Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose

I’ve been looking at the General Social Survey to see if there are indicators of social isolation that have been steadily increasing that could partly explain why the rate of mass killings has increased so much in recent years; unfortunately, most of the questions about loneliness or isolation were only asked a single time in a single year.

One question that does seem relevant and has been asked steadily since the late 70s is this one, though:

“Do you think a person has the right to end his or her own life if this person is tired of living and ready to die?”


For both whites and non-whites, about twice as many people answer “Yes” to this question as in 1980.

7 thoughts on “Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose

  1. Coincidentally, I was just reading this:

    It is exceedingly important to recognize that there is a difference between reflecting upon the ‘intrinsic’ moral character of particular acts or desires and reflecting upon the manner in which or motives by which people approach them. For instance, many philosophers and theologians have reflected upon the horrific moral character of the act of suicide, while being able to recognize that people who attempt suicide seldom do so fully witting of this character, or intending their act to have such a force. Rather, suicide tends to be an act of despair, undertaken in states of mind that radically diminish responsibility. For instance, Ludwig Wittgenstein, who himself had suffered with suicidal ideation and had three brothers who committed suicide, observed:

    If suicide is allowed then everything is allowed. If anything is not allowed then suicide is not allowed. This throws a light on the nature of ethics, for suicide is, so to speak, the elementary sin.


    1. Interesting. I knew that about Wittgenstein’s family; it’s hard not to think his particular insights weren’t related to an ability to contemplate the world in a way that didn’t abide by conventional boundaries, but this same ability would make him (and his siblings who presumably shared some of his predispositions) more susceptible to dysfunctional patterns of thought.


  2. From the perspective of the individual, suicide may be an act of despair. But Durkheim says that from the perspective of society, it’s an act of selfishness. It is consequence of an ideology of individualism. (Durkheim didn’t know from libertarianism). He also suggests that it becomes a cause of individualist ideology.

    “Society is thus opposed to their escaping from their obligations towards it through death. But when they refuse to accept this subordination as legitimate, how can it impose itself? It no longer has the necessary authority to keep them at their posts, if they should wish to desert; and, aware of its own weakness, it even goes so far as to acknowledge their right to do freely what it can no longer prevent.”

    Liked by 1 person

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