Hume’s Argument on Suicide

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April 23, 2024
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Hume’s Argument on Suicide

Hume is one of the most influential philosophical scholars in the treatment of suicide, especially in the modern era. In 1777, Hume wrote an essay, “Of Suicide, “which attracted the attention of many other scholars worldwide. Hume’s argument on suicide provides both ambiguous and non-ambiguous answers on the prescription of suicide. In his argument, Hume examines whether suicide is a criminal act. Hume claims that in the duty to God, “If Suicide is criminal,” then it is also disobedience to both our self and neighbors (Hume, 8). Hume argues that suicide is permissible sometimes, although it goes against the will of God, individual, and neighbors. Other scholars claim the Hume’s argument is valid, although it is not sound. From a critical perspective of examining Hume’s argument, one will find that his arguments on the permissibility of suicide were majorly based on specific cases, which are both sound and valid.

In his argument, Hume states that if suicide is a criminal offense, then it should be insulting our duty to God (Hume, 8). In relation to this point, Hume had two issues, which he addressed. First, his point addresses the fundamental laws, while the second one points to naturalism. Hume claims that there are no laws that specifically mention suicide impermissibility. God created all the laws of nature, He is powerful, and did not decide to be in charge of killing people. “disposal of the lives of men” (Hume, 9). The natural laws, which govern the lives of other animals also abide by people; therefore, Hume claims that suicide is not necessarily disobedience to the laws of God.

According to Hume, suicide is an unnatural act that changes the lifespan of an individual; thus, it can be argued against, bearing in mind that God created the laws of nature (Hume, 10). If an individual takes this outlook, every act that leads to death is an offense to God. Individuals commit suicide on a regular basis, thus altering their life timeline through the use of medications or even other daily activities that they engage in.  In his argument, Hume cites an example of a man who is trying to prevent a rock from hitting his head (Hume, 10). Many people believe that going to the doctor and the use of medicine is not an affront against God, even those who believe that committing suicide is against His will. According to Hume, committing suicide is not against the Gods’ laws if taking medicine is not; therefore, his arguments are valid since it is not a disobedience act to God.

Additionally, Hume claims that suicide would be an affront act, especially when it violates the rights of the neighbor. (Hume, 12). Hume clearly defines that there are different circumstances in which a person should not continue living if they are a burden to the society; thus, their death can only solve their problem. In the contemporary Canadian society, assisted death has become a topical issue, which should be addressed immediately. This case presents strong support evidence, especially when someone is critically ill; therefore, it will be a burden to the society if this person continues to receive medical treatment to delay their death. Besides, medical resources are limited; therefore, the family of the ill patient continues to suffer, both emotionally and financially, while the critical person’s health condition deteriorates. The patient’s family and the society at large should not continue suffering; thus, they should be better off if the life of that person is terminated.  From Hume’s argument, suicide is not an insult to the neighbor; thus, it is permissible.


On the other hand, Hume presents his third premise; that if suicide is a criminal act, it should always be an insult to the individual. He claims that suicide is not an affront to the individual (Hume, 14). If an individual suffers an illness that causes lethal pain, such as an accident, continuing living under that circumstance may lead to disservice; therefore, suicide can be permissible. According to Hume, humanity’s will to live is a great privilege; thus, people should not consider suicide, although if living under terrible circumstances, it is permissible. “I believe that no man ever threw away life, while it was worth keeping” (Hume, 13).  Hume, therefore, claims that a life terminated through suicide is better than undergoing unbearable pain.

As Hume claims about “Of Suicide,” his argument is valid as “it is impossible for the premises to be true and the conclusion false.” According to Hume’s three premises, God, neighbor, and individual, his argument soundness would need an individual question to defend the absolute criminality of suicide. Hume defends his arguments by supporting all his arguments to ridicule critics, making it clear that he was arguing to “show that suicide action may be free from every imputation of guilt and blame” (Hume, 8). One should prove that Hume’s argument is untrue and unsound in all cases to disapprove him.

Furthermore, from a religious perspective, Hume’s argument can be examined as reliable. According to the Christianity religion, which is Hume’s religious background, suicide is a sin. The suicide belief is only based on speculation and faith, regardless of one’s position. Suicide is not regarded as an offense to God since there is no scientific evidence to prove it; thus, this first argument is sound. Hume’s second argument is not easy to criticize in the perspective of reliability. Instead, criticism could be applicable on the contrary that every individual actively contributes to the society, whether the argument is “clear” or not.

In other instances, it brings great importance when a person chooses to die by sacrificing their lives to save other people. A good suicide example is when a soldier throws on a grenade and saves the rest. Rather, many people would praise the soldier by those similar critics; therefore, Hume’s second argument is fundamentally reliable. Hume’s third argument can also be subject to question for soundness though with no prospective success. When a person is trying to end their life, it is difficult to claim that the person is doing harm to themselves. The choice relating to those possibilities and reasoning are endless since suicide can take different forms. Generally, all of Hume’s premises altogether form a valid and sound argument in their own right different forms.

In conclusion, Hume’s argument about the permissibility of suicide is sound, as he does not state that suicide is always a valid decision. Though, in some instances, it can be justifiable permissible. Hume’s argument is sound and genuine since it has established a strong theory. In this manner, similar convolutions and choices, which occur to the living also occur when one intends to end their life.




Work cited

Hume, David. Essays on Suicide and the Immortality of the Soul. Editor of the Collection of   English Classics, sold, 1799.

Hume, David. Essays On Suicide And The Immortality Of The Soul. Raleigh, N.C.: Generic NL     Freebook Publisher, n.d. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost).