i apologize for my ambiguity. is your view different of suicide in, say, 1735 France? in this other cultural cases you would not consider it to be immoral and unethical, is that correct?
I don't know about 1735 France because I'm not very familiar with that particular time period and culture. But in some cultural cases, no, I would not consider it to be unethical. For example, as FK offered, the elderly among the Innuit would sometimes leave the group to die by exposure to allow more food and resources for the young. I am also aware that in some Asian cultures, suicide is an appropriate response to great shame and that in India, it has (until recently) been appropriate for a woman to burn herself to death on her husband's funeral pyre, which obviously reduced the social load of widows on the rest of the family.
Personally, I find all of these socially acceptable forms of suicide to be sad compromises to problems that could be handled better socially, but I understand that within the constraints under which people are operating, they make sense. I still think the systems should support life and should not make the appropriate course of action cutting a healthy life short, but I can understand why it is the case.
To be honest, I tend not to deal with questions of ethical/unethical except in reference to myself. The rest of the world, I strive in my own life to bring as much harmony as possible (guided by the Spirit), and abstain from judgement unless it is to look at practically, functionality, sustainability, and so forth. So it is somewhat futile to me to attempt to define various instances of suicide as ethical or unethical. I tend to see it more as an issue of "Is this the best possible option? Is this the best way to handle things socially- that is, does it contribute more or less than another option to suffering? To sustainability of society and environment? To sustaining life?" Beyond that, I really don't go unless pushed by other people, and then it's very difficult for me to say as it's just not my approach to the world. I'm too acclimated to being an analytical relativist.
unselfish for whom? why does the person contemplating suicide have less right for their feelings to be consdiered?
I think society is built on altruism. As social creatures, we must consistently consider others' feelings alongside our own or society would not function. So I see this as an outgrowth of that. As I said before, suicide is a case where a single person's suffering is then proliferated into many people's suffering.
it seems like you are indicating that the selfishness of the people that care about the potential suicide is ok and, in fact, is reason for the person not to go through with the act though your argument is that suicide is wrong, primarily, because it's selfish. if i held that it's ok to be selfish in some cases and not ok to be selfish in other cases then i would suspect that using this distinction to make a moral or ethical conclusion would be problematic at best.
Not exactly. I am saying that I do not think it is selfish to wish for a person who is otherwise healthy could be healed from mental or physical pain so that they can continue their life. I think that is a natural and good impulse in social creatures. I also think it is not selfish to want to be free from mental abuse, and I do see suicide as mentally abusive to the others around the individual.
i don't know this to be so. i know, many, many families in Asia that have lost family members to suicide and the newspapers from that part of the world have stories regarding this sort of thing on a monthly basis.
I'm sorry- I was talking about suicide due to depression and the statistics I'd seen on national rates of depression. From what I had read about Asia, suicide is often a response to shame. However, maybe suicide in general is too problematic to discuss and too culturally-bound, necessitating discussion on a case by case basis.
all good questions which deserve a thread of their own to be properly discussed, which i'd be happy to do with you, as this thread is only concerned with suicide.
My point was that suicide raises the same questions for me. It fits in the same category of behaviors that cause many others in the society psychological distress and lasting social problems (such as being widowed or orphaned). And to say that it is all the same- the desires of the suicidal person and those around them- has a logical extension for me that negates the ethical importance of altruistic behavior. I am not proposing to discuss these other things, but rather showing the problem of extension.
is that a valid basis for making a moral judgement regarding it, simply that it doesn't help? there are many actions within a beings life that cannot reasonably said to help them yet most of them are not considered immoral for this fact, at least in my world view.
I don't tend to look at things as immoral vs. moral. I look at things in terms of a spectrum of actions that range from the best choice (and most harmonious) to the worst choice. This is probably why we're struggling a bit. I am trying to force my views on suicide (based on a spectrum) into an oppositional categorical system of ethical/unethical. What I feel is that it isn't the best choice, and so it is more unethical than ethical. Things that don't help and simultaneously harm other people are not the best choices, in my opinion. Things that don't help and but have no deleterious effects on anyone are neutral at best and at worst, a waste of a being's time. Of course, that leaves open the very huge arena of defining what "helping" is and I already said that another being may think suicide does help, whereas I do not.
sorry, i misunderstood your initial response to this thread then.
I was reflecting on my own experience, but I was not saying my decision is based solely on my own desire to avoid pain. I know I can withstand the pain and I am neutral to whether or not that happens again. That is, I would not prevent suicide because of my own pain, but rather because I think it is usually curable and a better choice to heal the person, and because I recognize the problem of perpetuating suffering among others. For my own part, I worked through the pain, but it did give me insight into what it is like to find a suicide victim one knows and an intimate look at how it effects family members, children, etc.
is there a point when you stop trying to heal them? what does "protecting them from harming themselves" actually mean other than physically restraining them?
Physical restraint of the body is not necessary if the environment is not conducive. I think like all medical illnesses, a panel of doctors can determine when all options have been tried and none meet success. Of course it's imperfect (as is all life), but I think that is better than simply accepting suicide regardless of an attempt to cure the underlying problem. To me, that is like the parents that don't bother seeking medical attention for their child and only pray, and then the child dies. I simply see it as not the best choice. I think we were given the capacity to reason and heal for a purpose, and we should try our best to use these wisely before accepting defeat.
hope is so nebulous as to hardly say anything other than to indicate that a person that wanted to commit suicide could be held against their will indefinitely until the loved ones finally gave up hope.
I disagree. I think several medical opinions, after a time of trying to cure a person, can deliver some solid assessment on the likelihood of healing. This is not to say there aren't miracles, but like using life support, I'm not for indefinitely trying to force a being into living. I simply think that for all concerned, there should be a solid attempt at healing before accepting something as incurable.
it is difficult to imagine a view more at odds with what i consider to be human rights, ethics and morality.
So, in spite of suicide being generally caused by some sort of illness (and one that often warps reason and long-term thinking), there hould be no attempt by loved ones to heal the person? Or do you just feel that all attempts should stop at involuntary inpatient care? Is there any distinction between involuntary inpatient care for a person who is only suicidal vs. a person with other mental illnesses that makes it impossible for them to live a life without being in an institution? What about for patients that are not yet violent but have a mental illness that could result in violence?
I'm trying to understand your parameters for determining individual human rights vs. social continuity. It is a difficult question of what to do with individuals who are mentally ill or disabled and unable to survive on their own. At least with suicide, the underlying causes are often not permanent, so it would seem ethical to me to temporarily make this decision for them in order to alleviate the illness and return them to full decision-making power.
so it's unethical in most cases unless the society allows such actions. is it immoral in those cases or is that also a dictum of the society?
Hopefully my post explained this. I just don't usually think in terms of two categories. I see things in terms of a spectrum and what fits with my sense of a path of most harmony and beings learning to end suffering without ending life or numbing consciousness.
As an analytical relativist, I tend to see ethics as culturally-bound. In my own case, I feel that I am guided by God on a path of most harmony (which means best possible choices). In my dealings with others, rather than judging their actions in some absolute sense, I look at how their actions impact others (on a spectrum of help or harm) and life itself.
Hope that helps explain it. I realize in looking back over my posts that I am writing quite telegraphically at points and that my own point of view on ethical matters is probably a bit unusual. It's been interesting to grow into more conscious awareness of this through our conversation.