The concept of rational suicide occasionally occurs in context of ethical questions, such as whether or not there are any circumstances in which physician-assisted suicide would be morally acceptable. Those who favor physician-assisted suicide seek to show that under some circumstances suicide would be a rational act and thereby be morally acceptable. The transition from ‘the rational’ to ‘the moral’ is, of course, dubious: surely one cannot conclude that because an act is rational it is necessarily morally good. Interesting as exploring this flaw might be, I wish to concentrate rather on the broader and more fundamental concept of rational suicide. Thus, I assume rational suicide may or may not involve assistance by another in its performance, and my aim is to examine the possibility of rational suicide for people who may be considered able to make decisions. My question then is this: Can people make a rational decision to die? Is there such a thing as rational suicide?
Schopenhauer is a figure who comes to mind here: he's not only advocated the related position of anti-natalism but also argued that suicide is a right of any human being, the opposite of immoral. By his argument suicide can actually be the most magnificent declaration of moral freedom, as it constitutes taking maximal control of one's life.
This sort of thinking that it is an inviolable part of one's agency to end one's own existence is far from unheard of; the idea is that suicide can't be inherently immoral because it is among the most basic rights of any living agent to die. Some existentialism takes this to an extreme, according to which the default position is more or less that we should commit suicide unless we're able to find something worth living for.
To spin this into an explicitly moral argument (which has been done in exactly this way), suppose straightforwardly that happiness is the good, and that there exists a person nobody knows about who is doomed to suffer for the rest of their life and knows this. Under such a circumstance suicide becomes rational. Less contrived examples come up in the real world and have been the subject of many debates.
Per the example you pointed out: someone who is in a terminal condition and an intolerable amount of pain, yet somehow still be rational, may decide to terminate their own life this would be a rational suicide by some people's account.
A more interesting case is the typical Hollywood scenario of someone purposefully dying to save loved ones or their country or something. I am not talking about suicide bombers or people blowing themselves up for a political cause, but the movie scenario where some has to die to prevent an asteroid from hitting the planet or something like that. Such a suicide would indeed be considered rational by any measure.
Yes, suicide can be rational. It may in fact be a paradigmatic act of rationality.
First, I would note that there is a fair amount of philosophical literature on this question, and I am not very familiar with it. Camus, for example, argues that the question of suicide is the ultimate manifestation of human "freedom," which is more or less the same as "rationality." Animals, vegetables, and minerals, locked into natural causality, cannot choose "to be or not to be..." or even pose the question, as Hamlet can. It is a possibility that arises only for the rational being.
Is it ever a "correct" decision, a best option? A moral option? That is a slightly different question.
Here, the concept of the immortal soul and a Kantian view of rationality enter the picture, confusingly. For the Ancients and Stoics such as Cato or Seneca, obviously suicide presents no moral problem. Likewise, for secular existentialists like Camus, it may present no moral problem. For the Christian, on the other hand, one's "life" is not one's personal property, and this view is not entirely limited to the religious. It may apply to Marxists, say, or anyone who conceives of a "higher purpose."
Christians like Kant might also argue that suicide to end suffering or attain some other material end is deluded in thinking it can actually have such knowledge or predict such outcomes. Pascal's wager may, indeed, make a "rational" or probabilistic case against the short-term benefits of suicide. And it is not only the possibility that suicide does not in fact "end one's life," it is also the unknown consequences for others and thus for the world at large.
Suicide is a possibility for rational beings only. Such a momentous "free" decision expresses the very essence of rationality. But it can never be "logical," for there is no possible certainty as to the consequences. Not even a calculable probability. And whether it can be "moral" is a matter of cultural context and one's overall understanding of life.
Ghandi said be the change you want to see in the world.
The past several months has been (for me) an examination of reality on reality’s terms, rather than my own or from a human viewpoint.
When one examines the ethical dilemmas of being a human in this world.. from beyond purely just the scope of the viewpoint of being human, it quickly becomes clear our existence is anything but special.
In fact, the discovery might throw us for a proverbial loop of unease and uncertainty about how we view ourselves, and what the moral and ethical outcomes of our existence demands we do.
If any life exterior to planet earth were to observe humanity and its impacts on earth, it would quickly and accurately assess that we are cancerous to the planet.
Our individual and collective existences serve merely to perpetuate and grow the cancer so as to consume the planet and destroy it, exactly in the fashion of a parasite.
Our existences consist of consumption and waste, and consumption for the production of waste. Nothing more, nothing less.
We work to eat, eat to live, live to work, and repeat.
In the process we consume fossil fuels for transportation, heat, clothing, materials (such as tires and plastic bags, etc), etc; and we destroy nature both to create space for our dwellings, but also to construct those dwellings from the trees we harvest.
We pump vast pollution in a myriad of endless ways into our atmosphere, we toss all of our physical waste into either the ground or the oceans, and we fill endless tanks full of shit and piss every day.
We murder billions of animals a year so that we can eat whatever we desire whenever we desire it. And to top it all off, we go to war with one another over who gets to do all of this for the lowest possible costs.
All in the name of progress.
I for one have reached the point where I no longer wish to be a cancer cell.
I disagree with humanity and being alive.
This leaves me at the ethical and moral dilemma about what the correct course of action should be; as if I am to follow Ghandi’s famous quote of being the change one wishes to see in the world, then am I not also obligated to perform the action that best represents my call to be the change I wish to see?
If I disagree with humanity, and my beliefs are so strong so as to present an argument in which logically dictates and rationally argues the immorality of sustaining being alive, does that not result at the moral obligation of actively choosing not to continue participation as part of this parasitic and vile species?