Hume's Objection to the Thomistic Doctrine on Suicide

Emily Kelahan
Illinois Wesleyan University
In "Of Suicide," David Hume argues against the dominant Thomistic doctrine on suicide. Thomas Aquinas, in Summa Theologica, I-IL Q64, Art 5, argues that suicide is morally impermissible because it violates three kinds of duties: one's duty to God, to others, and to oneself. Arguing from within the Thomistic framework, Hume exposes the inconsistencies of Aquinas's theory and refutes Aquinas's arguments against suicide. In this paper I look at only the arguments concerning the ways in which suicide violates a duty to God. My strategy is as follows. First, I argue that G.R. McLean's interpretation of Hume in his paper "Hume and the Theistic Objection to Suicide" is not only philosophically unsound, but also departs significantly from the text of "Of Suicide." I then offer my own interpretation of Hume's arguments in "Of Suicide," which both avoids the problems that McLean's interpretation faces and is closer to the text. Finally, I raise and respond to one possible objection to my interpretation of Hume's argument. Ultimately, I intend to argue that Hume's attack on the Thomistic doctrine on suicide is actually an attack on the broader Thomistic framework, and that to read "Of Suicide" in isolation from Hume's other works leads to error.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

Our Archive

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 47,299
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Hume and the Theistic Objection to Suicide.G. R. McLean - 2001 - American Philosophical Quarterly 38 (1):99 - 111.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Hume on Suicide.Gordon B. Mower - 2013 - The European Legacy 18 (5):563-575.
‘A Steady Contempt of Life’: Suicide Narratives in Hume and Others.Max Grober - 2012 - Journal of Scottish Philosophy 10 (1):51-68.
Hume on Suicide.R. G. Frey - 1999 - Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 24 (4):336 – 351.
The Ethics of Suicide.Victor Cosculluela - 1993 - Dissertation, University of Miami
The English Debate on Suicide From Donne to Hume.Paul Burrell - 1961 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 21 (4):498-498.
Hume and the Theistic Objection to Suicide.G. R. McLean - 2001 - American Philosophical Quarterly 38 (1):99 - 111.
Suicide is Neither Rational nor Irrational.Christopher Cowley - 2006 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 9 (5):495 - 504.


Added to PP index

Total views
39 ( #234,558 of 2,290,759 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
4 ( #305,329 of 2,290,759 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes

Sign in to use this feature