l'antagonisme devient plus prononcé entre l'esprit religieux et les idées mondaines relativement à la mort volontaire. Le clergé continue à suivre la route qui a été tracée par Saint Augustin et à déclarer le suicide criminel et impie ; mais la tristesse et le désespoir n'entendent pas sa voix, ne se souviennent pas de ses prescriptions.”] The revival of classical learning, accompanied as it was by admiration for antiquity and a desire to imitate its great men, not only increased the number of suicides, but influenced popular sentiments on the subject. Even the Catholic

? casuists, and later on philosophers of the school of Grotius and others, began to distinguish certain cases of legitimate suicide, such as that committed to avoid dishonour or probable sin, or that of a condemned person saving himself from torture by anticipating an inevitable death, or that of a man offering himself to death for the sake of his friend.3 Sir Thomas More, in his Utopia, permits a person who is suffering from an incurable and painful disease to take his own life, provided that he does so with the agreement of the priests and magistrates ; nay, he even maintains that these should exhort such a man to put an end to a life which is only a burden to himself and others. Donne, the well-known Dean of St. Paul's, wrote in his younger days a book in defence of suicide, “ a Declaration,” as he called it,“ of that paradoxe, or thesis, that Self-homicide is not so naturally sin, that it may never be otherwise.” He there pointed out the factwhich ought never to be overlooked by those who derive their arguments from “nature”—that some things may be natural to the species, and yet not natural to every individual member of it. In one of his essays Montaigne pictures classical cases of suicide with colours of unmistakable sympathy. “La plus volontaire mort,” he observes, “ c'est la plus belle. La vie despend de la

1 Bourquelot, loc. cit. iv. 253.

2 Ibid. iv. 464. Morselli, op. cit. p. 35

3 Buonafede, op. cit. p. 148 599. Lecky, op. cit. ii. 55.

4 More, Utopia, p. 122.

Donne, Biathanatos, p.45. Donne's book was first committed to the press in 1644, by his son.


volonté d'aultruy ; la mort, de la nostre.” 1 The rationalism of the eighteenth century led to numerous attacks both upon the views of the Church and upon

the laws of the State concerning suicide. Montesquieu advocated its legitimacy :-“ La société est fondée sur un avantage mutuel ; mais lorsqu'elle me devient onéreuse, qui m'empêche d'y renoncer ? La vie m'a été donnée comme une faveur ; je puis donc la rendre lorsqu'elle ne l'est plus : la cause cesse, l'effet doit donc cesser aussi.” 2 Voltaire strongly opposed the cruel laws which subjected a suicide’s body to outrage and deprived his children of their heritage. If his act is a wrong against society, what is to be said of the voluntary homicides committed in war, which are permitted by the laws of all countries ? Are they not much more harmful to the human race than selfmurder, which nature prevents from ever being practised by any large number of men ?4 Beccaria pointed out that the State is more wronged by the emigrant than by the suicide, since the former takes his property with him, whereas the latter leaves his behind. According to Holbach, he who kills himself is guilty of no outrage on nature or its author ; on the contrary, he follows an indication given by nature when he parts from his sufferings through the only door which has been left open. Nor has his country or his family any right to complain of a member whom it has no means of rendering happy, and from whom it consequently has nothing more to hope. Others eulogised suicide when committed for a noble end," or recommended it on certain occasions.

Suppose,” says Hume, “ that it is no longer in my power to promote the interest of society ; suppose that í 1 Montaigne, Essais, ii. 3 (Euvres, Idem, Dictionnaire Philosophique, art.

Suicide (ibid. viii. 236). 2 Montesquieu, Lettres Persanes, 76 5 Beccaria, Dei delitti e delle pene, s (Euvres, p. 53).

35 (Opere, i. 101). 3 Voltaire, Commentaire sur le livre 6 Holbach, Système de la nature, i. Des délits et des peines, 19 (@uvres 369. complètes, V. 416). Idem, Prix de la In the early part of the nineteenth justice el de l'humanité, 5 (ibid. v. 424). century this was done by Fries, Neue

Idem, Note to Olympie acte v. scène oder anthropologische Kritik der Ver 7 (Euvres complètes, i. 826, n. 6). nunft, iii. 197.

p. 187).

