Question: Suicide and Rationality

16Oct07

Is it ever rational to commit suicide?

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7 Responses to “Question: Suicide and Rationality”

  1. 1 August

    Perhaps only people who have been really clinically depressed could know if it’s rational to commit suicide; but being clinically depressed means you are irrational, so in the normal modern sense of the word “suicide”, it is not ever rational to kill yourself.

    One of the things we discussed earlier was whether or not a hero sacrificing himself to save others would count as suicide, because the hero is intentionally bringing about his or her own death. If that type of death counts as suicide, then in that way suicide can be rational because the hero is deciding that in his or her opinion, more people surviving for one person’s death is better than everyone dying.

  2. 2 ace

    I don’t necessarily think that being clinically depressed always leads to someone making irrational decisions. Obviously someone in a depressed state will not be in a ‘right state of mind’, but on certain matters they will be in position to put forth a logical and reasoned argument for their actions. For example, perhaps someone has been unwell for many years and sought many different treatments to combat their illness. If they find that nothing has worked for them and they have come to the conclusion that they would rather end their life than struggle forward, it may be the case that they have put a considerable amount of thought into their actions. I suppose it would be natural to say that someone should always look for other ways of continuing their life, even if they have lost hope, but the individual themselves will have the only true perspective from which to make that decision.

    In the case of the soldier, I do not believe this does constitute suicide, for we have already defined suicide as actions undertaken with the intention to end our life. It is not the intention of the soldier to end his life through his actions, but to save others. Suicide in this case occurs only as a consequence of other intentions.

  3. 3 August

    Nice point on the hero thing by the way.
    So I suppose it depends on whether the depressed person thinks they are rational or not. Perhaps rational is an opinion; those around would not view it as rational, but the person committing suicide would.

  4. 4 oinos_kai_alathea

    Ace – you say that perhaps being clinically depressed might not always lead to irrational decisions. But the definition of clinical depression is that it is depression without cause – irrational depression. So whilst it is possible that someone clinically depressed might decide to comit suicide for reasons other than their irrational misery – which could be a rational decision – it doesn’t seem very likely. Someone who has been unwell for many years and has no positive prospects to look forward to has a perfectly reasonable reason to be depressed – that wouldn’t be clinical depression and would potentially constitute a perfectly rational reason to comit suicide.

    As to the relativity of rationality, it would seem to me that while what is and isnt rational is to some extent a point of view, it is a continuum – there are decisions, reasons, states of mind which definately aren’t rational, even if there are those which are unclear. And it is these definately irrational states of mind – where the person can see nothing positive in their life at all, or where they think that current negative emotions or states (which, from the outside, may be clearly transitory) will last forever – are likely to lead to suicide.

  5. 5 ace

    oinos, I agree with you to an extent that the depression can easily cause irrational decisions and a depleted state of mind, and in extreme cases it could be said that a choice to commit suicide would be highly irrational. However I would still suggest that within the mind of the depressed subject they would find for themselves many rational and reasoned arguments for their actions. I think it would depend on the extent of their illness combined with other factors such as their medication, family and social support, as well as how much they actually understand about the way their illness effects them.

    The question asks if there may ever be a rational motive behind suicide, and in that case I would suggest the example of a man imprisoned for life, who knows he will never see the light of day again. Despite not having any physical or mental disadvantages he may wish to end his life for sole reason that he sees no purpose in continuing if it he is no longer free to live how he chooses. In this case a suicide would easily be seen as rational, and depending on your opinion of what it means to be alive, may even be a logical step.

  6. 6 ric

    ‘No longer free to live how he chooses.’

    Are we not all in this way imprisoned (with differing conditions)? we are all at some time going to die (forgive my induction…). Are you not subjecting your man in this example to your subjective beliefs that a life without choice, freedom or fellatio wouldn’t be worth living.
    Subjective being the key word- and the obvious conclusion to the proposed question.

    is suicide ever rational? In a word- yeah!

    You are merely cutting down on experiences- i have about 55 years to live (at the outside)- this time is all that i truly ‘own’, therefore not only do i have the right/freedom to do so- but rationally.( it points towards utility i think)- if i dislike that which i have seen in the past 20 years- i may not look forward to the next 55 years.

    Clinical depression. hmm… I’m no expert but depression is often coupled with bouts of mania- (bi-polar disorder)- far harder to accept as part of your daily life- also consider schizophrenics. all more than capable of holding a rational thought about their existence. Again, just subjective to their ‘imprisonment’.

  7. 7 Jazmin

    If you take the idea that it is your right to die, then does it make it any less valid your right to kill? If everybody just gave up on life because of numerous reasons, who would be left but those who have had the benefit of a good life


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