Philosophy of Suicide Arthur Camus vs. Arthur Schopenhauer Term Paper

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Philosophy of Suicide

Suicide involves two sides: the act and the reason. The reason, or philosophy of suicide, is what justifies the act to the person committing suicide. In this sense, to the actor, the means justify the end, or the act of killing oneself justifies the philosophy of taking one's own life.

The Act

Suicide is defined as being self-murder, or the intentional act of taking one's own life. Some of the main contributors for suicide are depression, shame, financial difficulties, to avoid pain, substance abuse or other perceived undesirable fates. In the vast majority of societies, suicide is seen as a wrong. In most western and Asian religions, suicide is a dishonorable act or a sin. In many Western nations, suicide is a serious crime against the sanctity of life.

Suicide is most often considered to be a result from an untreated mental health and psychological issue. For example, such things as an inability to cope with depression, escape from fear or suffering or treat mental disorders or outside depressions often lead an individual to believing that suicide is the only choice they have. On the other hand, some suicides, especially ones that occur with younger people, are often viewed as being caused by a want to die but instead by a need for attention or a "cry for help."

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The numbers of suicides per year make the act a health epidemic. Annually there are over one million people who die because of suicide. Further, an estimate ten to twenty million people attempt to commit suicide every year, however the vast majority of first attempts are unsuccessful. Some of the nations with the highest rates of suicide include Russia, the United States, Japan and China. More men die as a result of suicide, but more women attempt suicides. Out of all demographics, elderly males have the highest rate of suicide deaths.

Term Paper on Philosophy of Suicide Arthur Camus vs. Arthur Schopenhauer Assignment

There are numerous reasons for one to commit suicide and thus makes it hard for a health care professional to diagnose a possible problem. Most often depression is an indicator of suicide intentions, however, such things as suffering, stress, crime, catastrophic injury, adverse environments (including abuse, poverty and homelessness), financial loss, self-sacrifice, terrorism, to avoid shame or dishonor, and loneliness are all suicide factors.

Further, mental health issues are also leading triggers for suicide. Not only does depression often lead to suicide, but also such illnesses as bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, anxiety disorder, anorexia and bulimia, and post traumatic stress disorder, to name only a few. In fact, up to 98% of all suicide victims are suffering from some form of mood disorder or substance abuse issue at the time of the suicide act. For schizophrenic individuals, suicide is often triggered by typical depression that is associated with the disease or as a result of hallucinations. Suicide for bipolar individuals is often impulsive and occurs when the individual is on a severe mood swing.

The Philosophy

From the above analysis of the act, it can be generalized that a feeling of isolation from society is the reason for the act of suicide. Whether it be depression, self-sacrifice, mental health or financial reasons, all of these present situations that cause the individual to be isolated from society. The philosophical term that best describes this general feeling of isolation is existentialism.

According to the philosophy of existentialism, the individual human creates the meaning and essence of their own lives. Existentialism emerged as a dominant philosophy during the twentieth century. At its most fundamental level, existentialism argues that due to an absence of a transcendental force, such as a god, all individuals are free and therefore responsible for their actions. Thus, it is up to the individual to create an ethos of personal ideology, which is the only way one is able to rise above the human condition of suffering, death and finality.

In terms of existentialism as being the philosophy of suicide, suicide is seen as the individual's act of giving in to the absurdity of human life. In other words, when a human is unable to create meaning out of the absurdity that surrounds them, they live the typical life of pain, suffering and death. In this sense, suicide is a natural act of human existence, as human existence is more accurately viewed as a non-existence.

Two leading existentialist were Albert Camus and Arthur Schopenchauer. Although Schopenchauer predated the existentialist movement, his philosophy set the foundation for the concepts of human absurdity and the pain and suffering of life. Camus, on the other hand, is considered a leading twentieth century philosopher and writer of existentialist thought.

Taken together, the two philosophers explain the philosophy of suicide through the concepts of human absurdity, the naturalness of pain and suffering, and an inability to give meaning to life. In other words, both Camus and Schopenchauer argue that the act of suicide is a natural response to an inability to cope with a society that simply does not make sense.

The Philosophers of Suicide

Both philosophers argue that suicide is reasoned by the fact that the human existence is an existence in the absurd. According to Camus, the absurd was presented by the fact that all choices that a human has is between two extremes, such as happiness and sadness, dark and light, or life and death. Due to these dualisms, Camus argued that actual happiness in the human existence is fleeting and that instead the human condition is one of mortality. Camus summarizes this in Le Mythe, in which he says "We value our lives and existence so greatly, but at the same time we know we will eventually die and ultimately our endeavors are meaningless." Accordingly, humans are incapable of living with the paradox of thinking that their life is of great importance but knowing it is really meaningless. According to Camus, this paradox is what makes life absurd. Further, it is this absurdity that leads to the act of suicide- if life is meaningless and we are going to die anyways, why put up with the pain and suffering any longer?

Schopenchauer, on the other hand, saw the absurdity of human life as being more limited than how Camus viewed it. According to the philosophy of Schopenhauer, the absurdity of the human existence came from intellect. In other words, the more intellectual one was, the more capable they were of realizing the inherent absurdity of human existence. Thus, according to Schopenhauer, the more intellectually-inclined person is the one who suffers the most from mere existence. Taking this one step further, it can be argued that those of higher intellectual abilities are more likely to commit suicide as they understand the philosophy behind the act.

Camus further argues that pain and suffering are a natural part of the human existence. In his the Myth of Sisyphus, Camus outlines the fact of pain and suffering. In the story the Greek mythological character of Sisyphus is condemned to repeat forever the same meaningless task of pushing a rock up a mountain, only to see it roll down again. Although Sisyphus suffers a life of constant pain and suffering caused by his task, Camus states, "The struggle itself is enough to fill a man's heart" thus "One must imagine Sisyphus happy." In other words, pain and suffering are such a part of the human existence, it has become equated to happiness. Therefore, the only way to put a stop to this endless battle of pain and suffering is through the act of suicide.

Schopenhauer explained this same concept of the pain and suffering of human existence in terms of Will. According to Schopenhauer, humans live in the realm of desire in which they eternally desire to obtain happiness. However, because happiness is unattainable, humans are eternally tormented by this same desire. In other words, the desire for happiness and our inability to obtain it is our rock and our struggle.

To summarize both of these philosophers theories on existentialism, the human existence and the reasoning for suicide, it can be said that both argue that the lack of meaning of life is the overarching theme to their theories. As absurdity, pain and suffering define the human existence, one is incapable of giving their life meaning, especially when, according to existentialism, life has no meaning. This, according to both philosophers, is the main cause for the disconnect between humans and society- the inability for some to give their lives real meaning in the face of the realities of absurdity, pain and suffering that the human faces. This disconnection, more than anything else, is the reason for the suicide act as explained by both Albert Cumus and Arthur Schopenchauer.


In my opinion, neither philosopher can be said to be more right than the other as both contribute similar theories to the philosophy, or reason for, the act of suicide. On the one hand, Camus argues it is the fact that life is absurd that causes humans to live a life of pain and suffering… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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