The concept of suicide has always been the controversial debate topic among the philosophers. Since the birth of Christianity in Western world, committing a suicide is generally accepted as the act of immorality and the transgression of our duty toward God. By mid-16th century, David Hume, a Scottish philosopher, questions this traditional duty-based ethic of suicide. As he
puts it: “…though death alone can put a full period to his misery, he dare not…a vain fear left he offend his Maker” (On Suicide, p.55). On his famous paper “On Suicide”, he defends the act of suicide and concludes that suicide is at least sometimes permissible. This paper will examine the essay itself in depth and counter argues about his view since the commitment of suicide deprives us from the future possibilities.
The ultimate goal of Hume’s essay is to “restore men to their native liberty, by examining all the common arguments against Suicide, and showing that that action may be free from imputation of guilt or blame” (On Suicide, p.55). He argues that people’s confusion about the morality of suicide is based on the “superstition being found on false opinion” (On Suicide, p.55) and can only be gone “when true philosophy has inspired juster sentiments of superior powers” (On Suicide, p.55). He states that “if suicide be criminal, it must be a transgression of our duty either to God, our neighbor, or ourselves” (On Suicide, p.55).
In most theological argument about the suicide, it argues that altering the length of one’s natural life is impious to God. As Socrates puts it:” the gods are our keepers, and we men are one of their possessions... we must not put an end to ourselves until God sends some compulsion like the one we are now facing” (Phaedo, 62a). In Christian church, the act of suicide is against the natural laws of God and one who commits it is permanently labelled as criminal. Hume questions on this ‘natural’ course of things. He starts by pointing that basic nature in reality is “…two distinct principles of the material and animal world, continually encroach upon each other, and mutually retard or forward each other’s operation”(On Suicide, p.55). According to Hume, God is the creator of system of inanimate and animal creature that “governs everything by those general and immutable laws” (On Suicide, p.56). Human life is not an exception. Under these natural laws of God, all human beings use their entrusted power to seek “their ease, happiness, or preservation” (On Suicide, p.56). He argues that if suicide is required for one’s happiness or preservation, it is permissible since it is a natural process of human under the laws of God.
Hume states that “a man who retires from life does no harm to society: He only ceases to do good” (On Suicide, p.58). After committing a suicide, an individual will not be able to fulfill the duties towards to the greater good of society. However, it also means that if the expense of continuing a miserable life is greater than the...