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Chapter 13 - On suicide

from PARERGA AND PARALIPOMENA, VOLUME 2

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 November 2015

Adrian Del Caro
Affiliation:
University of Tennessee
Christopher Janaway
Affiliation:
University of Southampton
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Summary

§157

As far as I can tell, it is only the monotheistic, which is to say, Jewish religions whose confessors regard suicide as a crime. This is all the more notable since neither in the Old nor the New Testament can we find any kind of prohibition or even a mere firm disapproval of it, which is why the teachers of religion have to base their taboo against suicide on their own philosophical grounds. Meanwhile, these grounds are so shaky that they seek to compensate for the lack of strength of their arguments by the strength of expression of their horror, hence through verbal abuse. And so we have to hear that suicide is the greatest cowardice, or is only possible in madness, and further absurdities of this kind; or even the totally senseless phrase that suicide is ‘wrong’, even though quite obviously there is nothing in the world to which everyone has such an indisputable right as his own person and life. (Cf. §121.) Suicide, as mentioned, is even counted as a crime, and so it carries with it an ignominious burial and confiscation of one's estate, which is why the jury almost always renders a verdict of insanity. Let us try for the time being to allow our moral feelings to decide on this matter, and compare the impression on us of the news that an acquaintance has committed a crime, say murder, cruelty, fraud or theft, with the news of his voluntary death. Whereas the former occasions lively indignation, supreme resentment, and calls for punishment or revenge, the latter arouses sorrow and compassion often mixed with a certain admiration for his courage, rather than the moral disapproval which accompanies a bad action. Who has not had acquaintances, friends, relatives who have voluntarily departed this world? And everyone is supposed to think of them with revulsion, as criminals? I say no and no again! On the contrary, I am of the opinion that just once the clergy should be called to account, to explain by what mandate they label as criminal the deed of those many human beings whom we honoured and loved, and deny an honest burial to those who depart this world voluntarily. From their pulpits and in their writings they do this, without being able to cite any biblical authority, indeed without having any kind of valid philosophical arguments.

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Chapter
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Schopenhauer: Parerga and Paralipomena
Short Philosophical Essays
, pp. 276 - 280
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2015

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