Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Stoic Philosophy: Suicide & Christopher

“Diogenes Laertius recounting the Stoic doctrine by saying that they consider that a man takes his own life rationally for one of the following reasons: on behalf of his country, or his friends, or if he is afflicted by intolerable pain or an incurable disease (Rist, 239).”

This passage implicates that suicide is acceptable – if it is done for the right reasons. Christopher believes his father’s suicide was obviously committed for the wrong reasons. Firstly, he chose to believe Ruggles, and on principle (Christophre’s English gentleman principles) one should not choose a stranger over one’s son.

Secondly, it can be seen as an introduction of a destruction force which threatens the family unit. “My father’s suicide was not an act that can be condoned. A gentleman does not commit suicide when he has descendants. It might influence my boy’s life very disastrously…” (Ford, 490).

Thirdly, his father should not have committed suicide because he was not under the duress of an incurable situation, and as mentioned earlier, it has introduced contamination in Christopher’s views. “But you see how bad for one’s descendants suicide is. That is why I do not forgive my father. Before he did it I should never have contemplated the idea. Now I have contemplated it. That’s a weakening of the moral fibre. It’s contemplating a fallacy as a possibility. For suicide is no remedy for a twisted situation of a psychological kind. It is for bankruptcy. Or for military disaster. For the man of action, not for the thinker (491).”

“Sometimes it is a proof of nobility to live even when circumstances are harsh (Rist, 250)”. As a part of the aristocracy, it is their function to set the standard. By committing suicide, Christopher’s father also fails to fulfill his own line of duty, his commitment to Mrs. Wannop and to his family. He also fails his duty as a father by his misplaced confidence in the words of Ruggles. For Christopher, a failure to commit to duty is a failure in the moral fibre.


Rist, J.M. Stoic Philosophy. NY: Cambridge University Press, 1969.

1 comment:

Selima said...

You write very well.