The Weaker Soldier: An Aesthetic Approach to the Problem of Suicide

Dissertation, Loyola University of Chicago (2002)
Craig Greenman
Colby-Sawyer College
The main theses of the dissertation are these: The problem of suicide is ultimately due to the fact that in order to live, we must harm others. The wide range of suicides may be classified according to two main types: the narcissistic suicide and the melancholic suicide. The narcissistic suicide kills himself because he feels that the fact that he must be harmed by others in order for them to live is unacceptable; the melancholic suicide kills himself because he feels that the fact that he must harm others in order to live is unacceptable. In the dissertation, I focus on melancholic suicide, in part as a polemical move against the common sense impression that most, if not all, suicides are of the narcissistic type. There is no way to significantly change the fact that we must live at the expense of others; it is not really possible for life to be different. However, we can think of a world that would be different; this is a possibility of thought. It is the dialectic between these two---between the way the world is and will always be, and the way we would like it to be---which makes art possible. Art can help suicidal persons survive their surviving because in the art object the struggle between themselves and others which is fundamental to life can be mimetically sublimated into the dialectic between the way the world is and will always be and the way we would like it to be which makes art possible. Thus, the art object rather than suicidal persons become the scapegoat for social antagonism; the art lives rather than the persons dying. The ethical approach to the problem of suicide is a failure philosophically and may even be harmful to suicidal persons. ;The main figures I employ to defend these theses are Theodor Adorno, Julia Kristeva, Arthur Schopenhauer, and Sarah Kofman; others treated significantly include Emile Durkheim, Albert Camus, Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Gilles Deleuze
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