Examining Ethical Perspectives on Suicide: A Kantian Analysis

Published: 2024-01-23
Examining Ethical Perspectives on Suicide: A Kantian Analysis
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Philosophy Society Euthanasia Immanuel Kant
Pages: 8
Wordcount: 1931 words
17 min read

Suicide Dilemma

According to almost all societies today, human life is considered one of the most invaluable assets ever found worldwide. The idea of ending one's life is referred to as suicide. While living in the world today, most individuals are faced with challenges that leave them longing to be dead rather than stay alive. Suicide is among one of the most common ways individuals end their life today. Suicide is caused by several reasons ranging from an individual perspective to a societal outlooks. Suicide also can be categorized into different types, including altruistic, egoistic, and anomic suicide. Altruistic suicide is seen when an individual commits suicide to benefit others or a group, such as older people who are tired of being a burden to others. Egoistic suicide occurs when there is a weak link between an individual and society, resulting in the individual possessing a weak immunity toward suicidal thoughts. Lastly, anomic suicide is characterized by individuals who live short of their goals and thus are subjected to emotional distress such that in society's failure to put measures of control against such individuals, cases of suicide would skyrocket. Many philosophers, both new and old, have philosophers have contributed to this conversation. Some of the ideologies dealing with suicide do not necessarily condemn suicide altogether. Existentialists proclaim that there are no criteria to judge humankind's actions and that man is free to make his or her own decisions and is neither bounded. There is no guidance or form of ethics to guide human beings on their journey in life. Suicide directly affects philosophy, both clinically and legally.

Trust banner

Is your time best spent reading someone else’s essay? Get a 100% original essay FROM A CERTIFIED WRITER!

Thoughts on suicide are viewed from several psychological and ethical perspectives, including the principles for the respect of human life, utilitarianism, theological perspective, and others' autonomy. Suicide has always been a moral issue for most theologians and philosophers worldwide. Philosophers such as Albert Calmus regarded suicide as one of the most severe issues that philosophers have had to deal with. Deciding whether living is worth it or not is among the most fundamental philosophical questions.

According to Kant, committing suicide is against any form of moral law, and thus any form of suicide, including assisted suicide, is also very wrong. From this perspective, any form is wrong, even if in the name of suicide; therefore, euthanasia is also wrong. The Kantian theory explicitly forbids suicide and euthanasia as a way of showing respect for persons and people and making an assumption that suicide is a form of undermining humanity. Despite this, the argument posed by Kant is defective according to his set of ideals. Kant points out that killing oneself while still alive is wrong. Though this does not ideally mean that euthanasia is wrong, considering euthanasia involves interceding on someone else's behalf. Kant condemns the very idea of suicide by saying, "Suicide is in a way permissible." According to Kant, committing suicide would equate the highest human being to a lowly beast. The idea of suicide would make him shrink in horror and there was nothing as terrible compared to committing suicide.

Kant states that if a man attempts to commit suicide but then survives, they should be treated like beast since they had already discarded their will to continue living. Man belongs to God as his property, and thus man has no form of right to take their own life; this is according to Kant. Despite Kant having some religious arguments, he also used several secular arguments against suicide. These arguments included the fact that he referred to suicide as a form of unbecoming and demeaning humanity by subjecting themselves to a treatment only deserved by beasts. Those individuals who attempted to commit suicide ended up making themselves things and beasts rather than maintaining their humanity. Kant uses the categorical imperative approach to protect the sanctity of human life, which is focused on goodwill, and right intention, which must rise over any inclination together with the concept of rationality, which permits men to be used as an end in itself rather than a means to an end.

One of Kant's main arguments against suicide is that it goes against the categorical imperative. Kant makes a distinction when defining an imperative and a command. He defines command as an objective principle for imposing a will, while an imperative is the formula of a command. An imperative creates a link between objective laws to the will of a person. An imperative will not necessarily follow the directive of a person. Kant perceives that an action can only be right if it bears good intentions and focuses on the motive drawn from the right intentions. Kant believes that every individual should preserve their life out of the moral obligation of placing worth to life itself, and it should bear good intentions.

Whether an action succeeds in its objective or not, as long as it is done out of goodwill, then the action is morally acceptable. Emphasis is placed on the motive of the action rather than the consequences of the action in question. Kant points out that actions carried out under a particular duty are considered moral, an example being the preservation of one's life, which is considered a duty such that everyone is inclined to do so. If an individual protects their life because they are inclined, then their action relatively does not bear any moral worth, according to Kant. For the action to obtain moral worth, the action to preserve one has to be carried out based on the duty to preserve life. Suicide would then bear no moral value or justification whatsoever. Kant mainly argued that duty must prevail before any inclination. Kant pointed out that the less the inclination to perform a particular duty, the greater the moral value of the particular action if duty is still carried out despite the low inclination to do so.

