When asking ourselves whether it is morally permissible to commit suicide, we must first define suicide. There are three types of suicide, firstly knowingly endangering one’s life. Secondly the act of intentionally terminating one’s life, and finally intentionally bringing about one’s death, either by actively terminating one’s life, or by not taking the necessary steps to preserve it. This will therefore mean that sometimes we may find suicide morally permissible or impermissible, however it can become circumstantial depending on which type of suicide is being carried out. Many of us have pre-conceived ideas about suicide and its permissibility. This is sometimes due to religion, law, or perhaps even the way it is portrayed in the media. We here about stories often but we must take into account that the majority of us will never know what it feels like to want to end our lives. It therefore makes it hard for us to answer this question immediately.
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I will be arguing whether we as individuals have the moral obligation to commit suicide and the effects it will have upon both ourselves and others. I will be achieving this by examining both consequentiality and deontological theories. External factors and principles will also be a key in my work to ensure that all factors are considered to ensure that a valid judgment is made. I will attack this subject from numerous angels showing both the permissible and impermissible forms of suicide.
“Thomas Aquinas argued that it’s unlawful to kill yourself for three reasons.  Because everything naturally loves itself, the result being that everything naturally keeps itself in being (…) wherefore suicide is contrary to the inclination of nature, and to charity whereby every man should love himself. Hence suicide is (…) contrary to natural law and to charity,  because (…) every man is part of the community, and so such, he belongs to the community. Hence by killing him he injures his community (…).  Because life is God’s gift to man and is subject to his power (…) hence whoever takes his own life, sins against God… For it belongs to God alone to pronounce sentence of death and life.”(T.Beauchamp, ‘Suicide’, In T.Regan(ed.),Matters of Life and Death (New York (etc,):McGraw-Hill, 3rd Edition, 1993).p.87.)
Hume reply: Some lives are not worth keeping. Given our ‘natural horror’ against death, people only commit suicide if their lives are no longer worth keeping. Our duty to preserve life (including our own) only applies to life which is worth keeping. The moral importance of ‘natural inclination’ to self perpetuation only extends to a life which is worth keeping. Therefore, suicide is not an act contrary to self love and self perpetuation. It is not always true that by killing oneself one injures the community for example, a) a person does not make any contribution to the community or is not living in the community, example a hermit. b) a person who is an actual burden on society or whose death anyway is a benefit to others or just a community, Examples, illness requiring massive treatment, soldiers sacrificing for their comrades or fighting an evil regime. Similarly even if one contributes to the community suicide only withdraws its contribution it does not directly harm the society therefore withdrawing one’s contribution is sometimes permissible. Hume’s Objection about ownership is either god determines all our choices or we determine them ourselves, if god determines our choices, then our choice to commit suicide cannot be against his will and hence cannot be violation of his right to choose. If God granted us self determination then out choice to commit suicide can also not be against his will. Therefore committing suicide is not to wrong God.
Hence we are back to the first argument as the prospect from which hume is trying to figure is different. Committing suicide might be wronging God in different sense namely by failing to respect his moral commands, which is also not to commit suicide.
Consequentiality and deontological theories
The deontological theories are based around Morality. They focus on the duties and rights of the individual or situation. One has moral duties to one’s self not to harm or end life. However if an individual no longer wishes to continue due to external factors or they no longer feel life’s beneficial to one’s self then they would desire to die. However the deontologist would refuse this request upon a number of factors. The first being that the individual may not be in the perfect frame of mind at the time, therefore may make an impulsive choice which they may have regretted. However it could be argued that the individual has the best judgment of whether their life is worth lifting at the time compared to any other living agent. Secondly as agent we also cannot predict the future. This means that the individuals path of life could not be foreseen, dismissing the knowledge that that person may go on to say, find the cure for aids, benefiting the whole community, or the opposite, he may put a drain on others quality of life by becoming say a drug dealer, bringing a load of negative externalities to the community. If so the deontologist would say that it is not permissible to for the agent to commit suicide.
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Consequentiality looks at situations from another angle. They focus upon what actually happens and the utilitarianism theory that people should aim for the greatest overall utility. An individual could save millions of life’s if he self sacrificed. The consequentiality would argue that the man should self sacrifice in order to save millions of lives. This is due to the man only being one life against millions, whereas the deontologist would say no the man has the right to his life and the millions would die and this is what is morally right. However such jobs and hobbies such as the army and skydiving mean that the individual is putting their life at risk, therefore should the individual be allowed to carry out such activities as they may be seen as morally wrong as one is putting one’s life at risk, but for the consequentiality there is greater pleasure, utility in the long run therefore making it permissible for them to do so.
All in all Suicide is a complicated issue, as there is not only moral argument but many other theories and believes which also must be taken into consideration. Deontologist do not believe that an agent committing suicide is permissible as it is morally wrong to oneself, others and god.
However the consequentiality believes that it is morally permissible to end one’s life if it has a greater utility to others. I believe suicide is moral permissible as in such cases as the army and fire-fighters who self sacrifice for others. It may all come down to principle, can suicide ever be completely morally permissible. We have duties to ourselves to self preserve, if we do not then we may not be acting morally therefore it is not morally permissible. Are al lives worth keeping or is it permissible in some ways to allow some people to die. Do we as agent who cannot see the future ever have the skills to decide? It is all on the individuals’ perception and there are extremes and complications of every matter of suicide.
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