PHIL 1100 Lecture Notes - Lecture 10: Lightning

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25 Aug 2016
David Hume (1711–1776) (1755 unpublished), “Of Suicide”
Philosophy, “the sovereign antidote which it affords to superstition and false religion”
oAlmost like superstition is an illness
The common sense view about suicide, in Hume’s day, which was the religious view,
was that suicide is immoral
oWe have a natural instinct for avoiding death; add superstition and there’s an
extreme fear of it (?) we lose power over our lives
oSuicide robs us of natural pleasures
With this paper Hume wants to “restore men to their native liberty”
oFreedom to commit suicide; he’s going to argue against all the common
Latin cide = to kill
Latin sui = of oneself
oKilling yourself because of low quality of life
Keep in mind that Hume did not believe in life after death
See “Of the Immortality of the Soul,” which he wrote along with “Of Suicide” in 1755,
and also Boswell’s meeting with Hume on his deathbed, “David Hume, Just A-Dying”
His argument:
Suicide is breaking a duty against ourselves, other people, or God
1.a.1. Suicide is a breach of duty against God
To govern the physical world, God has rules like Gravity, nature is bodily and mental
power (memory,, judgement) these two worlds are in conflict
oSince God made everything and knows everything, then God had fore-knowledge
of all events therefore these are the actions of God (every event is important in the
eyes of God)
oThe Death of people may be pronounced the action of the almighty and so is
someone committing suicide
oIf suicide is violating the action of God so is stopping a stone from falling on your
oNowhere in the Bible is there anything against suicide
oE.g. if you put up a lightning rod, you were going against what God had planned
The consensus of Hume’s scholars is that Hume did not believe in God, at least not in any
traditional sense of the term
But he could not express atheism in his time, because of the blasphemy laws (possibly
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