Kant strongly argues against the idea of improving life by destroying it. He emphasizes the concept of self-love is about building and creating a better life rather than the destruction that comes about from suicide. Those individuals who commit suicide more so altruistic suicide contradict the entire concept of life. The destruction of an individual's ability to act through committing suicide goes against nature and its free-will agents. Self-love and self-destruction do not engage on the same platform. Kant, in his works, does contradict himself more so on the impossibility of self-destruction. Ha claims that self-destruction is founded on love. Suicide should be allowed on the rule of prudence but strictly prohibited by the rule of morality. In Kant's argument on self-destruction, he argues that suicide is motivated by misfortune founded on self-love, which means developing one's life. That it is a contradiction to believe that life can be preserved in the name of destruction. Therefore, an individual should always endeavor and take care of their lives. Kant explains that there is no need to live unless you are living honorably and that there is more to the world that is much higher than life, which is the observance of morality is higher than the idea of life.


It tended to mean good death and was initially known as peaceful or painless death. It is the process of depriving someone's life to lead to a peaceful and painless death. Ideally, euthanasia refers to quickening the death of an individual who is terminally ill and is in great pain at that particular time for the sole purpose of easing their pain torment, and physical suffering. The main motive of euthanasia is the ultimate benefit with regard to the welfare of the patient. In assessing euthanasia's morality, it is essential to note autonomy and decision-making in choosing euthanasia as a means to an end to a painful life experienced while bearing a terminal illness.

There are two types of criteria used in differentiating the different types of euthanasia. The first criterion is based on the person's will and consent. It can also be based on behalf of the person; euthanasia is performed. Thus there is voluntary and involuntary euthanasia. Voluntary is performed when the patient expressly wishes to die without any form of coercion due to the physical pain they feel while they are alive. Involuntary euthanasia is a decision made by the family or those close to the patient without the patient's express request to end their life. It usually happens when the patient's consent is unavailable for the performance of the euthanasia. Individuals unable to give consent on euthanasia include infants who are severely ill or have a severe disability and individuals who are completely unable to comprehend and have permanently lost their ability to understand the decision behind euthanasia because of an accident, health condition, or typical old age. Involuntary consent can also arise when the decision is hypothetically come to by family members based on the assumption that it should be done to benefit all parties involved. The second criterion for euthanasia is based on killing someone or letting someone die. Things factor brings a moral weight that is determined by actions and omissions or the lack of actions.

Active euthanasia refers to the idea of aiding someone to die, while passive euthanasia is allowing the person to die. An example is seen when plugging the life support machine off when the patient is still alive is active euthanasia and plugging the life support machine off after the patient has already passed on passive euthanasia. Passive euthanasia is only inclusive of the lack of treatment given to the sick patient needed to sustain their life. Today, several conditions have been set up to allow for voluntary euthanasia, and they include; the only patient who is competent can undergo euthanasia, the claims of the patient wanting to die must be repeated and documented, a doctor is required to consult with another doctor to obtain an honest opinion. Lastly, the patient must be undergoing unbearable pain with very slim chances of recovery.

Kant was openly against any form of suicide though he did make some exceptions, so it concerned honor and dignity. To correctly argue on whether Kant would support involuntary euthanasia or not approve of voluntary euthanasia by referring to the autonomy of the patient's decision-making, which is an essential of Kantian ethics. Autonomy refers to rational and self-conscious individuals' ability to make rational decisions and act on the same decisions. When referring to a patient, a patient can make the right decision concerning their life and death independently, but they should also be in the right frame of mind. This argument is viable for voluntary euthanasia, but when it comes to involuntary euthanasia, the argument proves to be unjustifiable. Respect for autonomy is a standard moral action that shows the wrong of killing a person whose intention is not to die. Killing a person who wants to live irrespective of the underlying medical conditions is disregarding their autonomy. A person's autonomy excludes involuntary and involuntary euthanasia while at the same time validates voluntary euthanasia. If a patient wishes to undergo euthanasia, a doctor should be carried out to show respect for the patient's autonomy. However, most philosophers consider Kant to be a non-supporter of any form of suicide. This follows that any form of killing is considered to be wrong; thus, euthanasia, which is killing someone who is incurably ill is morally wrong as it involves a form of killing nonetheless. In the "groundwork of metaphysics of morals," Kant points out that the action of committing suicide to avoid a painful is immoral because suicide goes against the natural laws of life.

Cite this page

Examining Ethical Perspectives on Suicide: A Kantian Analysis. (2024, Jan 23). Retrieved from https://speedypaper.com/essays/examining-ethical-perspectives-on-suicide-a-kantian-analysis

Request Removal

If you are the original author of this essay and no longer wish to have it published on the SpeedyPaper website, please click below to request its removal:

Liked this essay sample but need an original one?

Hire a professional with VAST experience!

24/7 online support

NO plagiarism