[lit-ideas] Re: Suicide in Europe

  • From: Donal McEvoy <donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 21 Nov 2010 12:09:42 +0000 (GMT)

--- On Sun, 21/11/10, Mike Geary <jejunejesuit.geary2@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:

> He said he'd prefer to live among those who might kill themselves as opposed 
> to those who might kill him.  Made sense to me.>

In a city like London the homicidal person is perhaps less likely to disrupt 
your day* than the suicidal with their penchant for jumping in front of the 
tube at a busy station.**[*Provided they don't go on a killing spree on the 
tube;** for Londoners, important evidence in assessing whether suicide is a 
selfish act - why didn't they jump on the line at Cockfosters?]. 

>The saying, "Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem" rings 
>very true to those who are not suicidal.>

Does it not also ring very true to many who have attempted suicide, judging by 
their subsequent gladness that the attempt failed? There must be a key 
distinction between adopting the permanent solution to a permanent problem, say 
terminal illness, and to a temporary problem. This distinction would no doubt 
be applied by professionals if they were to assess whether a person should be 
allowed an assisted suicide. Yet to the suicidal what is in fact a temporary 
problem will, I guess, seem to have the character of permanence [this being a 
symptom of depressed thinking]. This is one way they may not be perhaps that 

However, it is surely an overgeneralisation to say 
>the decision not to exist is not a rational one.> 

The degree of rationality of such a decision varies. Conversely, the degree of 
rationality in the decision to persevere with life, no matter what, surely 
varies - unless we think prolonged torture must always be a more rational 
option than death.   

The simple view that suicide results from
>a screw up in brain chemistry>
is hardly more acceptable, as a be-all and end-all explanation, than the 
Lawrentian view that it is 
>driven by perceptions of cultural malaise>.

Many factors in many combinations may be at work. 

Since Popper's conception of 'rationality' centres*** on our ability to learn 
from our mistakes [by correcting them] it does generally oppose, on grounds of 
rationality, actions that are irrevocable so that there is no possibility of 
correcting or learning from them. This puts suicide in a generally bad light 
from a rational POV, at least where it is successfully attempted. However, 
where reason would agree that the problem suicide would remove is itself 
permanent and irrevocable, it may be rational enough an act.

***That it goes wider than this is indicated by P's sympathetic response to the 
interesting paper from Paul Bernays in P's Schilpp volume. 

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