Essay on John Stuart Mill and Suicide

Essay on John Stuart Mill and Suicide

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One of the largest influences on modern American political philosophy, John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty argues that society and the government is too stringent regarding people’s behavior. These strict expectations, he claims, limits individualism and genius, both vital to humanity’s progress (62). To rectify this, Mill believes that as long as one’s behavior doesn’t pose any direct threat to another, it should not be limited. While society may not approve of a member’s actions, it shouldn’t attempt to interfere or use social methods of conditioning behavior such as embarrassment (77). Mill anticipates some criticism by admitting that all actions affect others to some degree. In the example he gives in his book, a man may be prone to extravagant spending and is therefore unable to provide for his family or pay off his debts. This man may be punished, though not for the spending; rather, he should be punished for neglecting his familial and financial obligations (79). While Mill seems to have made many valid arguments, they are potentially quite problematic.
While there are many self-regarding actions seemingly ignored by Mill, perhaps the most important and most problematic is that of suicide. At first glance, suicide appears to fit JS Mill’s examples of behavior not to be constrained. It does not directly hurt another, especially when compared to its sister, homicide. Furthermore, the problem many have with suicide is morally or religiously based, which alone, by Mill’s standards, is not enough to require intervention. But it is this concept of direct damage and intervention that makes suicide a complication to Mill’s model. In his book Le Suicide, Emile Durkheim challenges John Stuart Mill’s concept of self-contained behavior throu...

... middle of paper ...

...ny other philosophers, left some important concepts out of his arguments, ultimately making them incomplete and incorrect.

Works Cited

Chibbaro, Lou, Jr. "Spotlight on Bullying after Rash of Teen Suicides." Washington Blade., 8 Oct. 2010. Web. 04 Dec. 2013.
Donaldson James, Susan. "Kipp Rusty Walker Kills Self on Oregon Stage." ABC News. ABC News Network, 18 Apr. 2013. Web. 03 Dec. 2013.
Durkheim, Émile. Suicide, a Study in Sociology:. Glencoe, IL: Free, 1951. Print.
Greenfield, Rebecca. "What Happens to a Twitter Account That Becomes a Suicide Note? - The Wire." The Wire., 8 Jan. 2013. Web. 04 Dec. 2013.
Mill, John Stuart, and Elizabeth Rapaport. On Liberty. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub., 1978. Print.
Smith, Catharine. "Man Posts Suicide Note To Twitter." The Huffington Post., 16 June 2010. Web. 03 Dec. 2013.

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