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Old 02-01-2014, 08:57 AM
Status: "A Communist? Or just a Kham'nist?" (set 25 days ago)
 
Location: Dallas, TX
4,234 posts, read 2,263,229 times
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NOTE: This post deals with suicide committed by people in reasonably good physical health and even likewise good mental condition (see * for explication of the latter), in other words “Ordinary Suicide”. It does not deal with physician-assisted suicide or any other issues typically surrounding the “Death With Dignity” movement. Those issues are outside the scope of my reasons. For the record, I have no problem with physician-assisted suicide committed just before the patient or otherwise incapacitated person is unable to add anything substantively new to the lives of their family and friends (or even what they can add to their family ‘s and friend’s lives does not justify the suffering and/or self-assessed indignity they are going through).

*Brilliant pupil's 'logical' suicide - News - The Independent
.

Reasons I favor discouraging “ordinary suicide”

Basic reason: we have a duty to prevent suffering of others that is pointless, avoidable, insufficiently compensatory, and serves no higher purpose beyond our own self-interest. To deny this opens the door to justifying anarchy (not in the political science sense, but in the sense of no-rules lawless dog-eat-dog free-for-alls). Suicide usually violates this duty in the following ways.

*Whatever gains the suicidal person would make for him/herself are more than offset by the amount of anguish and suffering their family and friends would be forced to endure. In short, net suffering in the world increases while there is no increase in net pleasure.

*Suicide denies others your future suffering prevention/reduction efforts. Related to this…

- Suicide denies your support to others (individuals or groups) who are fighting the same practices and acts you oppose. Supporting these groups and denying support for the thing you oppose is much more effective than simply ceasing your support than the thing you oppose (e.g. buying “Sweat Free” clothes AND ceasing purchases of sweatshop-made clothing is more effective than merely ceasing purchases of sweatshop clothing. Same thing for “Fair Trade” ™ products and products produced by slave or semi-slave labor). The same principle applies even to smaller-scale matters (but no less real ones) that won’t come even close to making headlines.


ANTICIPATED RESPONSES


Some may say the individual's rights trump those of other people's. That claim opens up a lot of ethical problems; and as I will soon explain, opens up the door to anarchy or nihilism.

If we may pursue our own interests even when it likely will cause for others anguish levels typically experienced when a close one commits suicide, then it’s difficult to see how we can censure people who pursue their interest when the consequences for others would almost certainly be less anguishing (e.g. pilfering small amounts of money or other things from their close ones, verbal abuse to them, spreading rumors or other embarrassing private information about them, other acts that highly embarrass the family or friends). This even includes acts unmistakably illegal yet still almost certainly less anguishing to others than a close one’s suicide would be (stealing $1000s of cash or property from them, whiskey bottle to their face in anger, major white-collar crimes, etc).

It does no good to say these examples are acts by one person against another whereas suicide is only an act against one’s self. It doesn’t matter who the direct recipient of the act is. All that matters is that an act is committed and it causes great degree of anguish to others. To say we shouldn’t discourage an act due to how anguishing it might be to others is to deny the very basis for having ethics/morals (however you distinguish between them), formal rules, and even formal law codes in the first place. After all, if a hard punch to your face NOT requiring medical attention did not emotionally disturb you in some non-trivial way, then it would be difficult to see any point in having laws forbidding this act against you or others. This seems to support the idea that an act’s tendency to cause non-trivial emotional disturbance in others is a good reason to forbid it on at least ethical grounds to the extent that the person is honestly able to resist it.

I’m NOT saying attempted suicide should be illegal, for governments are meant to regulate direct acts between individuals that do not affect the wider society as a whole (a suicide may deeply affect one’s immediate social circle, but not the society as a whole). Besides, legally enforcing anti-suicide laws would divert so many resources from preventing acts more harmful to society as a whole that society would suffer more from such rigid enforcement of any suicide laws that may be on the books than it would from simply decriminalizing suicide, however tragic and anguishing that act may be for the immediate social circle of the suicide.

Nevertheless, despite that we should discourage suicide for the reasons I gave above, I do not judge harshly anyone who does indeed commit or attempt suicide. Sometimes the pain of the moment can be so severe and/or frequent for a person that they cannot think of anything other than an immediate escape from the severe short-term anguish they experience. Instead, people with suicidal tendencies should be sent to psychological counseling and/or hospitalized, depending on the exact circumstances of the situation. The most people who call for no moral/ethical restrictions against suicide proved is that we should treat suicidal people and incidents on a case-by-case basis. Even in this case I do not favor any encouragement or even lack of discouragement to commit suicide, for it is extremely likely that one’s self-death both causes more anguish in others than the suicide prevents for the suicide him or herself and it denies others future suffering prevention efforts. Given the above, it is difficult to conclude that suicide, whatever benefit may come to the person because of it, does society as a whole more harm than good – even if the harm does not rise to and/or impact on areas of law and criminal justice.
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Old 02-03-2014, 04:04 PM
 
