Lecture notes- Durkheim suicide

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Irving Zeitlin

Durkheim “Anomic Suicide” * No living being can be happy or even exist unless his needs are sufficiently proportioned to his means. * if his needs require more than can be granted --> will be under continual friction and can only function painfully. - In the animal, at least in a normal condition, this equilibrium is established with automatic spontaneity because the animal depends on purely material conditions. - All the organism needs is that the supplies of substance and energy constantly employed in the vital process should be periodically renewed by equivalent quantities; that replacement be equivalent to use. - When the void 空虚 created by the existence in its own recourses is filled, the animal, satisfied, asks nothing further. - This is not the case with man, because most of his needs are not dependent on his body or not to the same degree. - The quantity of material supplies necessary to the physical maintenance of human life is subject to computation, though this be less exact than in the preceding case and a wider margin left for the free combinations of the will. - For beyond the indispensable minimum which satisfies nature when instinctive, a more awakened reflection suggests better conditions, seemingly desirable ends craving fulfillment. - Such appetites, however, admittedly sooner or later reach a limit which they cannot pass. - Nothing appears in man’s organic nor in his psychological constitution which sets a limit to such tendencies. - The functioning of individual life does not require them to cease at one point rather than at another; the proof being that they have constantly increased since the beginnings of history, receiving more and more complete satisfaction, yet with no weakening of average health. * In no society are they equally satisfied in different stages of the social hierarchy. * Yet human nature is substantially the same among all men, in its essential qualities. * It is not human nature which can assign the variable limits necessary to our needs. * They are thus unlimited so far as they depend on the individual alone. * Irrespective of any external regulatory force, our capacity for feeling is in itself an insatiable and bottomless abyss. - But if nothing external can restrain this capacity, it can only be a source of torment to itself. - Unlimited desires are insatiable by definition and insatiability is rightly considered a sign of morbidity. - Human activity naturally aspires beyond assignable limits and sets itself unattainable goals. - To pursue a goal which is by definition unattainable is to condemn oneself to a state of perpetual unhappiness. - The more one has, the more one wants, since satisfactions received only stimulate instead of filling needs. * Shall action as such be considered agreeable? - 1. only on condition of blindness to its uselessness. -2. for this pleasure to be felt and to temper and half ve遮盖 the accompanying painful unrest, such unending motion must at least always be easy and unhampered 无阻碍的. - Our thread of life on these conditions is pretty thin, breakable at any instant. - To achieve any other result, the passions first must be limited. - Only then can they be harmonized with the faculties and satisfied. - But since individual has no way of limiting them, this must be done by some force exterior to him. - A regulative force must play the same role for moral needs which the organism plays for physical needs. This means that the force can only be moral. - The awakening of conscience interrupted the state of equilibrium of the animal’s dormant 蛰伏的 existence; only conscience, therefore, can furnish the means to re-establish it. - Physical restraint would be ineffective; hearts cannot be touched by physio- chemical forces. - Men would never consent to restrict their desires if they felt justified in passing the assigned limit. - But, for reasons given above, they cannot assign themselves this law of justice. - So they must receive it from an authority with they respect, to which they yield spontaneously. - Either directly and as a whole, or through the agency of one if its organs, society alone can play this moderating role; for it is the only moral power superior to the individual, the authority of which he accepts. - It alone has power necessary to stipulate law and to set the point beyond which the passion must not go. - Finally, it alone can estimate the reward to be prospectively offered to every class of human functionary, in the name of the common interest. - The relative reward due to each, and the consequent degree of comfort appropriate on the average to workers in each occupation. --> the different functions are graded in public opinion and a certain coefficient of well-being assigned to each according to its place in the hierarchy. - i.e. a certain way of living is considered the upper limit to which a workman may aspire in his efforts to improve his existence, and there is another limit below which he is not willingly permitted to fall unless he has seriously bemeaned himself. - Likewise, the man of wealth is reproved if he lives the life of a poor man, but also if he seeks the refinements of luxury overmuch. - A genuine regimen exists, therefore, although not always legally formulated, which fixes with relative precision the maximum degree of ease of living to which each social class may legitimately aspire. However, there is nothing immutable 不可改变的 about such a scale. It changes with the increase or decrease of collective revenue and the changes occurring in the moral ideas of society. - Thus what appears luxury to one period no longer does so to another. * Under this pressure, each in his sphere vaguely realizes the extreme limit set to his ambitions and aspire to nothing beyond. * At least if he respects regulations and is docile to collective authority, that is, has a wholesome moral constitution, he feels that it is not well to ask more. Thus, an end and goal are set to the passions. * Truly, there is nothing rigid nor absolute about such determination. * The economic lead assigned each class of citizens is itself confined to certain limits, within which the desires have free range. But it is not infinite. * This relative limitation and the moderation it involves, make men contented with their lot while stimulating them moderately to improve it; can this average contentment causes the f
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