More notes on Fichte on Suicide

Fichte’s System of Ethics

Suicide and the moral law (p.250-57)

What is suicide?

  • Self-destruction; taking one’s own life; making one’s death one’s end.
  • “[T]he supremacy of the concept over nature.” – p.256
  • Mind over matter.

Is suicide permissible?

  • If freedom is supposed to be absolute self-sufficiency, and life is determination by natural drive, then isn’t suicide a victory for freedom?
  • Freedom – properly conceived – is neither a state, nor a thing but an infinite self-grounding activity (i.e. “absolute self-activity” – p.53).

So, are there any cases in which committing suicide would not deprive me of my tendency towards absolute self-activity, i.e. freedom?

Freedom through finitude

  • Freedom (self-activity) +
    • Life (organic nature) +
      • Sensible world (mechanical nature
        •     = Realization of the Idea of freedom as an infinite task or goal.(The appearance of ought.)

Conditions of Freedom

  • Since I must will freedom as an end, I must also will the necessary means to this end.
  • Reciprocal interaction between myself and the world.
  • Life: – soul + body in reciprocal determination
  • “If I am to be a tool of the moral law, then the necessary condition for my being such a tool must pertain; and if I think of myself as subject to the moral law, then I am commanded to realize to the best of my ability the condition necessary for the continued interaction between me and the world (both the sensible world and the rational world).” – p.248
  • This condition is my own preservation, i.e., my life.
  • Note: The will to self-preservation is not a will to live for the sake of living nor for the sake of enjoyment but for the sake of satisfying the conditions required to do my duty.
  • “I ought not to will simply for the sake of living, but rather for the sake of some action for which I need to be alive.” – p.253
  • Thus, we have duties of self-preservation.
  • Negative duties (prohibitions) – ‘Do not do X’
  • Positive duties (commandments) – ‘You must do X’
  • “The prohibition of the moral law is as follows: do not expose yourself needlessly to dangers to your health, your body, and your life. And such exposure to danger is always needless unless demanded by duty.” – p.251
  • “Act only on that maxim you can at the same time will to be a universal law.” (Universal Duties)
  • “I am a tool of the moral law in the sensible world.” (Universal Conditioned Duties)
  • Prohibitions (Negative Duties) and Commands (Positive Duties)
  • Suicide: Despair |   Disgrace  |  Fanatical Enthusiasm
    • each of these has the same motive: escape from life’s sufferings. I.e. unwillingness to will the conditions of freedom.


  • Suicide is based on a conceptual confusion: either the suicide misconstrues the concept of freedom itself or she is confused about the proper conditions of freedom.
    • Strictly speaking, for the moral law to demand that we take our own life would be self-contradictory.
    • Thus, insofar as we are rational agents suicide is impossible. (Self-sacrifice, on the other hand, is possible and it is permitted if and when duty demands it). – p.258
    • “[T]he…[decision to endure a life of suffering] reveals the supremacy of the concept over the concept.” – p.256

One response to “More notes on Fichte on Suicide

  • Ciaran Dudley

    Hey bro, Enjoying reading your Fichte notes. Still the question nags: If the individual’s suicidal tendency is the product of their conceptual confusion or a contingent lack of rationality how is this destiny of infinite metaphysical wrongness reconcilable with the Concept which is supposed to permeate spiritual and natural life? The only way that any of these guys can make sense is if all aberration, all theoretical and practical error is attributed to an evil will which then becomes a necessary side of freedom and thus implies that proper conceptual living is only unlocked after the individual passes through error, i.e., he first wills to think and do the wrong thing AND THEN makes amends by enduring the suffering of conceptual necessity. In other words, immorality only makes sense if it is impossible. Just as the real definition of the absolute or thing in itself would have to be first the very ambivalence of it.

    Still have trouble syllogizing wrongness with necessity unless it is a quintessential part of freedom to begin with. Both to err and to forgive must be rational.


    2015/02/06 15:19、Höchste Punkt のメッセージ:

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