[lit-ideas] Re: The meaning of life

  • From: Omar Kusturica <omarkusto@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sat, 29 Nov 2008 11:26:52 -0800 (PST)

--- On Fri, 11/28/08, Donal McEvoy <donalmcevoyuk@xxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

O.K. I believe that it is an interesting philosophical problem, regardless of 
whether we perceive it as a serious practical option. In the above discussion, 
the key term is 'practical contradiction,' i.e. it is not suggested that 
suicide is a practical impossibility obviously, but that it is morally 
impermissible because self-contradictory. I can see how there is a form of 
self-contradiction or 
paradox involved in an action which is meant to destroy its doer; to conclude 
from this that this renders it morally impermissible is perhaps to conclude too 
much. Homicide or destruction of property is not seemingly self-contradictory 
in the same way, yet this does not render it morally permissible.
DM: What is unclear here is what kind or "form of self-contradiction or 
paradox" is involved here: it seems to me it is clearly not a logical 
self-contradiction or paradox, for this would make the action a practical 
*I am not sure that everything that seems to be a logical contradiction is a 
practical impossibility. (We know that Metaphysics has long tried to explain 
the world by using logic and the results are debatable to say the least.)
If so, what kind of non-logical self-contradiction or paradox is it? 
*There is a discussion of paradox here:
It seems to me that suicide is at the very least paradoxical in the sense that 
it defies the ordinary assumptions or ideas about action, intentionality, and 
agency. It's an action intended to destroy the agency, thus preventing any 
further actions or intentions, and also making any of its consequences further 
irrelevant to the agency itself. (Since it will not be there to observe the 
consequences, or take responsibility for them, or benefit from them.) 
It might be self-contradictory if we interpret it in terms of intentions or 
statements; if it's a statement meant to remind others that one exists, then it 
does so in an odd way by putting oneself out of physical existence. Or, if it's 
meant to annihilate one's existence, then it does so in an odd way by asserting 
personal agency in an action that will attract attention and have serious 
consequences for others. This though depends on the interpretation of the 
intentions behind the suicidal act.
DM: While I agree suicide and homicide are quite distinct categories morally, 
without clarification of what kind of self-contradiction etc. is involved, 
surely we might argue that homicide and property destruction are also 
*I guess that Kant might argue that suicide and homicide are essentially the 
same since they both destroy rational moral agency. But then this is vulnerable 
to objections such as homicide might also be justifiable in some cases, other 
actions that do not destroy human agency are not justifiable and so on.
DM: That is, this notion of self-contradiction and paradox strikes me as 
needing (logical) clarification, without which the notion may simply ground 
what are quite obscure propositions.
* I am not sure that I have the exact definition, but see above. Presumably to 
have a formal logical contradiction we would need to interpret suicide in the 
form of propositions or statements.
DM: Be this as it may, it does not elucidate why suicide is a central or even 
very special moral problem. The magnitude of the consequences make it 
quantitively different to, say, self-harm - but do they make it qualitively 
different in a philosophical sense? This reply does not answer my question on 
this point.
*It's an important moral problem being (like homicide in this sense) an action 
that destroys rational moral agency, yet we feel that it might in some cases be 
permissible, perhaps more likely to be permissible than homicide which destroys 
not one's own rational agency but that of another. Why it's an interesting 
philosophical problem I hope that I have already shown.


To change your Lit-Ideas settings (subscribe/unsub, vacation on/off,
digest on/off), visit www.andreas.com/faq-lit-ideas.html

Other related posts: