19
Theistic and Nontheistic
Arguments

Milton A. Gonsalves

Suicide is here taken in the strict sense as the direct killing of oneself on one's own authority.

Direct killing is an act of killing that is directly voluntary; that is, death is intended either as an end or as a means to an end. Either the action is capable of only one effect and that effect is death, or the action is capable of several effects, including death, and among these death is the effect intended, either for its own sake or as a means to something else.

Indirect killing is an act of killing that is indirectly voluntary; death is not intended, either as an end or as a means to an end, but is only permitted as an unavoidable consequence. The action is capable of at least two effects, one of which is death, and the agent intends, not death, but the other effect. To avoid misunderstanding it is better not to speak of the indirect killing of oneself as killing at all, but as the deliberate exposure of one's life to serious danger. Such exposure is not what is meant by suicide.

The killing is not suicide unless it is done on one's own authority. Two others might be thought of as having authority in the matter: God and the state. God, having a supreme dominion over human life, could order a woman to kill herself, but to know God's will in such a case, a special revelation would be needed, for which there is no provision in philosophical ethics. The state, supposing that it has the right of capital punishment, might appoint a man condemned to death to be his own executioner. Whatever be the morality of such an uncommon and questionable practice, it is not suicide according to the accepted definition.

____________________
From Milton A. Gonsalves, "Suicide" in Fagothey's Right and Reason: Ethics in Theory and Practice ( Columbus: Merrill Publishing Co., 1989), pp. 246-48. © 1989. Reprinted by permission of Prentice‐ Hall, Inc., Upper Saddle River, N.J.

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