Location: Northeastern US
14,267 posts, read 9,386,114 times
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I do not understand where you get the term "ordinary suicide". I see two types of suicide:

1) Irrational suicide, promoted by depression, grief, and other forms of (generally temporary) anguish

2) Rational suicide, which is the decision of a person who is not substantially depressed that their quality of life is insufficient for them to continue living. This includes physician-assisted suicide, but is not limited to it (given that physicians cannot legally assist with suicide in most jurisdictions anyway). It generally does involve someone who is either going to die anyway, or who is going to be in open-ended, severe, unremitting and untreatable agony due to a physical or mental condition, and/or who is unable to contribute to their loved ones in any meaningful way that's over and above the burden they represent on them. These decisions are normally taken with close family members in consultation and in a supportive role, but it is really up to the individual to judge their own quality of life.

If your "ordinary" suicide is my "irrational" suicide, then I agree with everything that you're saying. Even the gray area between my two categories, where a person is genuinely not enjoying their life, perhaps because of existential angst more than the active torments of physical or mental illness, often involve commitments and duties to others that require a person of character to bear with their discomfort to the bitter end if necessary. It is a paradox that someone who is genuinely loved and/or needed may be trapped by that very love in an existence they find agonizing for reasons unrelated to their close personal relationships, and for which those relationships to not provide sufficient comfort.
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Old 02-03-2014, 04:47 PM
 
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Suicide is problematic because nearly all lives are entangled in other people's lives. I agree with the OP that suicide is in most cases undesirable, because of the ripple-effect. If my coworker killed himself tonight, I'd be left with a mountain of unfinished work and loose ends; and that's in addition to the emotional costs of losing him. Presumably those costs are even greater for his family.

What I don't condone is the demonization of suicide as some great and inexcusable subversion of the social contract. I would not celebrate suicide as a desirable end, but I would love it if society dismantled the stigma of taking one's own life, as if it were outright murder.
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Old 02-04-2014, 04:48 AM
 
Location: 'greater' Buffalo, NY
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Suicide should be neutral. Life is neutral, death is neutral, suicide is neutral, murder is neutral, etc.
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Old 02-04-2014, 11:28 AM
Status: "A Communist? Or just a Kham'nist?" (set 25 days ago)
 
Location: Dallas, TX
4,234 posts, read 2,263,229 times
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mordant

Quote:
Originally Posted by mordant
I do not understand where you get the term "ordinary suicide". I see two types of suicide:

1) Irrational suicide, promoted by depression, grief, and other forms of (generally temporary) anguish

2) Rational suicide, which is the decision of a person who is not substantially depressed that their quality of life is insufficient for them to continue living. This includes physician-assisted suicide, but is not limited to it (given that physicians cannot legally assist with suicide in most jurisdictions anyway). It generally does involve someone who is either going to die anyway, or who is going to be in open-ended, severe, unremitting and untreatable agony due to a physical or mental condition, and/or who is unable to contribute to their loved ones in any meaningful way that's over and above the burden they represent on them. These decisions are normally taken with close family members in consultation and in a supportive role, but it is really up to the individual to judge their own quality of life.
I used ordinary because it's a less biased/judgmental term and also because suicides due to personal anguish are, to the best of my knowledge, more common than suicide committed for health reasons. Beyond this, the physical and mental conditions part of what you say falls under physician-assisted suicide (or ought to, if you're also thinking of quadraplegics or a condition not manageable with medications).

Quote:
If your "ordinary" suicide is my "irrational" suicide, then I agree with everything that you're saying. Even the gray area between my two categories, where a person is genuinely not enjoying their life, perhaps because of existential angst more than the active torments of physical or mental illness, often involve commitments and duties to others that require a person of character to bear with their discomfort to the bitter end if necessary. It is a paradox that someone who is genuinely loved and/or needed may be trapped by that very love in an existence they find agonizing for reasons unrelated to their close personal relationships, and for which those relationships to not provide sufficient comfort.
You're correct regarding (1). Beyond this, I fail to see any difference between "existential angst" as you described it and your "grief, depression and other forms of (usually temporary) anguish"; for I fail to see how ordinary / irrational suicide could possible happen were it not accompanied by grief, depression, etc. Severe forms of existential angst may be the source of it, but only if the angst is severe enough. However, the same can be said of losing 90% of one's life savings, divorce, or any other trauma that comes along. Even so, these are very rarely - if ever - sufficient justifications for suicide.


ohio_peasant

Quote:
Originally Posted by ohio_peasant
What I don't condone is the demonization of suicide as some great and inexcusable subversion of the social contract. I would not celebrate suicide as a desirable end, but I would love it if society dismantled the stigma of taking one's own life, as if it were outright murder.
I know you did not accuse me personally of demonizing, but I'll address this anyway in order to make sure that I do not condone stigmatizing it. I fully realize that some pains and agonies are so great that it overwhelms the person's rationale - they want the pain to end NOW! Even so, this still does not change the fact that a person has a duty to consider all options available to him or her, not to mention the consequences and "ripple effects" on others (both immediate social circle and 'sixth degree strangers') before taking the ultimate step.



Matt Marcinkiewicz

Quote:
Originally Posted by Matt Marcinkiewicz
Suicide should be neutral. Life is neutral, death is neutral, suicide is neutral, murder is neutral, etc
Until it isn't - namely for the rest of society and certainly for one's close ones (plus others in the person's social circle). As ohio_peasant said, suicide has ripple effects even among acquaintainces (I assume the co-worker ohio used as an example is only a co-worker and not part of his close circle of friends). That makes both life and death a lit-tle bit beyond neutral, so it seems to me. Because life and especially death affect almost all of us to the core (for good or bad), that makes it obligatory for us to consider the effects of our acts on others and weigh those effects against your own interests before actually carrying out / completing an act. As I said, not giving a damn about the effects of your actions on others undermines the very reasons to have laws, ethics, and informal codes of conduct in the first place.

Last edited by Phil75230; 02-04-2014 at 11:44 AM..
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Old 02-04-2014, 02:07 PM
 
Location: Utica, NY
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Why the assumption that irrational suicide and depression go hand in hand? Many depressed people can be perfectly rational. Irrational is when someone jumps off a building because their spouse cheated or because they just got canned at work.
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Old 02-04-2014, 02:15 PM
 
Location: Somewhere
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil75230 View Post


Because life and especially death affect almost all of us to the core (for good or bad), that makes it obligatory for us to consider the effects of our acts on others and weigh those effects against your own interests before actually carrying out / completing an act. As I said, not giving a damn about the effects of your actions on others undermines the very reasons to have laws, ethics, and informal codes of conduct in the first place.
I would understand if someone is worried about the effect his suicide would have in his family... but coworkers? Coworkers will forget the following week.

The reality is that our death will only impact a very limited group of people. While we may feel sad when someone dies, unless we were very close to them or they were part of our immediate family we won't mourn them for more than a couple of days.

We are very insignificant, especially after we die. Those who were very close to us will mourn us for as long as they live but once they die it's like we never even existed. They only places we will still remain are in some old pictures and in family trees and those only are checked maybe once or twice by each generation.
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Old 02-04-2014, 02:51 PM
 
Location: Northeastern US
14,267 posts, read 9,386,114 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Phil75230 View Post
...I fail to see any difference between "existential angst" as you described it and your "grief, depression and other forms of (usually temporary) anguish"; for I fail to see how ordinary / irrational suicide could possible happen were it not accompanied by grief, depression, etc. Severe forms of existential angst may be the source of it, but only if the angst is severe enough. However, the same can be said of losing 90% of one's life savings, divorce, or any other trauma that comes along. Even so, these are very rarely - if ever - sufficient justifications for suicide.
The distinction I make is between situational and philosophical angst. Just as there is a distinction between reactive and clinical depression. Any sane person will be reactively depressed at the loss of a close relative / spouse, huge financial reverses; if they are not, you would have to wonder a bit about them. These kinds of depressions usually resolve and the person returns to baseline, in reasonably short order. If the assault lasts too long (say, a prisoner of war or political prisoner held for more than a few days and tortured to boot), they may be stuck due to PTSD, but more ordinary assaults on one's composure tend to self-resolve in a reasonably healthy individual with reasonably good social supports in place. Hence, if someone is despondent about, say, the loss of a significant other, the loss of a job, etc., we'd counsel them not to seek "a permanent solution to a temporary problem" because "this, too, shall pass".

However, philosophical angst, which involves the loss of one's illusions and/or the thwarting of one's expectations combined with difficulty substituting other coping mechanisms, could cause a person to lose their enthusiasm for life and find it uncompelling if not downright pointless and uninteresting at least for them personally -- particularly if this is combined with ongoing physical and financial limitations such as those that can come with aging which, though not by themselves that horrible, don't help matters. My argument, though, is that suicide is seldom a good choice for such a person unless they are truly without family and friends and able to close out their other obligations responsibly -- which is seldom the case. Besides, if the story arc of someone else's life would be adversely impacted by your demise, then by definition your existence is not pointless, even if the pointfulness is not something you would have chosen as the entire rationalization for your existence. Suck it up and hang on ... not because it's fun but because it's the Right Thing.

