I don't mean Suicidology because that's science, not philosophy. I don't mean Ethics or Moral Philosophy because that's not 100% suicide.

  1. If suicide is veritably serious, why isn't it a separate branch?

  2. I perused Harvard, MIT, and Oxford philosophy department faculty pages. But I don't see "philosophy of suicide". I screenshot Oxford. Why "Philosophy of Cognitive Science" ... "Philosophy of Science", but no "Philosophy of Suicide"?

I never took French after high school but don't want to rely on translation. Le Mythe de Sysyphe: Chapitre 1

Il n'y a qu'un problème philosophique vraiment sérieux : c'est le suicide. Juger que la vie vaut ou ne vaut pas la peine d'être vécue, c'est répondre à la question fondamentale de la philosophie. Le reste, si le monde a trois dimensions, si l'esprit a neuf ou douze catégories, vient ensuite. Ce sont des jeux ; il faut d'abord répondre. Et s'il est vrai, comme le veut Nietzsche, qu'un philosophe, pour être estimable, doive prêcher d'exemple, on saisit l'importance de cette réponse puisqu'elle va précéder le geste définitif. Ce sont là des évidences sensibles au cœur, mais qu'il faut approfondir pour les rendre claires à l'esprit.

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    Because few philosophers share Camus' opinion. To them, suicide is serious as a social and psychological problem, but not as a philosophical one. People who commit suicide almost never do it for philosophical reasons, it is typically an emotional act, perhaps fueled by social circumstances, so its scientific study is more productive. Philosophically, it comes up mostly due to ethical aspects.
    – Conifold
    Commented Sep 10, 2020 at 8:11
  • Nevertheless, the assisted dying debate is pretty active these days. Very much a matter of law, not just ethics. And perhaps a question of the ultimate over-reach of law. Commented Sep 10, 2020 at 11:24
  • Assisted-suicide is a major area for practical ethics. I find Wikipedia & SEP articles titled Philosophy of Suicide. It's just a topic, like murder, war, etc.
    – CriglCragl
    Commented May 8, 2023 at 18:11

2 Answers 2


Not every problem or issue requires its own separate philosophy. Suicide is widely regarded (and has traditionally been regarded) as a moral problem or issue. Therefore it falls within ethics or moral philosophy, the inquiry which deals with suicide, and with the different but related issue of euthanasia which is sometimes called 'voluntary suicide' (a usage I merely note without endorsing), as well as a broad variety of deep-down connected moral problems or issues such as abortion, lying, human cloning, capital punishment. It (1) analyses these conceptually (getting a clear definition of them - descriptive ethics) and (2) considers whether or under what conditions they can be justified (normative ethics). (1) and (2) belong to ethics or moral philosophy though not all ethicists are concerned with both. (Some ethicists keep to (1) because they believe that philosophy cannot adjudicate normative matters; others deny the possibility of (1) on the grounds that a purely descriptive, non-normative language is impossible. We need not settle the question here, even if we could. I mention it merely to bracket it out of the discussion. Here I limit myself to the prima facie.)

The philosophy of cognitive science and the philosophy of science also involve a broad variety of connected problems or issues; cognitive science has its own philosophy because it involves distinctive problems and issues within science. The big difference between (a) the philosophy of cognitive science and the philosophy of science and (b) suicide is precisely that (a) involve the study of a broad variety of connected problems or issues. Suicide by contrast is only one problem or issue whatever sub-topics it breaks up into; and as such, as indicated above, it slots into the broad variety of connected problems or issues with which ethics or moral philosophy deals.

'Ethics' and 'moral philosophy' are usually taken to be convertible terms - we can use one or the other; they are the same inquiry under different names. Not all will agree with this but, rightly or wrongly, it is still (I think) the majority view.


This question is mostly about the nature of academia. Many topics, especially those bearing on psychology, ethics, theology, sociology, and free will, are fruitful areas of philosophical investigation, at least under a broader, more traditional philosophical purview.

Suicide would certainly fit the bill. I would tend to agree that it is an important and promising topic from many perspectives, especially in its implications for free will, a primary concern of the existentialists like Camus. And it may even come to have increasing importance as science, medicine, genetics, identity, AI, and such evolve.

But "branches" of philosophy are not established by administrative decree. Or if they are, most philosophers never got that memo. If enough interesting writings and debates arise, books and conferences will follow, and at last some publisher, seeking to unveil a bandwagon, will entitle a collection "The Philosophy of Suicide." Then a wealthy, suicidal plutocrat will donate for the establishment of a chair or department. Voila!

Having said that, suicide is kind of an individualistic, single-issue niche within the broader questions of ethics, identity, freedom, and mortality. It is not likely to interest most academic philosophers today, except in essayistic treatments. And it does not present good opportunities for original and "winnable" debates, since the "pro" side will be largely absent.

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    While there are likely few if any people that will be pro advocating for suicide there are likely many people that are pro freedom for suicide. In many places people that are caught attempting suicide can be jailed and forced into psychiatric care unwillingly. There is a question to be asked here if we as members of society owe our lives to that society and as such we can be arrested for attempting to harm people (ourselves) or whether our individual human rights (right to bodily autonomy) should prevail without fear of punishment.
    – Cell
    Commented Sep 10, 2020 at 20:38
  • Totally agree, my "pro side" was merely a bad joke that, well... they're no longer with us. Commented Sep 10, 2020 at 21:28