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“Suicide really only frightens those who have never been tempted by it and never will be, for its darkness only welcomes those that are predestined for it”, a quote by George Bernanos. If we think much upon this quote by Bernanos what position can we presume he holds in terms of the morality of suicide? By saying we are predestined to suicide we must presume he is referring to David Humes’ theory and his belief that it may in fact be Gods will for us to commit suicide.
How many of us have contemplated the morality of suicide? Is it morally wrong to take one’s own life; or are we predestined to do so? Do we really consider how ending our own life is going to affect the people around us? Some people think it is selfish to only be thinking of ourselves at the darkest times in our lives. Should we not be considering how our actions will affect the people around us? Is suicide morally correct? Is it up to us as humans to make the decision if it is correct or is it against Gods will to commit such an act?
Suicide is a long-debated issue that will always have an inconclusive answer. Humans fight for their autonomy on a daily basis. At a young age we all begin searching for own way to do things. We want the right to choose of ourselves and have not one person, even God, tell us what we should and should not do. The argument of the morality of suicide is not a simple one. For all of our self-governing we must also take in to account how our actions will affect others? Is suicide even our decision or does it go against God to make this decision? Are we expected to have a duty to ourselves or others, as we cannot be expected to do both? These are just a few questions debated when we look at the work of David Hume and Immanuel Kant.
David Hume was a Scottish philosopher, historian, economist and considered a famous figure in Philosophy. Hume was known for many things during his lifetime, but he considered himself primarily a moralist. In his essay on the morality of suicide Hume tells his readers “A person should not live an unhappy existence because they believe untrue reasons for committing suicide”.
What are these untrue reasons he is referring to? It is Humes belief that God did not make any laws forbidding us to commit suicide? On the contrary Hume believes God entrusted us to use our own judgment and do the right thing in this world. But what is the right thing, and who decides if it is right or wrong? If a person believes it is the right thing to do then Humes believe it is indeed the right thing to do. By using this rationality all of men’s choices are correct and anything we do is right. Indeed, God may have trusted us to all make our own decisions and them all be the right ones. It seems we have been proving this theory wrong since the time of Adam and Eve with the great apple tasting. However, Humes argues, we were created to make the best decision for ourselves so we will.
If Hume believes we are indeed always making the best decision for ourselves then we can clearly see why he would also believe we only owe a duty to ourselves and not the people around us to stay alive. This way of thinking suggested by Hume means we would owe no duty to our children to stay alive. It is hard to believe that we do not owe the humans we created some duty in which to stay alive. Did God not intend for us to care for our young? It is hard to argue away Humes point that we owe no duty to God to stay alive because God did not set any laws against it. It could very well be in God’s plan for us to take our own life. When God set forth the Ten Commandments and said “Thou shalt not kill” we are only assuming he did not mean ourselves. After all, suicide is killing one’s self.
I do believe God intended for us to all to strive to find our own ultimate happiness. If one believes their greatest happiness will be found with God in his kingdom it would be hard for one to wait. Did God not intend for us to serve him and do good deeds until such a time we have earned this greatest happiness? I feel this is what was intended.
Hume believes the voluntary actions of men have placed them when and where they are in their lives. The jobs they hold, the families they have, and everything is this way because of the decision of man, not God. He also argues that it could be in the best interest of others if a person were to commit suicide. If a person were to weigh the positive and negative side effects of their death on the people around them, they may very well come up with more positives than negatives. I find it almost impossible to think one person could ever know for sure how their death will ultimately affect the world. Things change every moment of every day, therefore circumstances that could change the effects of our suicide change every moment of every day.
Immanuel Kant’s essay takes a much different view on suicide than Humes. Kant was a German philosopher during the time of enlightenment. Kant believed suicide is never permissible under any circumstances. Humans are Gods property and we do not have the right to dispose of Gods property.
Kant is widely known for his deontological ethics. Kant believes people are capable of rationality while animals are not. Because humans can think rationally, whereas animals cannot, we have a duty to uphold our morality while animals may not. Upholding our morality to Kant’s standards, however, can prove challenging. Kant believes humans need to leave their feelings and emotions out of the situations so one can make the right moral choice. If we follow this guideline, we will always have the right outcome. We are presuming we will know the right moral choice.
Kant believes that in fact God created us therefore he owns us; making us his property. We have no right to destroy his property. At some point we will all perish, and Gods property will inevitably be destroyed. Does the time in which it happens make a difference to God? Hume would argue, if God did not intend for us to take our own lives, why then did he make it possible for us to end it at all? Why did God give us free will to live as we see fit if in fact, he meant for it be against his laws? We can assume that God may have indeed given us free will in the hopes we make the right choices and some of us do not make the right choice. If a child is drowning and you jump and save the child but lose your life in the process; have you taken your own life? Is this morally wrong if you have saved a life in return? An act such as this one may be morally wrong and lead to a favorable outcome. Who then determines which life is more important?
The belief that God meant for us to set out and do moral deeds while we are alive is a fine belief. However, how are we to determine how many moral deeds God intended for us to complete? If God is meant to control everything, does he not already know at what time our lives will end and we will no longer be completing these moral acts? Kant’s argument that we must live as long as life as possible to be able complete as many moral acts as possible contradicts this. I would argue if God had a set amount of deeds intended for us to complete would he not have made it so we all live an equal amount of time, in this way we can all complete and contribute our part and do our duty? People contemplating suicide are normally very unhappy and in pain. How could a God wanting us to find our ultimate happiness want us to stay on Earth in constant pain? It is hard to imagine that God would want us to live an unhappy life in pain to fulfill our moral duty quota.
I find it impossible to believe a person can know with absolute certainty the result of their own death. If you are considering suicide and weighing the benefits of your death for the people around you, who weighs the alternative? You cannot know the good you may bring to the world tomorrow or the next day, if you are no longer here. God may not have set forth an exact rule saying a person cannot take their own life, but he did intend for us to be on Earth doing morally good things while we are here. All humans and animals are born with basic instincts. Survival is one of those instincts that God did instill in us when he created us. The need to survive is always front and center for most of us. When we hear the word “suicide” it is instinctual that this is wrong. It is wrong to hurt ourselves. How can we say that this is not something God has instilled in each of us? If suicide was a thing of ease and caused happiness a person would not need to contemplate it. It would come naturally to us. I agree with bits of these two philosophers’ ideas on suicide but ultimately, taking one’s own life is not morally correct.
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