This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

Suicide

Suicide is homicide against oneself, for one is bound to respect his own life in the same way as he is bound to respect the lives of others. And in fact, in the opinion of Aquinas, it is more grievous to kill oneself than another, because it is to oneself that one owes the greatest love.[1] Hence the command to love our neighbors as ourselves. Here again we return to the misunderstandings caused by considering oneself as one’s own “private property.” If this were the case, then it would be easy to understand why killing another would be forbidden, since that would involve destruction of someone else’s “private property”; unfortunately it would make it impossible to explain why killing oneself is at the same time unacceptable, since one may dispose of one’s own property at will. To understand the evil of suicide we must abandon the idea of “self-ownership.” The evil of suicide is fundamentally linked with the evil of homicide, because it is violence against the dignity due to persons as persons. One’s own life is not his own property to discard or do away with as he sees fit, any more than the life of anyone else, and to kill oneself is forbidden for the same reasons as homicide.[2] Further, there is also a social aspect to the problem: every man, as a member of society, has duties to that society, and the society has a right to his services. By killing himself he deprives the other members of society the good he was called to contribute.[3]

[1] ST II-II, q. 26, a. 4: “…out of charity, a man ought to love himself more than his neighbor.”

[2] ST, II-II, q. 64, a. 5.

[3] In V Eth., 17.

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