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Is it consistent to be a libertarian while opposing suicide on moral grounds?

Is it consistent to be a libertarian while opposing suicide on moral grounds?

Typically, a libertarian (in the domain of politics; "libertarian" is also the label for someone who adopts a view in philosophy of mind or action theory involving free will) is someone who believes that societies should have a government that is the smallest possible in order to protect certain basis rights (perhaps a proper government should, on the grounds that persons have the right to life, prohibit murder and seek to prevent it). A libertarian might (on rare occasions) support some publicly funded health care, but he or she would (ideally) like such matters to be funded by individuals voluntarily by the individuals themselves. So, what about libertarians and suicide? If the libertarian believes that a minimal government should prohibit and prevent murder and she believes that suicide is wrong because it is a case of self-murder, then she may consistently support the government's prohibition and prevention of suicide. However, she may be "opposing suicide on" different moral grounds, e.g. she thinks it is prohibited by God or she thinks that in almost all cases suicide is ruled out on Kantian or utilitarian grounds. For the most part, libertarians do not think these religious or philosophical judgments of these kinds should be employed by the state to control its citizens. So, in this case when suicide is deemed wrong but not as grave a wrong as murder, a libertarian may well contend that suicide is indeed wrong (persons who commit suicide are doing something morally wrong), only adding that it is not within a government's right to make suicide illegal.

There is one additional side to things: while a libertarian may oppose there being an overall, federal government that makes suicide illegal (assuming suicide is not self-murder), her moral objections to suicide may motivate her to join a society voluntarily that makes suicide prohibited. Without knowing the details, I imagine that most Christian monasteries and Muslim communities have rules that forbid suicide (e.g. they would not fund or support the "physician-assisted suicide" of one of its members). A libertarian might join some such organization while still not supporting a governmental prohibition of suicide.

Typically, a libertarian (in the domain of politics; "libertarian" is also the label for someone who adopts a view in philosophy of mind or action theory involving free will) is someone who believes that societies should have a government that is the smallest possible in order to protect certain basis rights (perhaps a proper government should, on the grounds that persons have the right to life, prohibit murder and seek to prevent it). A libertarian might (on rare occasions) support some publicly funded health care, but he or she would (ideally) like such matters to be funded by individuals voluntarily by the individuals themselves. So, what about libertarians and suicide? If the libertarian believes that a minimal government should prohibit and prevent murder and she believes that suicide is wrong because it is a case of self-murder, then she may consistently support the government's prohibition and prevention of suicide. However, she may be "opposing suicide on" different moral grounds, e.g. she...

Dear philosophers,

Dear philosophers, I have 2 questions: 1. Do you believe that it is morally permissible for an unmarried person (who has no children to care for) and who has battled depression for many years to commit suicide ? 2. What is your opinion of Liberalism which asserts that a person's life belongs only to them, and no other person has the right to force their own ideals by which that life must be lived ? Thanks, William

William: I think Professor Antony's reply is deep and commendable. I would only add a minor point about self-ownership or the thesis that one's life only belongs to one's self.

"Belonging" can involve property rights (this house belongs to me) but it can also refer to what is good for a person (e.g. he belongs in a hospital, she belongs in a great school, etc). If you step back from your current state (a very difficult act of abstraction, I agree!), can you see that you belong in a caring, curative therapeutic process? I think if you can begin to begin seeing that, you can see a different path than self-destruction. In a way, part of an answer to your question will involve not just a matter of liberalism versus a conservative, paternalistic form of governance, but it will involve a philosophy of values and one's overall understanding of the cosmos. For example, one of the reasons Christian philosophers historically opposed suicide (even the dignified suicide of Lucretius which was valorized in Ancient Rome --see the early chapters of Augustine's City of God) was because they believed that the purpose of life included joy, a joy in creation and Creator. This was why some Chritians historically defined despair as a refusal of joy. Clearly this was NOT taking into account the clinical, organic roots of depression and despair, nor was this taking seriously ways in which depression or despair can be quite involuntary and not a matter of choice (refusal or acceptance). But I mention this to suggest that you might take seriously some worldviews that hold out joy as an attainable, desirable end, even if it must be sought out not just philosophically or theologically but through careful medical practice. To give a somewhat secular alternative example, you might look at John Stewart Mill's autobiography and his account of his misery and despair. He emerged partly through meditative readings of the romantic poets Wordsworth and Coleridge. I note this as "somewhat secular," as their poetry had a rich spirituality not quite akin to secular naturalism.

