|GIACOMO LEOPARDI (1798-1837)|
Ethics of Suicide
"Whether suicide be reasonable, or our compromise with life unreasonable, the former is certainly a horrible and inhuman action. It were better to follow Nature, and remain man, than act like a monster in following Reason. Besides, ought we not to give some thought to the friends, relatives, acquaintances, and people with whom we have been accustomed to live, and from whom we should thus separate for ever? And if the thought of such separation be nothing to us, ought we not to consider their feeling? They lose one whom they loved and respected; and the atrocity of his death enhances their grief. I know that the wise man is not easily moved, nor yields to pity and lamentation to a disquieting extent; he does not abase himself to the ground, shed tears immoderately, nor do other similar things unworthy of one who clearly understands the condition of humanity. But such fortitude of soul should be reserved for grievous circumstances that arise from nature, or are unavoidable; it is an abuse of fortitude to deprive ourselves for ever of the society and conversation of those who are dear to us. He is a barbarian, and not a wise man, who takes no account of the grief experienced by his friends, relations, and acquaintances. He who scarcely troubles himself about the grief his death would cause to his friends and family is selfish; he cares little for others, and all for himself. And truly, the suicide thinks only of himself. He desires nought but his personal welfare, and throws away all thought of the rest of the world. In short, suicide is an action of the most unqualified and sordid egotism, and is certainly the least attractive form of self-love that exists in the world.
Finally, my dear Porphyrius, the troubles and evils of life, although many and inevitable, when, as in your case, unaccompanied by grievous calamity or bodily infirmity, are after all easy to be borne, especially by a wise and strong man like yourself. And indeed, life itself is of so little importance, that man ought not to trouble himself much either to retain or abandon it; and, without thinking greatly about it, we ought to give the former instinct precedence over the latter.
If a friend begged you to do this why should you not gratify him?
Now I earnestly entreat you, dear Porphyrius, by the memory of our long friendship, put away this idea. Do not grieve your friends, who love you with such warm affection, and your Plotinus, who has no dearer nor better friend in the world. Help us to bear the burden of life, instead of leaving us without thought. Let us live, dear Porphyrius, and console each other. Let us not refuse our share of the suffering of humanity, apportioned to us by destiny. Let us cling to each other with mutual encouragement, and hand in hand strengthen one another better to bear the troubles of life. Our time after all will be short; and when death comes, we will not complain. In the last hour, our friends and companions will comfort us, and we shall be gladdened by the thought that after death we shall still live in their memory, and be loved by them."