it is interesting how the perception of suicide has changed throughout the course of history, well in some ways at least.
while studying for one of my exams i stumbled upon two speeches supposedly held by eleazar ben yair, the leader of the sicarii during the siege of masada. he held these in order to convince his fellow sicarii to commit collective suicide.
he argued that suicide is the right thing for them to do, because they have sinned and brought a lot of anguish upon their fellow countrymen. it is also better to die as a free man than live in slavery.
it seems to have been a theme for ancient historians to tell about mass suicides during times of war. in order to escape slavery, imprisonment, punishment or murder by the opponent, people have committed suicide and still do.
among ancient historians suicide seems to have been regarded as a brave and heroic act. the protagonists showed how much they valued their freedom, faith and honor.
the abrahamic religions condemn suicide as a highly sinful act, an act against god. one of the reasons they condemn it, is that god is the one who determines how long one lives and not the human being. christianity was pretty bias for a while. though suicide was prohibited, martyrdom was admissible for quite some time!
many philosophical schools have strongly opposed suicide. some have made exceptions for certain reasons. plato for example, whom flavius josephus must have read when he wrote the speeches for eleazar ben yair, generally disapproved of the act, but accepted it, if the individual in question had been part of wrongful doing.
the views on suicide of philosophical schools have obviously undergone some change in the last centuries. there have always been schools, e.g. the stoics, who have permitted suicide.
the question still is, is it just or unjust? is life sacred, making suicide morally wrong? is it allowed under certain circumstances to kill oneself? do we have a right to self-determination? is suicide wrong because killing is generally wrong?
according to the stanford encyclopedia of philosophy it is - among other things - personal feelings that influence modern perception of suicide as well as the ideas of the roles we are supposed to play in society. so if a family member does it, it is considered to be harmful to the other members of the family and is thus wrong!
a person close to me has seriously attempted to commit suicide two or three times minimum. x suggested to me that there have been more attempts and that those were no cries for help. x also told me that he/she did not think about the consequences these attempts could have nor how it would affect those close by, how it would change their lives forever, how they would never stop worrying that it might happen again for the rest of their or x’s life.
nowadays it is often seen as a cowardly act, the most egotistical thing a person can do. the person, who chooses to kill her/himself is considered to be running away from life’s challenges. the people, who are left behind are often left behind with nothing but emptiness or shock and guilt. they feel forsaken.
we also judge suicide on different grounds. someone, who has been terminally ill and committed suicide will be seen in a different way as someone, who’s suffered from depression. in the first case the people left behind will sometimes not even describe it as a suicide.
but what is suicide? the encyclopedia states, that an act can only be classified as suicide if it is completely intentional. though it must not result in death necessarily.
there are of course different motives for choosing to kill oneself. i found it very interesting, that among others one motive is revenge! but isn’t revenge only fulfilling when one can undergo this feeling? and considering one doesn’t believe in afterlife choosing death out of revenge seems kind of pointless. it shows how little we understand about death and its finality.