In the Interest of Integrity

I mentioned that there was an interesting and enlightening comments section in my suicide posts, so I do want to publicly announce a few things – like how I was wrong.

  1. Suicide is NOT cowardly in every circumstance. Sometimes it is a matter of a mental disorder taking over your mind. I was WRONG when I said that suicide was an objectively cowardly action.
  2. Sometimes suicide is not cowardly but motivated by wildly wrong reasons. George Bailey jumping into the river so his family gets the life insurance isn’t cowardly. It’s wildly misguided (also a Very Bad Thing).

WITH THAT SAID: SOME suicide is cowardly. How else are we to make sense of Judas’s suicide? Judas killed himself out of despair of God’s forgiveness, which is another way of saying he gave in to fear of damnation.

And euthanasia is cowardly. Yes, really. Remember the young woman who was recently euthanized to avoid the pain of a long illness? Sometimes I am asked if I would have done it. This is one of the few times I think I can honestly answer with a “no, absolutely not”. That would be giving up and deciding life isn’t worth living because of pain. Those who get euthanized are acting out of fear for the future.

That’s not to say, mind you, that circumstances shouldn’t be brought into account. But they also shouldn’t be excuses, and we should call a spade a spade.

So anyway, I was wrong. But I also think that even admitting that suicide is SOMETIMES cowardly is verboten in polite society, and I at least stand by that statement. I did, however, think it a matter of honesty to get my new views out to the more general public.

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19 Responses to In the Interest of Integrity

  1. In the general you are not wrong.

    How else are we to make sense of Judas’s suicide? Judas killed himself out of despair of God’s forgiveness, which is another way of saying he gave in to fear of damnation.

    Actually Judas’ suicide brings up a point that I think is sometimes not discussed. That is what if someone does something which is objectively, morally wrong, but which society does not recognize. A healthy sense of morality, of guilt, desires for ourselves to be punished, that the scales of justice in the universe be righted. But if a person cannot find that assuruge of their guilt… what then? When one needs penance but it is denied…? (I really do not have an answer to this) This was also examined in the EXTREMELY well done ST:DS9 episode, Duet. (watch that video if you haven’t seen the episode)

    Sometimes I am asked if I would have done it. This is one of the few times I think I can honestly answer with a “no, absolutely not”.

    Here’s hoping you never have to be tested like that, Malcolm. I once had a kidney stone (one of the worst pains ever) and at its worst you’re just about driven mad by the pain. If it got worse, one can see how death would be welcomed. I’m not saying they should be killed, but I am saying that maybe we should not be so quick to consider keeping them alive a mercy. Nor do I have any answers there either (other than ideally terminal patients would be the ones assigned to suicide missions/tasks – but then I’m kind of examining it in my own little fan fic series). Again discussed by Chuck in reviewing Equinox and how prepared are any of us for the long, slow unending grind.

    • I never called keeping them alive a mercy, and thank you for the good wishes.

      I have nothing but sympathy for that woman, which is why I think death shouldn’t even be OFFERED. Like abortion, if it is even on the table it is understandable people will take the option. In a moment of weakness, of course I might. It’s just that in normal thought I wouldn’t even consider it.

      • Sorry, that was a reply to the general idea, not to you specifically. (hope you enjoy the episode reviews, it’s amazing to me how often Chuck can have a better and more in-depth discussion about morality at times than some self-called religious bloggers – present company excluded)

        Jonah Goldberg had a good point on this once let me see if I… ah found it!
        http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/204693/restoring-hidden-law/jonah-goldberg

        Euthanasia, for instance, used to be the sort of thing left up to families and priests and doctors and friends. If someone is in pain and there’s no hope of saving his life, the relevant loved ones would make that decision. Yes, it is illegal to kill someone. But the representatives of the state would simply turn a blind eye in such an instance, because society understands that the state is ill-equipped to deal with such things.

        Read the rest.

      • Well, I could not disagree with his estimation of the Jones beatdown more. Was the cop giving Jones a kick in the pants or a slap on the wrist as a punishment meant to make a point or avoid jail? Because if not, his analogies fail. And obviously that isn’t what happened. What happened is that cops beat the crap out of a criminal they caught because they hated what he did, instead of turning him over to the justice system where he could receive the maximum penalty he richly deserves.

        Their reaction was understandable, and I’m sympathetic. It’s also unacceptable, and the cops should have been punished for it.

      • Perhaps, but it wasn’t about jones, it was about the importance of hidden law in a functioning society. Briggs used baseball to make a similar point in this post.

