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Habeas Corpus, Political Theory, and More

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In lieu of me actually writing something, please take a look at post-length substantive comments by Zara here, here, and here, and also new comments by Shane.

Written by Sister Y

August 24, 2009 at 3:53 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

I have the flu

with 14 comments

. . . and it interferes with my ability to hold abstract thoughts in my brain, much less express them. I’ll be back next week.

Meanwhile, this episode of This American Life from 2004 features a sensitive interview with a suicide – a real suicide, not a wishy-washy one like me.

Update: Here’s Fiat Lex’s post about the episode and about her father’s suicide.

As a side note, I think it’s interesting that Brian (the interviewee) expresses a somewhat antinatalist idea about children and meaning (at 18:47):

I don’t get the impression that most people are that happy anyway, you know? They just kind of grind their way through life and they, they’ll have kids and that’ll give them an artificial reason to live for a while, and then the kids grow up and forget about them, and . . . [audible sigh] . . . I know the mind is a really powerful thing, you know it’s . . . people can . . . do just about anything they really put their minds to, but it’s, um, it also takes a tremendous amount of self-motivation. As my therapist says, it has to come from within. And it doesn’t feel like there’s much within, you know?

Later, by way of advice, he says (at 26:00):

Don’t have kids unless you had a good relationship with your own parents, I guess. ‘Cause you can seriously screw them up . . .

As much time as I spend clarifying that antinatalism doesn’t logically require suicide, it does seem that suicides as a group are particularly likely to express antinatalist ideas. Brian’s earlier ideas – that people have children to give them an “artificial reason to live for a while” and that, in his case, “it doesn’t feel like there’s much within” – fits with what I’ve written on the mismatch between the human desire for meaning and the lack of inherent meaning in the world, and also on evolutionary biological aspects of suicide (the special pain of failed belonging and feelings of burdensomeness – a particular kind of meaninglessness – that is mitigated by having children, at least for a while).

Written by Sister Y

January 29, 2009 at 12:30 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Punishment as Treatment

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Because [preventing a determined person from committing suicide] is impossible, psychiatrists enjoy (if that is the right word) virtually unlimited professional discretion to employ the most destructive suicide-prevention measures imaginable, provided the measures are called “treatments.” The authoritative American Handbook of Psychiatry (1959 edition) endorsed lobotomy “for patients who are threatened with disability or suicide and for whom no other method seems likely to relieve or restore them.” In the 1974 edition, lobotomy was replaced by electroshock treatment administered in sufficient doses to destroy the subject’s will to kill himself: “[W]e do advocate its initial use for one type of patient, the agitated patient, often middle-aged and usually a man, who presents frank suicidal intention. We give ECT [electroconvulsive therapy] to such a patient . . . daily until mental confusion supervenes and reduces the ability of the patient to carry out his suicidal drive.”

Thomas Szasz, Fatal Freedom: The Ethics and Politics of Suicide, pp. 56-57 (citations omitted).

Written by Sister Y

November 19, 2008 at 9:04 am

Brandt’s Utilitarian Thinking on Suicide’s Perceived Immorality

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Suppose it could be shown that it would maximize the long-run welfare of everybody affected if people were taught that there is a moral obligation to avoid suicide – so that people would be motivated to avoid suicide just because they thought it wrong (would have anticipatory guilt feelings at the very idea), and so that other people would be inclined to disapprove of persons who commit suicide unless there were some excuse . . . . One might ask: how could it maximize utility to mold the conceptual and motivational structure of persons in this way? To which the answer might be: feeling in this way might make persons who are impulsively inclined to commit suicide in a bad mood, or a fit of anger or jealousy, take more time to deliberate; hence, some suicides that have bad effects generally might be prevented. In other words, it might be a good thing in its effects for people to feel about suicide in the way they feel about breach of promise or injuring others, just as it might be a good thing for people to feel a moral obligation not to smoke, or to wear seat belts. However, it might be that negative moral feelings about suicide as such would stand in the way of action by those persons whose welfare really is best served by suicide and whose suicide is the best thing for everybody concerned.

From Richard R. Brandt, “The Morality and Rationality of Suicide” (1975), in Life, Death, and Meaning: Key Philosophical Readings on the Big Questions, ed. David Benatar (2004).

Written by Sister Y

October 10, 2008 at 9:54 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

David Benatar’s Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming Into Existence

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I haphazardly linked to David Benatar’s Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming Into Existence in my previous post, but since this is the single most important piece of philosophy I have yet come into contact with on this topic, I am posting it again. I am both surprised and heartened to find that my views have a compassionate champion in the world of professional philosophy. I am currently reading Professor Benatar’s book and expect to be posting about it in the coming weeks.

Summary from Google Books:

Better Never to Have Been argues for a number of related, highly provocative, views: (1) Coming into existence is always a serious harm. (2) It is always wrong to have children. (3) It is wrong not to abort fetuses at the earlier stages of gestation. (4) It would be better if, as a result of there being no new people, humanity became extinct. These views may sound unbelievable–but anyone who reads Benatar will be obliged to take them seriously.

Written by Sister Y

April 29, 2008 at 1:53 am

Posted in Uncategorized