or irrational.
Where is the line between a calculated decision to end one's life, and the evil of Self-murder.
There is no difference. "Self-murder" is not an intrinsic evil, it is only evil within the context of a being whose purpose is to remain alive.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...