Kant Groundwork of Metaphysics of Morals: Suicide

This article criticizes the many claims Immanuel Kant makes in regards to whether it is Just for human beings to commit suicide.

            Immanuel Kant claims in his work Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals that an individual does not act upon his duty when he commits suicide. However, I believe that this thought process is incorrect. In this essay, I will attempt to prove that Kant’s definition of self-love, which is ultimately the characteristic that causes a contradiction and a violation of the categorical imperative, is inconsistent and hence incorrect. I will further reformulate the definition of self-love and provide an alternative to Kant’s argument.

            Kant’s categorical imperative, as described in the text, states that an action can be proclaimed morally worth if the maxim to the action can be willed to become a universal law (421.52). He further states that actions have moral worth if they are performed solely out of duty rather than mere inclination (398.11). This means that individuals should not perform an action anyone else unless it is performed solely out of duty, especially if the action is performed to oneself, or to another human being. It is a given fact that all individuals want the best for themselves, and loves themselves. It is also clear that if an individual is going through times of deep misfortunes, and this is leading him/her to a point of utter despair, then this individual would want to end his or her misery. However, if this individual’s life is promising him misery in the future as well, then he can feel sick of life and find an urge to commit suicide in order to escape his current misery (421.53). Then, according to Kant, this individual’s maxim would be, “from self-love I make it my principle to shorten my life if its continuance threatens more evil than it promises pleasure” (422.54). If this action is to be morally correct, the maxim should be able to become a universal law of nature, as according to the categorical imperative. However, Kant claims that upon doing this, the feeling of self-love would cause the maxim of this individual to be contradictory (422.54). The reason behind this is that “a system of nature by whose law the very feeling whose function is to stimulate the furtherance of life should actually destroy life would contradict itself” (422.54). This clearly means that this individual committing suicide will not be performing an action out of duty to him/her self, but rather will be acting in violation of the categorical imperative.

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