If someone cannot positively contribute to society, can they then rationalize going through physician assisted suicide?

I have to write a paper the prompt is about picking an ethical dilemma and then arguing for that in the paper according to my thesis from an Aristotle viewpoint. Is this a good topic to write about considering I think Aristotle is against assisted suicide?


Aristotle had views on suicide, certainly :

Plato and Aristotle distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable suicide' (Elise P. Garrison, 'Attitudes toward Suicide in Ancient Greece', Transactions of the American Philological Association (1974-2014), Vol. 121 (1991), pp. 1-34: 14.)

In Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, we initially encounter an encompassing condemnation of suicide, but his reasons for forbidding it put significant emphasis on its social and political ramifications. Later, however, Aristotle himself qualifies his sweeping prohibition. Aristotle's Ethics is telelogical: both the State and the individual through action seek the good, which Aristotle defines as "that at which all things aim" (1.1094A1-3). The State and the individual aim at the same good, though the good in the State is greater and nobler (1.1094A27-B11). Thus ethics become a part of political or social science, i.e., an individual becomes explicable and can exhibit his courage (andreia) in terms of his interaction with his society. Aristotle defines andreia as "a mean with respect to things that inspire confidence or fear...and it chooses or endures things because it is noble to do so, or because it is base not to do so" (3.111BA1O-12). Suicide is his example (3.111BA12-15).67 It is, he states, the mark of a coward to die in order to escape from poverty or love or anything painful, because it exhibits softness to escape from what is troublesome. This kind of person does not die because it is noble, but only to escape evil.

Aristotle has already stated that a typical object of fear is death, because "it is the end, and nothing is thought to be any longer either good or bad for the dead" (11 15A2B-7). Therefore, one who faces death must have courage, which enables him to endure it in the proper spirit. The prominent place Aristotle gives to suicide seems to indicate that suicide was a current issue under discussion, but that he considered the subject needed clarification. In large part Aristotle's discussion is very similar to Plato's. For example, suicide to escape poverty seems to be a form of Plato's suicide "from laziness and cowardice." In addition, though Aristotle uses the word malakia which seems to suggest a certain perception of effeminacy surrounded suicide, he carefully specifies what kind of suicide is the mark of a coward, and with more precision than Plato, he also creates a list of unacceptable suicides which suggests that some types of suicide are acceptable.

In book 5 Aristotle discusses justice, and in what sense it is a mean. He concedes that justice is not really a mean in the way other virtues are, but in the sense that "it relates to an intermediate amount, while injustice relates to the extremes" (1 133B 30ff). Justice also, alone of the virtues, is thought to be another's good (1130A3-4). Since this is the case, can a man treat himself unjustly or not (1 138A4)? Aristotle provides a negative answer (1 138A5ff). There are just acts, he suggests, which are prescribed by the law, and since the law does not expressly permit suicide, it forbids it. If someone breaks the law and harms another voluntarily (that is, an agent who knows whom he is affecting and what he is using), he acts unjustly. Anyone who in anger stabs himself breaks the law and acts unjustly, though not towards himself but towards the State. The suicide who kills himself in anger suffers voluntarily, though no one voluntarily suffers injustice. Therefore the State suffers the injustice, and so punishes suicides by a certain loss of civil rights (atimia)), which presumably means lack of commemoration, and perhaps curtailment of the usual rituals, a procedure which Plato also forbade for cowardly suicides Clearly, for Aristotle a suicide poses a paradoxical problem which he attempts to resolve in terms of suicide's effects on society. Aristotle, like Plato, condemns only certain kinds of suicide, and here (as opposed to 3.1116A12-15) narrows the distinction even more to those who commit suicide di' orgen [through anger]. But with Aristotle we remain squarely in the realm of social theory, and his testimony supports the suggestion that social significance attached to suicides, and that a distinction between different kinds of suicide existed. (Elise P. Garrison, 'Attitudes toward Suicide in Ancient Greece', Transactions of the American Philological Association (1974-2014), Vol. 121 (1991), pp. 1-34: 18-20.)


Aristotle condemns suicide when it is done merely 'in order to escape from poverty or love or anything painful'. He also condemns suicide when when the act is done from lack of self-control in a state of 'anger'. On the other hand, Aristotle appears to allow the possibility that a person may commit suicide, not in such conditions but when 'it is noble'. He rules out suicide when it is done from ignoble motives but not, at least explicitly, when (as may be) it is done from noble motives. Such might be the case, for instance, when a general commits suicide rather than bring disgrace on his city through capture by the enemy - but this is my, not Aristotle's, example.

Aristotle appears not to touch on the question of assisted suicide but it is hard to see by what logic he could allow suicide from noble motives but condemn the case where such suicide could be done only with assistance.

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