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Suicide, ethics of

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-N071-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 22, 2024, from

Article Summary

Suicide has been condemned as necessarily immoral by most Western religions and also by many philosophers. It is argued that suicide defies the will of God, that it is socially harmful and that it is opposed to ‘nature’. According to Kant, those who commit suicide ‘degrade’ humanity by treating themselves as things rather than as persons; furthermore, since they are the subject of moral acts, they ‘root out’ morality by removing themselves from the scene.

In opposition to this tradition the Stoics and the philosophers of the Enlightenment maintained that there is nothing necessarily immoral about suicide. It is sometimes unwise, causing needless suffering, but it is frequently entirely rational and occasionally even heroic. Judging by the reforms in laws against suicide and the reactions to the suicides of prominent persons in recent decades, it appears that the Enlightenment position is becoming very generally accepted.

Citing this article:
Edwards, Paul. Suicide, ethics of, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-N071-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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