      • I get what he’s saying, and there’s something to it.

        BTW, the soccer thing is nothing new. We had a similar seven goal rule.

      • ….Ok now I think you’re just messing with me on seeing how much you can miss the point. like…

        “Well you’ve heard the warning from the boy who cried, wolf, right?”
        “You know I have a phobia of wolves? Terrifying predators they are.”

        This is me, making the Philip J Fry “not sure” face.

      • No, no, I agree with your general point. I’m pointing out how widespread that attitude is. ‘Tis a stupid one.

  2. Syllabus says:

    @Malcolm:

    WITH THAT SAID: SOME suicide is cowardly.

    Sure. Like the suicide of Cleopatra, for instance, or that of Hitler. I wouldn’t deny that at all.

    And euthanasia is cowardly.

    I think that depends upon when the decision to euthanize is made. In the case of the young woman with the brain tumour, yes, that might be cowardly. But suppose she went into the affair intending not to be euthanized but to stick it out to the bitter end. Several months in, she is in excruciating pain all the time, such that she often isn’t acting rationally. If she begged at that time to be euthanized, I’d be inclined to say that that’s roughly analogous to the example I gave last time of the soldier being pumped full of sodium pentathol.

    @Nate:

    Here’s hoping you never have to be tested like that, Malcolm. I once had a kidney stone (one of the worst pains ever) and at its worst you’re just about driven mad by the pain.

    I think it just may be a matter of mental makeup, though. Last year I was in the hospital with a broken back and ribs (not as bad as it sounds, but pretty damned bad all the same), and that was just pure hell. Even during recovery, though, I never had the urge to end my life just because of the pain. Not that I was strong and resisted, but because the thought never occurred to me as an option. I think that, for some people, the resistance of suicide as a means to end pain isn’t a matter of strength, but of lack of ability to consider it an option. So for some people, resistance to suicide is a matter of moral courage; for some, it isn’t. Sort of like how refusing a cup of wine is different for a person who only occasionally drinks than for a recovering alcoholic or whatever.

    • Very true too. Not all suffer from the same temptations.

    • Not that I was strong and resisted, but because the thought never occurred to me as an option. I think that, for some people, the resistance of suicide as a means to end pain isn’t a matter of strength, but of lack of ability to consider it an option.

      Wow, I was going to write that pretty close to word for word, but you beat me to it.

      I think that depends upon when the decision to euthanize is made. In the case of the young woman with the brain tumour, yes, that might be cowardly. But suppose she went into the affair intending not to be euthanized but to stick it out to the bitter end. Several months in, she is in excruciating pain all the time, such that she often isn’t acting rationally. If she begged at that time to be euthanized, I’d be inclined to say that that’s roughly analogous to the example I gave last time of the soldier being pumped full of sodium pentathol.

      Fair point. I hadn’t even really considered that when I made that comment.

      The young woman succumbed to cowardice, but to understandable and sympathetic cowardice, which of course just makes it all the more insidious.

  3. Ilíon says:

    2.Sometimes suicide is not cowardly but motivated by wildly wrong reasons. George Bailey jumping into the river so his family gets the life insurance isn’t cowardly. It’s wildly misguided (also a Very Bad Thing).

    But that *is* cowardly.

    • I thought of George’s act. Would you say it was cowardly? In his mind it was the best thing to do to help his family – an act of extreme bravery.

      Of course, it’s an evil act of bravery, but nonetheless.

      • Ilíon says:

        Would you say it was cowardly?

        That’s what I did say.

        In his mind it was the best thing to do to help his family – an act of extreme bravery.

        No, it was the easy thing — he was thinking like the fellow who is always running after the latest get-rich-quick scheme to “help his family”, rather than doing the boring drudgery of steadily/consistently working every day.

      • That’s not exactly the context, though.George was convinced he was going to be arrested and the Building and Loan was going to go bankrupt. He couldn’t very well provide for his family in jail. This was, in his mind, George’s last option.

      • Ilíon says:

        I guess I missed the part where he could provide from the grave better than from jail. 😉

      • Well, he wasn’t exactly thinking rationally. Remember Potter? After asking him the coverage provided by his life insurance he says You’re worth more dead than alive, which prompts the near-suicide attempt.

  4. Cale B.T. says:

    Any thoughts on the death of Razias in 2nd Maccabees 14:37-42, Malcolm?

    • A description of a suicide as seen through the lens of a Jew writing about a Jewish hero, in a world before Christ.

      Nowadays we respect such actions in a Pagan sense but reject them as Christians.

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