Matt however has a point, though: life and death ARE neutral -- they are just what they are and we should not take them personally. Likewise suicide is neutral -- we cannot know anyone's personal pain and we cannot second guess anyone's personal perception and experience of it. I would not encourage suicide as a first, second, or twenty-fourth choice for the solution of anyone's pain, and yet, even if it leaves others bereaved and challenged by survivor's guilt and the like, I can't judge anyone who goes ahead with it, either. How do I know that their experience of pain was not so great that it would ultimately have caused more harm than their suicide? Would their survivors prefer to have been pulled down by the victim's personal agonies? Such a personal decision is not my business anymore than their sex life or their spending habits or their taste in wine.

All that said ... we essentially agree. As for terminology, I understand "ordinary" is less pejorative than "irrational" but it's also less accurately descriptive and, so far as I know, less understood. The point of the rational / irrational division is not to make fun of irrational suicides, it is to educate people that suicide can, sometimes, be a perfectly rational and responsible course of action, and can be a decision taken in cooperation with other concerned parties, if we would just quit being so horrified at its existence and stop pretending that ALL suicide is the same, is bad, and is intolerable. However, that's probably too much to ask of society at this point in its evolution. Even where physician assisted suicide is allowed, it often requires a candidate to jump through so many hoops, put out so much effort, and take so much time that they might as well not bother. If your doctor gives you six months to live and you're keen to short circuit the expected agonies, by the time you (say) get two physicians on board and get a shrink to certify you "not clinically depressed" and find someone willing to actually assist you, you may well just die naturally before all that comes to pass, particularly if you have just one relative who is resistant to the idea that you also have to fight. Or you may run out of life force for the struggle. And if you had hoped to save your family some $$ ... think again, too.
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Old 02-04-2014, 10:26 PM
Status: "A Communist? Or just a Kham'nist?" (set 25 days ago)
 
Location: Dallas, TX
4,234 posts, read 2,263,229 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Amy1190
Why the assumption that irrational suicide and depression go hand in hand? Many depressed people can be perfectly rational. Irrational is when someone jumps off a building because their spouse cheated or because they just got canned at work.
It's true depressed people can be perfectly rational. Still, depression is probably the major cause of suicide not committed for terminal health or condition reasons. Having said that, I agree that the part I quoted does fall under ordinary / irrational suicide.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sugah Ray
I would understand if someone is worried about the effect his suicide would have in his family... but coworkers? Coworkers will forget the following week.
I only brought up co-workers because ohio brought it up as an example. My point is that suicide is a highly unpleasant experience for all. I'm sure most co-workers would rather get punched in the face than have a close acquaintaince (even if not close friend) commit suicide. As I said in the OP, we have moral rules (formal or not) against certain acts precisely because the act non-trivially disturbs the punched person, then we should have moral rules against the person at the very least exploring ALL known alternatives before committing ordinary / irrational suicide (see the OP for more about this). So it seems that how suicide affects co-workers is a valid issue.

While it is true co-workers will go on with their lives about it after a few days, perhaps a week at most, this is still a case of suicide negatively impacting on co-workers; perhaps even more than the suicide, I, or you thought - even if its only low-level chronic disturbance. This gets into the question of "How much agony for the suicide by staying alive vs. how much agony would suicide create for co-workers", which itself is a huge tangent and cannot help but have strongly subjective components about it (or personal judgment).

mordant

Thanks for clearing up the philosophical vs situational angst. If you ask me, in the real world, these could be intertwined, but not necessarily so. Most irredeemably bad situations seem to be in situational angst, losses so great and so all-encompassing there is no realistic hope of recovery to a minimally bearable level. Philosophical angst, I think, can be dealt with by a change in mindset, namely that preventing or mitigating others' sufferings is the ultimate source of a meaningful life - even if it's something as simple as donating money to charities (or if within their ability, supply the actual physical and mental work to carry out the suffering prevention tasks). That's my take on it, at least. It also dovetails well with the view that we should not create or enable sufferings that are pointless, avoidable, unnecessary, non-compensatory, and generally serves no higher purpose than our own self-interest or the interests of people backing us.

Having said that, I see your point about (basically, unless I misinterpret it) there being a necessarly subjective component about suffering at some level. Nevertheless, I think at least 90% of us are similar enough to each other so that we do react very much the same way to certain kinds of outer stimuli, and thus it's quite possible to make plausible predictions about how other people behave. That includes suicide's effects on society (close friends, co-workers, strangers in desperate need of assistance, etc).

Neutrality---I call something "neutral" if the act is highly improbable to cause dissatisfaction or satisfaction (e.g. a person touching you on the arm or shoulder in an unmistakably non-sexual manner, someone about a sports team you have no personal or emotional attachment to, etc.). Your use of "neutral" seems very much different from my definition. But we're getting off topic
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Old 02-04-2014, 10:28 PM
 
Location: southern california
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japanese and chinese people do it all the time. it is not seen by them as dishonorable at all.
you are seeing things only from the western perspective.
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