What Morally Separates Suicide From Murder?

There is a long tradition of people who contend that suicide is not morally impermissible. Yet, I am not convinced. I have a simple question which I believe demonstrates the immorality of suicide. I have not yet received an answer from anyone I have asked. So I open this discourse up to you. The question is below; please feel free to share your thoughts.

Murder is immoral because it violates somebody’s right to life. My rights only extend to the point where your rights begin. So, when I use my rights to violate yours, it is immoral/unjust.

My question is why my rights are different. Why is it morally permissible for me to use my rights to violate my own? Why does my autonomy extend beyond my right to life (if it does)?

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2 responses to “What Morally Separates Suicide From Murder?

  1. We must, as the writer of Bushido, distinguish between two types of “suicide”.

    The first type is caused by despair or spite: that is, the person, out of a hatred for life, hope, living, another person, society, etc, will willfully abandon the world, or “end it all”. This type of suicide I am firmly convinced is immoral: even in cultures (such as Japan) where suicide was customary and praised, a cowardly escape from life’s “realities” was dishonorable. Consider: what difference is there between a person ending it all and trying to destroy the world? To his point of view, the effect (and often motivation) is the same.

    But there is another kind of suicide, which, if executed for the right purpose, is not only moral, but noble and glorious. For of course it is a sort of suicide to plunge into a burning house to save a child, or to march as a soldier to the battle of the Somme. I do not think, though that this is of a questionable moral rectitude.

    The question I think is most apparent here is: what about suicide bombers (both Kamikaze and modern Terrorists, as well as other intentionally self-destructive acts of war). To judge this I think there are a few factors:
    -The justness of the cause to which duty is owed
    -The target or enemy
    -The method
    -Whether or not there are non-combatants involved

    But as a general rule I would think that most people destroying themselves with tout hope for their own or their cause’s and comrades/families survival, are wrong.

    • I agree with you that there are different motivations for why one may take his/her life. My question regards only the first one you speak of. The others, such as sacrifice and martyrdom, require an entirely separate moral evaluation because of the effects on others.

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