An Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Political Justice and Its Influence on General Virtue, Fourth Edition : Book 2, Chapter 02, Appendix 1

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1793

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(1756 - 1836) ~ Respected Anarchist Philosopher and Sociologist of the Enlightenment Era : His most famous work, An Inquiry concerning Political Justice, appeared in 1793, inspired to some extent by the political turbulence and fundamental restructuring of governmental institutions underway in France. Godwin's belief is that governments are fundamentally inimical to the integrity of the human beings living under their strictures... (From : University of Pennsylvania Bio.)
• "Fickleness and instability, your lordship will please to observe, are of the very essence of a real statesman." (From : "Instructions to a Statesman," by William Godwin.)
• "Anarchy and darkness will be the original appearance. But light shall spring out of the noon of night; harmony and order shall succeed the chaos." (From : "Instructions to a Statesman," by William Godwin.)
• "Courts are so encumbered and hedged in with ceremony, that the members of them are always prone to imagine that the form is more essential and indispensable, than the substance." (From : "Instructions to a Statesman," by William Godwin.)

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Book 2, Chapter 02, Appendix 1

Appendix, No. I. p. 63.

OF SUICIDE

Motives of suicide: 1, Escape from pain.-Benevolence.-
Martyrdom considered.

THIS reasoning will throw some light upon the long disputed case of suicide. "Have I a right to destroy myself in order to escape from pain or distress?" Circumstances that should justify such an action, can rarely occur. There are few situations that can exclude the possibility of future life, vigor, and usefulness. It will frequently happen that the man, who once saw nothing before him but despair, shall afterwards enjoy a long period of happiness and honor. In the meantime the power of terminating our own lives, is one of the faculties with which we are endowed; and therefore, like every other faculty, is a subject of moral discipline. In common with every branch of morality, it is a topic of calculation, as to the balance of good and evil to result from its employment in any individual instance. We should however be scrupulously upon our guard against the deceptions that melancholy and impatience are so well calculated to impose. We should consider that, though the pain to be suffered by ourselves is by no means to be overlooked, we are but one, and the persons nearly or remotely interested in our possible usefulness innumerable. Each man is but the part of a great system, and all that he has is so much wealth to be put to the account of the general stock.

There is another case of suicide of more difficult estimation. What shall we think of the reasoning of Lycurgus, who, when he determined upon a voluntary death, remarked "that all the faculties a rational being possessed were capable of being benevolently employed, and that, after having spent his life in the service of his country, a man ought, if possible, to render his death a source of additional benefit?" This was the motive of the suicide of Codrus, Leonidas and Decius. If the same motive prevailed in the much admired suicide of Cato, and he were instigated by reasons purely benevolent, it is impossible not to applaud his intention, even if he were mistaken in the application. The difficulty is to decide whether in any instance the recourse to a voluntary death can overbalance the usefulness to be displayed, in twenty years of additional life.

Additional importance will be reflected upon this disquisition if we remember that martyrs (µ aprvpes) are suicides by the very signification of the term. They die for a testimony (µ aprvptov). But that would be impossible if their death were not to a certain degree a voluntary action. We must assume that it was possible for them to avoid this fate, before we can draw any conclusion from it in favor of the cause they espoused. They were determined to die, rather than reflect dishonor on that cause.

From : Anarchy Archives

Chronology

November 30, 1792 :
Book 2, Chapter 02, Appendix 1 -- Publication.

January 26, 2017 17:33:00 :
Book 2, Chapter 02, Appendix 1 -- Added to http://www.RevoltLib.com.

September 23, 2017 09:54:19 :
Book 2, Chapter 02, Appendix 1 -- Last Updated on http://www.RevoltLib.com.

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