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Essay on Philosophy: Logical/Rational Suicide

Updated on December 12, 2015

When would a reasonable person contemplate suicide?

The question itself seems absurd, and reasonably so-- in American society, we are brought up to believe that only a weak-minded or mentally sick person would dare to commit suicide. There is no such thing as a "right" when it comes to determining the end of your own life. For years I attempted to justify the idea behind "logical suicide" to family and friends, only to be challenged as heathenish and unscrupulous. Although I admit that I upheld a rudimentary stance on the subject, I maintained it in silence. In open discussion, I appealed to neutrality.

Rationality in Suicide

"A rational person would never commit suicide," or, "Only a godless (or immoral) person would take their own life," were the most common (and seemingly reasonable) responses to the topic in question. Beneath the surface, however, it was not the irrationality or immorality of another that I believe they were addressing: it was their own fear and lack of control. It is understood and legitimate to be unwilling and afraid to let go of those we love-- but, in the end, who's living who's life? Given the option was even available, who should ultimately be able to determine their own fate? And if that was what a loved one truly wanted, why would we prevent it for our own sakes?

Exceptions

My father once had a physically disabled friend that ended her own life in overdose. Knowing that her feelings on the subject would gain disapproval, she kept her thoughts to herself. When she finally decided to end her own life, she spoke with reason and straightforwardness: "I am in agony, and every day causes me great pain. I simply wish to die in peace." And why not? Has the moral opprobrium attached to suicide been so deeply implanted into our minds that we would refuse another person a quiet, painless death? As an act of kindness, and with great care and consideration, we "put away" a dying animal in a gentle attempt to ease their passing. Would we not desire the same for another human being, a member of our own species?

Judgements/Conclusion

It is not only in regards to euthanasia that I legitimize the act of suicide. Just as the Stoics spoke of justifying suicide in "circumstances of personal ruin or disgrace," I too believe that-- if and when someone no longer wills to live, for whatever logically concluded reason-- they should be entitled to it (Magee 47). If I reconciled within my own heart that life was "no longer worth living," or that I had "nothing more to gain from it," why would I go on agonizing about it any further? If my family had passed away, and my friends had moved on, and all that I had left was my own misery and loneliness, why should I feel guilty about ending my own life, given that it's what I truly wanted? Who's to say that I'm weak? Who's to say that I'm ill? Who's to judge my heart?

References:

Magee, Bryan. The Story Of Philosophy. A Dorling Kindersley Book, 2001.

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