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On May 28, 2009, Jennifer Church wrote:

"A more abstract reason for disallowing suicide concerns the apparent contradiction in the idea that we can improve a life by ending a life. The suicide's thought that she will be better off dead seems to contradict the fact that, if dead, she will not be anything. Her desire to retain control over her life by ending it in the way she wants to end seems to contradict the fact that there is no control over a life that has ended. There are other ways to express a suicidal intention, though, that do not lead to such contradictions."

This has been haunting me since I first read it. As suggested, I am unable to devise a non-contradictory logic of suicide (for argument, base this thought on life being a biomechanical phenomenon, no after-life, and really no proof that anything at all remains in existance if you (the contemplator) are not conscious of it.

This has taken on a particular poignancy as a friend has recently killed himself. I see existence continuing despite his absence. There is no more "He" to not feel whatever he was trying to escape. It's as ambiguous to me as spontaneous generation, only backwards.

If, on the other hand, I were to kill myself, nothing would necessarily "continue", existence would cease, I would not be in a better, worse, "no longer suffering" or any other now meaningless state. Intellectually (i.e. right now), I find myself in an "alogical" situation.

February 25, 2010

Response from Nicholas D. Smith on February 25, 2010

I hope Jennifer Church will also answer this one. But I don't quite see why the decision to commit suicide must be based upon the fallacy of thinking that one will be better off. The value of eliminating something bad does not have to derive from some (other) benefit achieved in the process. (See step (C) in the argument below.)

(A) S's life now involves unbearable and irremediable pain and/or suffering of some other sort.

(B) If the life is ended, so will the pain and/or suffering of some other sort.

(C) Ending unbearable and irremediable pain and/or suffering of some other sort is at least sometimes a good reason to do something.

Hence, (D) There can be a good reason to end a life of unbearable pain and/or suffering of some other sort.

I see nothing in this argument that presupposes the fallacy you mention--for example, it is not assumed that by ending the pain and/or suffering of some other sort that the one whose pain or suffering has been ended will be "better off." As you say, they won't be "better off," they will simply be gone. But the pain or suffering will also be gone, and that's not such a bad thing.


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