Gordon Graham Hume, Suicide and Justice Gordon Graham, Princeton Theological Seminary In this paper I want to explore some of the moral issues surrounding suicide and their relevance, if any, to the concern with justice which must inform a penal system. In doing so I hope not only to arrive at some clear, if provisional, conclusions, but to show that is possible to engage in the sort of rational analysis which any serious approach to moral questions requires.
The person who cares too much for their body cares too little for virtue. Hume was in London and a friend who visited him found him "in deepest affliction and in a flood of tears. Indeed it appears that many of those contemporaries who thought him to be a good man, reconciled this judgement with their own faith only by assuming that Hume was in some way a believer such as they.
In his journal of eight years after Hume's death Boswell writes that he Awakened after a very agreeable dream that I had found a Diary kept by David Hume, from which it appeared that though his vanity made him publish treatises of scepticism and infidelity, he was in reality a Christian and a very pious man2 Not all eighteenth century dogmatists shared this view.
Samuel Johnson, Boswell tells us, "holds Mr Hume in abhorrence and left a company one night upon his coming in. In the same edition Strahan published a letter from Adam Smith, written just after Hume's death, in which Smith describes the tranquillity with which Hume died and reaffirms that he made no death-bed confession.
Far from criticizing the character of the atheist philosopher, Smith praises him: Thus died our most excellent and never to be forgotten friend Upon the whole I have always considered him, both in his lifetime and since his death, as approaching as nearly to the idea of a perfectly wise and virtuous man, as perhaps the nature of human frailty will permit.
In addition to newspaper and journal articles, George Home, William Agutter and John Wesley all published sermons or pamphlets on the subject.
Adam Smith also came in for criticism for his supportive attitude to Hume; ten years after his letter to Strahan he wrote about the yearwhich had seen the publication of The Wealth of Nations as well as the death of David Hume: A single, and as I thought, a very harmless sheet of paper which I happened to write concerning the death of our late friend, Mr Hume, brought upon me ten times more abuse than the very violent attack I had made upon the whole commercial system of Great Britain.
Advance copies were printed and sent to friends, but two of the essays, including "Of Suicide", were then withdrawn owing to fear of official persecution.
With Remarks, intended as an Antidote to the Poison contained in these Performances.
The background to the essay sheds some light on the audience to which it was addressed and the climate of opinion in which Hume was working. In the s suicide was not an easy choice of subject for an essay of moral philosophy.
Writing a century later Arthur Schopenhauer makes this point: The most thorough refutation [of the reasons against suicide] has been furnished by Hume in his essay On Suicide, which first appeared after his death and was at once suppressed in England by the disgraceful bigotry and scandalous power of the parsons The hostility shown towards Hume as a person and towards his views on religion and death - including suicide - are symptomatic of the depth of feeling that this debate generates.
I also consider the essay itself and the arguments within it: Is Hume's essay as successful as Schopenhauer claims it to be?
First, a summary of the essay itself: Hume approaches the question of suicide from the standpoint of the advantages of the philosophical temper over the superstitious disposition. He begins by suggesting that philosophy is the best antidote to superstition and false religion: What is more, the person who lives a miserable existence in the clutches of superstition is prevented from putting an end to their misery: The first purports to show that suicide is not a transgression of our duty towards God; the second that it is not a transgression of our duty towards society; the third that it is not a transgression of our duty to ourselves.
The first takes six pages, the second and third a page each. It is safe to assume that Hume's principal target was the theological argument against suicide: The second and third arguments are less compelling, for which reason there is still a discussion to be had about the moral status of acts of suicide.
According to Plato, Socrates argued against suicide the day prior to his own death, saying "the gods are our keepers, and we men are one of their possessions Suicide was not a penal offence in Ancient Greece and many notable Greeks took their own lives.
Likewise there is no evidence of anti-suicide legislation in Ancient Rome. Again, many philosophers accepted the right of citizens although not slaves or soldiers to kill themselves, and many prominent Romans did just that. Such tolerant attitudes did not survive long into the Christian era. The church's position on suicide was set out first by Augustine.
Faced with a growing number of Christian suicides - some in order to avoid rape or torture by enemies and some motivated by a desire to leave this earthly existence as soon as possible in the hope of heavenly bliss - Augustine argued that neither the fear of death, nor the fear of loss of holiness, nor the fear of future sin on one's own part, were sufficient reason to take one's life.
Suicide contravenes the Sixth Commandment and as such is a sin. It shows weakness of character and lack of faith.
There are no circumstances, Augustine tells us, in which it would be right for a Christian to take their life. The church established a series of punishments to discourage potential suicides: The bodies of suicides were customarily buried at crossroads with a stake driven through the chest: Suicide also brought financial penalties:David Hume gave voice to this new approach with a direct assault on the Thomistic position in his unpublished essay “Of suicide” ().
Hume saw traditional attitudes toward suicide as muddled and superstitious. Hume, Suicide and Justice Gordon Graham, Princeton Theological Seminary In this paper I want to explore some of the moral issues surrounding suicide and their relevance, if any, to the concern with justice which must inform a penal system.
Mar 09, · Hume, on the contrary, thinks that suicide is morally permissible, also on the grounds of his analysis of duties. He talks about three types of duties: to god, to ourselves, and to others. I will skip the first category, since I don’t think there are any gods toward whom we have any monstermanfilm.com: Rationally Speaking.
May 17, · Famously, David Hume argued that a theist could accept the permissibility of suicide in his essay Of Suicide. The libertarian framework is based on libertarian moral and political theory. Libertarians typically believe that we have a natural right of self-ownership, i.e.
ownership over our bodies, our labour and the fruits of our labour (the. David Hume gave voice to this new approach with a direct assault on the Thomistic position in his unpublished essay “Of suicide” ().
Hume saw traditional attitudes toward . David Hume’s “Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion” shields suicide while Emile Durkheim’s “Suicide and Modernity” unearths the causes.
Durkheim and Hume label suicide differently because their perspectives varied from the moral structures in their positions. Their causative ideas of suicide are just as dissimilar as their definitions.