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am a burthen to it ; suppose that my life hinders some person from being much more useful to society. In such cases my resignation of life must not only be innocent but laudable. Hume also attacks the doctrine that suicide is a transgression of our duty to God. “If it would be no crime in me to divert the Nile from its course, were I able to do so, how could it be a crime to turn a few ounces of blood from their natural channel? Were the disposal of human life so much reserved as the peculiar province of the Almighty that it were an encroachment on his right for men to dispose of their own lives, would it not be equally wrong of them to lengthen out their lives beyond the period which by the general laws of nature he had assigned to it? My death, however voluntary, does not happen without the consent of Providence ; when I fall upon my own sword, I receive my death equally from the hands of the Deity as if it had proceeded from a lion, a precipice, or a fever.” 2

Thus the main arguments against suicide which had been set forth by pagan philosophers and Christian theologians were scrutinised and found unsatisfactory or at least insufficient to justify that severe and wholesale censure which was passed on it by the Church and the State. But a doctrine which has for ages been inculcated by the leading authorities on morals is not easily overthrown ; and when the old arguments are found fault with new ones are invented. Kant maintained that a person who disposes of his own life degrades the humanity subsisting in his person and entrusted to him to the end that he might uphold it.3 Fichte argued that it is our duty to preserve our life and to will to live, not for the sake of life, but because our life is the exclusive condition of the realisation of the moral law through us. According to Hegel it is a contradiction

* to speak of a person's right over his life, since this would

1 Hume, 'Suicide,' in Philosophical griinde der Tugendlehre, p. 73. Works, iv. 413.

+ Fichte, Das System der Sittenlehre, 2 Ibid. p. 407 sqq.

p. 339 sqq. See also ibid. pp. 360, 3 Kant, Metaphysische Anfangungs- 391.


imply a right of a person over himself, and no one can stand above and execute himself. Paley, again, feared that if religion and morality allowed us to kill ourselves in any case, mankind would have to live in continual alarm for the fate of their friends and dearest relations 2—just as if there were a very strong temptation for men to shorten their lives. But common sense is neither a metaphysician nor a sophist. When not restrained by the yoke of a narrow theology, it is inclined in most cases to regard the self-murderer as a proper object of compassion rather than of condemnation, and in some instances to admire him as a hero. The legislation on the subject therefore changed as soon as the religious influence was weakened. The laws against suicide were abolished in France by the Revolution, and afterwards in various other continental countries ; 4 whilst in England it became the custom of jurymen to presume absence of a sound mind in the self-murderer-perjury, as Bentham said, being the penance which prevented an outrage on humanity. These measures undoubtedly indicate not only a greater regard for the innocent relatives of the self-murderer, but also a change in the moral ideas concerning the act itself.

As appears from this survey of facts, the moral valuation of suicide varies to an extreme degree. It depends partly on the circumstances in which the act is committed, partly on the point of view from which it is regarded and the notions held about the future life. When a person sacrifices his life for the benefit of a fellow-man or for the sake of his country or to gratify the supposed desire of a god, his deed may be an object of the highest praise. It may, further, call forth approval or admiration as indicating a keen sense of honour or as a test of courage ; in Japan, says Professor Chamberlain, “ the courage to take



1 Hegel, Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts, $ 70, Zusatz, p. 72.

2 Paley, Principles of Moral and Political Philosophy, iv. 3 (Complete Works, ii. 230).

3 Legoyt, op. cit. p. 109.
4 Bourquelot, loc. cit. Iv. 475.

Bentham, Principles of Penal Law, ii. 4. 4 (Works, i. 479 sq.),

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himself may

life—be it one's own or that of others-ranks extraordinarily high in public esteem.” i In other cases suicide is regarded with indifference as an act which concerns the agent alone. But for various reasons it is also apt to give rise to moral disapproval. The injury which the person committing it inflicts


excite sympathetic resentment towards him ; he may be looked upon as injurer and injured at the same time. Plato asks in his • Laws' :-“What ought he to suffer who murders his nearest and so-called dearest friend? I mean, he who kills himself.” 2 And the same point of view is conspicuous in St. Augustine's argument, that the more innocent the self-murderer was before he committed his deed the greater is his guilt in taking his life 3—an argument of particular force in connection with a theology which condemns suicides to everlasting torments and which regards it as a man's first duty to save his soul. The condemnation of killing others may by an association of ideas lead to a condemnation of killing one's self, as is suggested by the Christian doctrine that suicide is prohibited in the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” The horror which the act inspires, the fear of the malignant ghost, and the defiling effect attributed to the shedding of blood, also tend to make suicide an object of moral reprobation or to increase the disapproval of it ; 6 and the same is the case with the exceptional treatment to which the self-murderer's body is subject and his supposed annihilation or miserable existence after death, which easily come to be looked upon in the light of a punishment.® Suicide is, moreover, blamed as an act of moral cowardice, and, especially, as an injury inflicted upon other persons, to whom the agent owed


1 Chamberlain, Things Japanese, p.


2 Plato, Leges, ix. 873.

3 St. Augustine, De Civitate Dei, i. 17:

4 See Simmel, Einleitung in die Moralwissenschaft, i. 187.

5 Cf. supra, i. 377.

6 See supra, ii. 237 599. ; Josephus, De bello Judaico, iii. 8. 5; Plato, Leges, ix. 873; Aristotle, Ethica Nicomachea, V. Il. 2 sq.

7 Hegel, Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts, $ 70, Zusatz, p. 72; Fowler, Progressive Morality, p. 151 ; &c.

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