Lecture 24 - Suicide, Part I: The rationality of suicide

author: Shelly Kagan, Department of Philosophy, Yale University
recorded by: Yale University
published: Feb. 12, 2010,   recorded: April 2007,   views: 19223
released under terms of: Creative Commons Attribution No Derivatives (CC-BY-ND)

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This is the first of a series of lectures on suicide. Two very distinct contexts are presented in which the subject can be further explored. The first is rationality and the question of under what circumstances it makes sense to end one's own life. The second is morality and the question of whether we can ever ethically justify resorting to suicide. The lecture's focus is on the rational requirements of suicide, and Professor Kagan introduces a number of cases which demonstrate that ending one's life, in certain instances, may be rationally sound.

Reading assignment:

Hume, David. "On Suicide." In Essays: Moral, Political, and Literary.

Brandt, Richard. "The Morality and Rationality of Suicide." In Moral Problems. Edited by James Rachels. New York: Harper & Row, 1979.


Figures 24.1-24.4 [PDF]
David Hume, "On Suicide" Courtesy of David Banach, St. Anselm College

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Reviews and comments:

Comment1 Lee Stiles, December 31, 2012 at 6:30 a.m.:

I should start by saying that this is the first lecture that I watched in this particular course. Kagan is very clear in his presentation, but I was disappointed in three areas. First, I was looking for discussion of Hume's essay. Despite being on the reading list for this lecture, there is no direct discussion of Hume here. Since there are virtually no questions offered from the students, I wonder if he assumed they had not read Hume, or that it was beyond their grasp. Second,the graph/container theory he expounds in the last 10 minutes is neither helpful nor scintillating enough to justify the time spent on it here and in the following lecture. Lastly, the discussion on the decision-making process is slanted towards euthanasia. Perhaps the next lecture will cover other states/conditions under which the decision is made?

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