Suicide and Freedom from Suffering in Schopenhauer’s “Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung”


Schopenhauer’s stance on suicide focuses on the possibility of achieving freedom from suffering through the denial of the individual will-to-life. Ultimately, Schopenhauer argues that suicide fails to achieve this freedom, primarily because it is an act of will that confirms, rather than denies, the will-to-life. Suicide, he argues, is a kind of contradiction in that it involves the individual will’s willfully seeking to exterminate itself as a way of escaping the wretchedness of willing. While Schopenhauer explicitly states that one possesses the individual right to commit suicide in order to attempt to obtain freedom from suffering, and even admits that he can understand why one would attempt to do so, he denies that there is any possibility that this freedom may be actualized. To take one’s life indicates a lack of awareness (or an unwillingness to become aware) of the futility of the individual will and the experience of the wholeness and totality of will-in-itself. One has the freedom to destroy oneself, but one’s freedom to free oneself from suffering is an illusion. If one concurs with Schopenhauer that suicide should be understood as a futile escape from the freedom of suffering, one cannot deny the brilliant insights of his argument. His is, one the one hand, a brilliant articulation of the function of suicide—placing the act squarely within what one would intuit as its primary purpose (freedom from suffering). On the other hand, given Schopenhauer’s philosophical framework, it negates that possibility and precludes consideration of any others.

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Trogan, C. (2013) Suicide and Freedom from Suffering in Schopenhauer’s “Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung”. Open Journal of Philosophy, 3, 5-8. doi: 10.4236/ojpp.2013.31002.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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