Aquinas on Suicide – Exam Notes
He could give a situation and ask what kind of objection would Aquinas give.
It is unlawful to kill oneself due to three reasons:
1. Everything naturally loves itself, the result being that everything naturally keeps itself in
being, and resists corruption so far as it can. Wherefore, suicide is contrary to the
inclination of nature, and to charity whereby every man should love himself. Hence
suicide is always a mortal sin, as being contrary to the natural law and to charity.
2. Because every part, as such belongs to the whole. Now every man is part of the
community, and so, as such he belongs to the community. Hence by killing himself he
injures the community, as Philospphers declaes.
3. Because life is God’s gift to man, and is subject to His power, Who kills and makes to
live. Hence whoever takes his own life, sins against God, even as he who kills another’’s
slave, sins against that slave’s master etc.
1. What is suicide?
a. Suicide is the intentional use of our active side of our nature to kill the passive side.
2. How does Aquinas and Kant argue against suicide?
a. Argue that there are duties that must not be violated in our active search for meaning.
b. One such duty prohibits our committing suicide.
3. Write about Immanuel Kant
a. Foremost deontological ethical theorist
b. Reason alone requires that we do our duty
i. Grounding for the metaphysics of morals
ii. Critique of practical reasons
iii. Doctrine of virtue (second part of metaphysics of morals)
4. What is Kant’s Categorical Imperative (clearcut/definite authoritative)
a. Always treat humanity in yourself or others as an end-in-itself (something to be
respected), and not merely as a means –to-an-end (something that can be used to
support some other goal.)
5. How is morality valued?
a. Morality requires that we perform our duty for duty’s sake, not because we feel like it.
We must abstract rom our feelings when determining what morality requires. Thus
rising above from our passie nature and contingency of feelings when searching for meaning. Or else we will be letting our natural side determine us, surrendering to
whatever we happen to have been given in life.
6. How does someone determine their duties?
a. Since we cannot appeal to our inclinations,(passive side of our nature), we should look
for the active side to search for meaning in life. Our humanity , the rational agency.
7. How does Kant view suicide?
a. Morality is determined by our duties done for duties sake.
b. We must not let our inclinations, feelings emotions get involved in our duties, as feelings
inclinations emotions are part of our passive side.
c. We cannot appeal to the passive side of our nature to determine our duties.
d. Therefore, we should appeal to the
i. active side, the rationale agencies (active side),
ii. our humanity. – not biological humanity, but the rational agency, autonomy.
(Kant’s autonomy: appealing to the rationale agencies abstracting the passive
side from it and have an authoritative over ones actions)
e. According to Kant’s categorical imperative we should treat humanity as something to be
repsected and not merely as a means to an end, which is using it to support some other
f. CI prohibits suicide.
i. We need our passive side for the continuation of the active side.
ii. Because Life is the condition for our other duties.
iii. Life is valuable as a means for your humanity, and if you suicide you will be
iv. However, suicide is okay as a sacrificial for the sake of duty/morality.
1. E.g: Kato – sacrifices when he was about to get captured.
g. By suciding:
i. We seek comfort over our capacity to create a meaningful life.
a. We will be using our freedom to suicide, to sacrifice freedom to
b. Suggests willingness to take others lives as a meas to your
c. Degrades humanity – shows disrespect
d. To be looked upon with horror – because we are not doing our
8. What are the problems associated with Kants view?
a. Sometimes sucide might be the best way to respect humanity
i. Eg: alzeihmeners, crippling pain.
ii. Because these let the passive side take over, and you cant let your active side
determine your duties, which is morality.
b. Is Kant’s CI valid?
i. A formalist, with respect to some discipline, holds that there is no transcendent
meaning to that discipline other than the literal content created by a practitioner. For example, formalists withinmathematics claim that mathematics is no more than the
symbols written down by the mathematician, which is based on logic and a few
elementary rules alone. This is as opposed to non-formalists, within that field, who hold
that there are some things inherently true, and are not, necessarily, dependent on the
symbols within mathematics so much as a greater truth
ii. Is this an empty formalism? Is it only valid in literature?
9. Describe Aquinas:
a. 13 century Catholic philosopher
b. Said that our nature directs how we should search for meaning
i. Natural law
c. Natural instinct for life means we should not kill ourselves – our instincts are to live, therefore we
should not kill urselces. Should let the natural law to govern, which is being alive.
i. Unless God directly instructs is