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My question is more specifically about arguing convincingly against suicide from the perspective of some kind of universal inheritance.

We find ourselves existing in the universe. If we accept the standard scientific evolutionary view, we are all replicators. The only reason we are here is that self-preserving physical matter, out of the set of all possible physical matter, will tend to maintain itself in a physical substrate over time. To commit suicide is to reject this natural heritage, the only heritage that has allowed our existence.

Is there a sense in which the portrayal of suicide as this kind of rejection is a cogent argument against it?

This gets perilously close to 'the universe has kept us here so the universe clearly wants us here' or perhaps more tautologically 'we exist to be here'. These are something like summaries of the idea I am trying to elucidate, though the former carries some mystical connotations and might be uncharitable.

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    The only way to convince someone against suucide is to understand why [s]he is doing that. And the way of convincing would be different dependent on reasons. Therefore, your argument won't always work. Although, I'd say people who want to commit a suicide are not interested in things you use in this argument. – rus9384 May 28 '18 at 15:17
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    To further rus9384's comment, I think that all cultures already use this sort of argument in some way (though typically not using concepts like "replicators"), so any individual who is suicidal has already exhausted that line of reasoning long ago. I admit to little experience on the topic, but those I know who have dealt with such things find approaches like this to be more effective. – Cort Ammon May 28 '18 at 15:42
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    They usually don't see their present or projected future life experiences as being desirable in some way and don't care, don't know, or are forgetting about the feelings of others who would be affected by it. It can be devastating to the lives of other people. They might not see any other escape or how life can become significantly better. They might believe death is eternal non-existence (not likely) or better in some way (unknown). They probably don't care about or ever considered their role in maintaining the natural heritage of matter (?) in the universe. – Dan Boice May 28 '18 at 16:09
  • Is the subject obsessed or depressed? – Themobisback May 28 '18 at 17:39
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    Such an argument is unlikely to have any effect on anyone who is thinking about suicide. – gnasher729 May 28 '18 at 20:12
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Disclaimer: if you (OP or someone else reading this) have suicidal ideations then please get professional help.

We find ourselves existing in the universe. If we accept the standard scientific evolutionary view, we are all replicators. The only reason we are here is that self-preserving physical matter, out of the set of all possible physical matter, will tend to maintain itself in a physical substrate over time. To commit suicide is to reject this natural heritage, the only heritage that has allowed our existence.

Careful, this is teleological. It's not at all clear that we should (especially in this manner) talk about evolution like that. In other words: evolution can't provide existential reasons. We don't reject some sort of heritage because if we commit suicide then this wouldn't contradict evolutionary principles. Instead, it would be part of them.

For example, we could think of it like this: let's assume that some genetic variation leads to a higher probability of depression. Depression then would lead to a higher probability of suicide. A higher probablity of suicide would lead to a lower number of inheritance of the trait. This of course wouldn't mean that we shouldn't combat depression. But instead, using therapy to combat depression would also be part of evolution, in that it would maybe decrease the probablity of suicide.

Is there a sense in which the portrayal of suicide as this kind of rejection is a cogent argument against it?

I don't think it's a good idea to try to get normative principles out of natural processes in that way. There are, of course, many other good reasons to reject suicide in general.

This gets perilously close to 'the universe has kept us here so the universe clearly wants us here' or perhaps more tautologically 'we exist to be here'. These are something like summaries of the idea I am trying to elucidate, though the former carries some mystical connotations and might be uncharitable.

"We exist to be here" is not tautological. "We exist because we exist." would be tautological. But the former gets some sort of existential reason from somewhere. If we argue that evolution explains why we exist then I'd argue that this commits an equivocation. The meaning of "why we exist" would be different in that explanation which is why it doesn't work.

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If your question is about whether non-suicidal people can argue convincingly about suicide, that is one thing. But if your question is about whether non-suicidal people can argue convincingly with a suicidal person, the answer will be negative.

Rationality underlies any convincing argument about any matter.

The problem with suicide, in this regard, is that more often than not, suicide is motivated by feelings. People do not commit suicide because they have reasoned about the world, or their life, but because they have reasoned about their feelings. Suicide is a reasoned way of putting an end to feelings one does not want to live with.

Typically, one cannot reason one's way out of a clinical depression, because no amount of reasoning will change the underlying feelings. As Hume noted, feelings precede reason.

For people who feel very bad for a very long time, suicide is quite a logical choice.

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It does not seem to be as the argument relies on a person giving respect to this "natural heritage" or the process of evolution. But as the person who is committing suicide, thinks that the world is unfair (at least to him), there is no reason for him to offer respect to "natural heritage". Indeed by killing himself, he is actually freeing himself from being used/abused by these processes (consider a person who is thinking of suicide because of a failed marriage has enough reasons to blame evolution, at least partly, for example, for making him not good enough, for presence of hypergamy, or even the psychological processes which make him feel need love, or develop attachment, just so that he produces next generation). Actually, the idea that "we are all replicators" is anything but motivational and undermines humans, as they are reduced to just means to an end game of survival of species, which is not false from a purely naturalistic, evolutionary perspective.

Any 'is' argument is thus, incapable of convincing him as it 'is' also true that he can kill himself, and offers no reason why he should not exercise his will against the designs of a world, which he perceives has been unfair to him. This is somewhat similar to "existential crisis'.

'We exist to be here' is also not a good argument, as if the man chooses to die, then maybe, he was meant to. It cuts both ways, and just looks like a fatalist argument.

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Without addressing your bolded question, I will address the title question by proposing a few arguments against suicide other than the one that was proposed.

  • Suicide is illegal. You wouldn't steal a car, why would you kill a person?

  • Suicide is risky. If you only maim yourself, your family will be burdened with your care from then on.

  • Suicide is ignorant. If you are thinking that it would be better to cease to be, that's a value judgment on the future and nobody knows the future.

  • Suicide harms others. You may believe that nobody cares about you, or that they don't care enough, but that just isn't true: even the local police cares about you and suicide sends them an unkind message that all the care people have for you is wasted.

If a friend of yours is talking about suicide, he or she is begging for help from you already: a person intent on suicide wouldn't be talking about it at all. But similar to a child's temper tantrum, talking about suicide is a relational power play that will wear out friends fast. The suicidial person needs parents or professionals, not listening ears.

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We are all replicators.

That isn't true. Many people never have children, either because they don't want children or they're biologically unable to reproduce.

In biological terms, suicide is an aberration, because it's unknown in any species save our own. In that spirit, you might intuitively postulate that committing suicide is not a good thing to do.

But with a global population of seven billion, an individual's value as a replicator is questionable. Ironically, some have joked that suicide is the best thing one can do for the planet. Check out the Church of Euthanasia.

I'm not saying I agree with this dark humor. If you're smart enough to be aware of the problems confronting our species and one of those very rare people who actually care, then you're worth far more alive than dead.

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