William: I think Professor Antony's reply is deep and commendable. I would only add a minor point about self-ownership or the thesis that one's life only belongs to one's self. "Belonging" can involve property rights (this house belongs to me) but it can also refer to what is good for a person (e.g. he belongs in a hospital, she belongs in a great school, etc). If you step back from your current state (a very difficult act of abstraction, I agree!), can you see that you belong in a caring, curative therapeutic process? I think if you can begin to begin seeing that, you can see a different path than self-destruction. In a way, part of an answer to your question will involve not just a matter of liberalism versus a conservative, paternalistic form of governance, but it will involve a philosophy of values and one's overall understanding of the cosmos. For example, one of the reasons Christian philosophers historically opposed suicide (even the dignified suicide of Lucretius which was valorized in...

I have a practical question that arises from my Solipsistic views. The more

I have a practical question that arises from my Solipsistic views. The more negatively I view my life as a whole, the more disturbed I am by the prospect of my own suicide. When I feel my life has meaning, the option of eventual suicide, though not in the near future, becomes attractive. Conversely, when I feel helpless and depressed, I would rather let nature kill me. However, this tendency reverses when I entertain the thought that people exist outside of my mind. Even coming from a Solipsist who holds that nothing outside of the mind can be known, my attitude towards suicide depends upon the reality outside the mind. Since I have to make the decision of whether to live or die, I have to also take a stance on what exists apart from the mind. How do I choose which potentiality to base this decision upon? Can there be any reason to prefer one potential scenario to another? The scenario where others exist apart from my mind comes more naturally, but is this reason enough to continue entertaining it, hence...

I am not sure there has ever been any actual solipsist. Keep in mind that a solipsist thinks that only he /she exists. There is no one else. This is as radical a view as possible, though perhaps NYU professor Peter Unger went slightly further in a paper of his called something like "Why I don't exist"! If you are a solipsist, you are committed to holding that none of us exist --you are not in communication with any person outside of yourself. The difficulty of actually holding such a position comes out in an encounter that Bertrand Russell once reported. Russell tells us that he met a woman who thought solipsism was a great philosophy and she was surprised more people aren't solipsists. The reason this might be funny is because if the woman was truly a solipsist, she would not recognize that there are any other people at all.

You may be conflating solipsism and radical skepticism. A skeptic may claim not to know about "the external world" or "other minds," but that is different from claiming that only one person exists and that person is me or, in your case, you, which means I do not exist.

Your reflections on suicide are worrisome and if this is something you are seriously contemplating, I strongly urge you to receive help asap especially as your decision on such matters may be more influenced by psychological feelings of depression and helplessness rather than, say, philosophical reflection on arguments about suicide. Some philosophers have defended the permissibility of suicide under extreme conditions (Stoics, David Hume...) while some have argued against it (Socrates, John Locke...). I think one of the best cases against suicide, and I urge you to read it sooner rather than later, may be found in the early chapters of Augustine's The City of God.

I am not sure there has ever been any actual solipsist. Keep in mind that a solipsist thinks that only he /she exists. There is no one else. This is as radical a view as possible, though perhaps NYU professor Peter Unger went slightly further in a paper of his called something like "Why I don't exist"! If you are a solipsist, you are committed to holding that none of us exist --you are not in communication with any person outside of yourself. The difficulty of actually holding such a position comes out in an encounter that Bertrand Russell once reported. Russell tells us that he met a woman who thought solipsism was a great philosophy and she was surprised more people aren't solipsists. The reason this might be funny is because if the woman was truly a solipsist, she would not recognize that there are any other people at all. You may be conflating solipsism and radical skepticism. A skeptic may claim not to know about "the external world" or "other minds," but that is different from...