Looking for philosophical and/or religious perspectives (if allowed):

Let's say you have a machine that predicted, with absolute certainty, that I would be killed in a car accident if I drove my own car home from work this evening (further, let's say this is through no fault of my own; I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time). You did the neighborly thing, and told me well in advance.

So now I have knowledge and options to avoid that fate: I can get a ride, call a cab, sleep in the office, drive somewhere else, etc. And let's say that I'm not saving anyone or helping anyone demonstrably by being in this accident (so there's no incentive for sacrifice), so the only person who benefits, it would seem, from avoiding the accident is me. If I choose to drive myself home in my car anyway, is this tantamount to suicide?

  • 1
    do you believe the machine is absolutely fool proof?
    – user64448
    Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 19:38
  • 1
    what about a clearer example? you see someone (accidentally) spill poison in your food, and eat up knowing you will die. is it suicide? it may at least serve the function of suicide, even if you - rightly or wrongly - feel you are merely going willingly to your death..
    – user64448
    Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 19:41
  • i would answer that you did not prepare the meal, unlike actual suicide attempts etc., and this means - while it may be foreseen - you did not die by your own design. you may not even glorify your death. but whether it is called suicide is less important than that
    – user64448
    Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 19:43
  • 1
    There are two ambiguities mixed up here that you should distinguish. First is whether simply declining to save your own life is suicide in the same sense as taking action to end your own life. The second ambiguity is whether the driver is taking an action (driving home) or declining to take an action (changing his plans). It would improve your question to focus on a single ambiguity. Perhaps an example where someone is pushed onto train tracks as the train is coming, and although he has time to save himself, doesn't bother. Commented Jan 26, 2023 at 21:08
  • 4
    This is unanswerable without a key ingredient missing from the post: what is the motive? There are circumstances where some people see a difference between sins of commission and omission, see SEP, Doing vs. Allowing Harm. However, such distinctions presuppose some redeeming qualities in the motive (as in passive euthanasia, self-sacrifice, etc.). If this is simply done on a whim or pre-existing suicidal intention (as in suicide by cop) the difference is erased and the moral effect is that of suicide.
    – Conifold
    Commented Jan 27, 2023 at 16:16

3 Answers 3

  1. If you do x then you'll die

  2. You do x


  1. You'll die

While it's not a complete picture of suicide, it seems the person in question wishes to die and that's the core idea in suicide.

  • The intentionality is key to the definition I agree. I will add, given action is the brain's tool to minimize error and maximize model evidence. Suicide can be defined as the ultimate act to minimize error, given error is directly correlated with conscious experience (the least drastic action of which would be like punching a wall after perceiving a nonoptimal outcome thru out which you experience aggression); the brain minimizes more error by punching than being okay with the current situation). Commented Jan 27, 2023 at 9:38
  • 1
    @kendall.tubbs, on point mon ami. Intriguingly, you framed suicide in a way that could convince people not to suicide for the simple reason that it's a trivial solution to problems.
    – Hudjefa
    Commented Jan 27, 2023 at 14:33

On one hand, if the premise the machine predicts the future is logically true, it means it works for all 100% predictions. If you choose not to drive to, and you save yourself from death, reality is twisted, causality does not work anymore and logic is useless. This case is simply logically non-consistent.

On the other, if the machine is not 100% precise (like in all TV cartoons), and you drive your car, you are committing suicide, because you are heavily raising your probabilities of death intentionally.

A totally equivalent example to the second case is this: I am a machine that predicts the future, and tell you that if you jump off from the last floor of the Empire State, you will die. Using your words, you jump off "anyway". Is that "tantamount to suicide"? Yes.

  • To add to this logical machine construction. The machine could be a physics engine connected to some global satellite system that constructs an unfathomable amount of possible future scenarios, due to the uncertainty in the physics used for the engine. The causality works until the future information alters variables (telling a human). Over time our physics will come to more accurately depict reality, so it's conceivable the engine will become exponentially better. I like to think we would then give it an intelligence and allow it to guide us toward a more optimal future. Commented Jan 27, 2023 at 14:55
  • Perhaps it'd disable your car before you even contemplate suicide or intentionally put yourself in a dangerous situation. Perhaps it'd manipulate our world so much no human would ever even become aware suicide is even a concept. Commented Jan 27, 2023 at 14:58
  • Honestly, this is probably the most logical answer to me - if the machine predicts infallibly, causality goes out the window. But the crux of the question is simpler: can indifference to the possibility of death be considered suicide? If I'm indifferent to the point of "I walk off the roof of a 20-storey building," that's probably suicide to most people. Is part of that reasoning based on the almost-certain probability of death? If so, where is the threshold? Running through a minefield? Strolling through a sniper's alley? Maybe that was a clearer formulation of the original question?
    – Gary L
    Commented Mar 29, 2023 at 14:00

All the definitions of suicide I've seen amount to

intentionally taking your own life

What is "intent"? I think that acting on a desire that you know will be brought about is at least almost always sufficient for it. Any counter examples?

You could also argue that you did not "take" your own life but the person who caused the accident did: that you did not intend to crash, perhaps because you didn't want to crash or die, only to drive somewhere; that you did not construct or devise your death.

There's probably some basic ideas around accepting or loving fate - and I see no reason not to think of it as fate - without desiring what happens. Many people will say you can love without desire; others will say you can desire without love.

In short, in doesn't just depend on your actions, but also your mental states (as intent must).

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .