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Resource A Stoic Defense Against Pro-Life Rhetoric (and Other Stoic Quotes on Death and Suicide!)

GoodPersonEffed

GoodPersonEffed

Brevity is my middle name, but my name was TL
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So my question is this: why live at all as a stoic? What are virtue and moderation and health and peace of mind good for?

I have a hard time understanding this. These are all things that, within a reasonably comfortable life, would be very much assets.
Basically, it is to be able to handle the things in life outside of our control, to not cling too tightly to things beyond our control nor be overly impacted by them, and to maintain equanmity and balance so that our emotions, thoughts, and opinions control us. It is also to better enjoy life, whether it is going well or not, when it is within one's power to do so. And Stoicism does all this in recognition that we are social animals with reponsibilities to one another for the well-being of all.

I highly recommend the book The Practicing Stoic by Ward Farnsworth. He lays out what Stoicism is good for and how it can be applied in modern times. He then separates the book into major subjects of life and introduces what Stoics said about each subject, as well as a few outside opinions that relate. One of the chapters is on death, and different ways of considering it. Another is about other people's opinions and how to manage baiting such as insults.

Edit: Oops, I didn't see you were responding to someone, I thought you were genuinely asking, but I see you went back after I posted this comment and edited to show that part of your comment was a quote. My comment here is still good for anyone who's new to Stoicism, like @Lethe.
 
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J

Jean Améry

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Stoics are basically educated dads. They say what your dad would say in more sophisticated language.

They always strike me as lifeless hypocrites. As if Seneca's death wasn't cosmetically enhanced over the centuries. I bet he cried like a baby when he nearly suffocated to death.

And anyway, who actually wants to live such a passionless and detached life? to be this smirk robotic person who is always reasonable and never desires anything that is out of reach for him? who has no vices that lead to his downfall?

So my question is this: why live at all as a stoic? What are virtue and moderation and health and peace of mind good for?
Do you really expect me to respond to such obvious trolling? You remind me not of Kirillov but of the anonymous underground man in Notes from the Underground:

"I am a sick man... I am a spiteful man. I am an unpleasant man. I think my liver is diseased."
 
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a.n.kirillov

a.n.kirillov

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So what is/ are the ultimate value/ s in stoic ethics? From what I remember, they said virtue was a good in itself. (I've only read Seneca and Epictetus)
 
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GoodPersonEffed

GoodPersonEffed

Brevity is my middle name, but my name was TL
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What is virtue good for? Isn't stoicism simply hedonism in the end?
images (2).png


@a.n.kirillov, respectfully, you've trolled on this thread from your very first comment.

Please go somewhere else and pull the wings off flies for your amusement.

This is the last time I will address you in this thread, and I hope others will ignore you as well, because:

S7lFnky.png



If you continue to post here, I'll just report it to a mod and continue with what is otherwise a great discussion. You're no longer welcome to participate, even if you decide to play by the rules. Goodbye.

(Just in case, @Hasssssuùuu, making you aware and also hoping you won't lock the thread because of one person. A like to this comment in acknowledgement is not required of course, but would be appreciated.)
 
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a.n.kirillov

a.n.kirillov

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I don't get how the question you quoted is a bait ...
 
E

Epsilon0

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@GoodPersonEffed

Please allow me to go a little off topic here. (I solemnly swear to make it up with some quotes in future posts soon to come.)

I wanted to say this thread brought back to my attention a writer I studied as an undergrad - Michel de Montaigne. I just re-aquainted myself with his essay Of Sorrow, (inspired by your quotes) and I came to ponder how differently you read the same author at 20 and at 40. How experience - both life and reading experience - can make you appreciate a text which did not speak to you on a personal level when you first laid eyes on it.

The rich intertextuality in Montaigne and the clarity of his disposition are truly outstanding. By God, that man could write!

Allow me to amuse you @GoodPersonEffed
Today, Sunday, on the 14th of June, this French Lit graduate finally understood why Montaigne is the father and master of the essay as a literary form.

Like a seed carried by wind accidentaly falls on a fertile soil, so you have planted Montaigne in my head. Twenty years ago, he could not grow roots in the young soil of my mind. But now he can.

I will go read another of his essay.

Thank you for this thread!
 
J

Jean Améry

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I have a hard time understanding this. These are all things that, within a reasonably comfortable life, would be very much assets.
You actually take someone who asks what peace of mind is good for seriously? Anyone who has ever experienced the opposite will look at this with astonishment.

'What are rationality and self-control good for?' If only I knew...

You have a hard time understanding it because it's nonsens designed to illicit responses which he can take issue with. His goal in posting that is quite clear: he loves to argue and manifest his ego with his faux-nihilism. He clearly has zero actual interest in the subject that is discussed here but it seems he has succeeded in hijacking this thread.

The thread is about stoicism as a respons to pro-life propaganda and the OP asked for stoic quotes related to the subject. His respons: basically nothing more than a verbose version of 'I hate stoicism'. Classical trolling: completely irrelevant and worded in a needlessly obnoxious way. Clearly this is nothing more than his evening's worth of entertainment.

I for one will not participate in this and neither should you or anyone else actually interested in the topic at hand. If he wants to dismiss stoicism or expound on his other poorly informed opinions and aversions let him make his own thread(s).

This is one of the more unpleasant aspects of this forum: each time a positive and interesting topic is discussed in a productive and reasonable manner you can count on some frustrated bile-spewing naysayer showing up to shit all over it.
 
GoodPersonEffed

GoodPersonEffed

Brevity is my middle name, but my name was TL
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So, getting back on track....

This Seneca quote is from the same letter as the quote in the OP, in the paragraph that precedes it:

"Just as I shall select my ship when I am about to go on a voyage, or my house when I propose to take a residence, so I shall choose my death when I am about to depart from life. Moreover, just as a long-drawn-out life does not necessarily mean a better one, so a long-drawn-out death necessarily means a worse one. There is no occasion when the soul should be humored more than at the moment of death. Let the soul depart as it feels itself impelled to go; whether it seeks the sword, or the halter, or some draught that attacks the veins, let it proceed and burst the bonds of its slavery. Every man ought to make his life acceptable to others besides himself, but his death to himself alone. The best form of death is the one we like. Men are foolish who reflect thus: 'One person will say that my conduct was not brave enough; another, that I was too headstrong; a third, that a particular kind of death would have betokened more spirit.' What you should really reflect is: 'I have under consideration a purpose with which the talk of men has no concern!' Your sole aim should be to escape from Fortune as speedily as possible; otherwise, there will be no lack of persons who will think ill of what you have done."

This made me think of arguments about others' methods when we personally may find them too painful or otherwise undesirable. There is never a lack of persons who will think ill of it!

But it also made me think of passive suicide methods, such as by train, cop, or traffic. It's this line in the quote above that points out to me the ethical consideration of life intersecting life in such instances, and why it's difficult to go along with and think well of passive methods in terms of morality or ethics:

"Every man ought to make his life acceptable to others besides himself, but his death to himself alone."

Seneca's talking about the Stoic ethic of considering one's responsibility to others alongside their own desires. In accomplishing death, no such consideration is required. However, if one is, at their last moment of life, interacting with and employing another at during an intersecting moment of the other's life in order to bring about that death, then it is no longer about making such a death acceptable only to the one pursing, enacting, and achieving it.
 
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E

Epsilon0

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Seneca

”Death is not an evil. What is it then? The one law mankind has that is free of all discrimination.”

”It takes the whole of life to learn how to live, and - what will perhaps make you wonder more - it takes the whole of life to learn how to die.”


"Every man ought to make his life acceptable to others besides himself, but his death to himself alone."
This resonates with me. I hope one day a peaceful ctb alternative will be available - for the sake of the individual first and foremost, but also for the sake of those who get inadvertently caught in the suicide act.


@GoodPersonEffed

The quote from Camus in your OP echoes Montaigne’s ”That to philosophize is to learn to die”
 
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GoodPersonEffed

GoodPersonEffed

Brevity is my middle name, but my name was TL
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There is no man so fortunate that there will not be by him when he is dying some who are pleased with what is going to happen. Suppose that he was a good and wise man, will there not be at last some one to say to himself, Let us at last breathe freely, being relieved from this schoolmaster? It is true that he was harsh to none of us, but I perceived that he tacitly condemns us.—This is what is said of a good man. But in our own case how many other things are there for which there are many who wish to get rid of us. Consider this, then, when you are dying, and you will depart more contentedly by reflecting this way: I am going away from such a life, in which even my associates in behalf of whom I have striven so much, prayed, and cared, themselves wish me to depart, hoping perchance to get some little advantage by it. Why then should a man cling to a longer stay here? Do not however for this reason go away less kindly disposed to them, but preserving your own character, and friendly and benevolent and mild, and on the other hand not as if you were torn away; but as when a man dies a quiet death, the poor soul is easily separated from the body, such also ought your departure from men to be, for nature united you to them and associated you.

- Marcus Aurelius
 
shipwreck

shipwreck

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This is one of the most interesting threads I've seen.

The passages quoted above focus on why and when it is permissible to end one's life. I wonder what the stoic philosophers had to say about "how", by which I mean how to prepare oneself, how to overcome the instincts that prevent one from acting.
 
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GoodPersonEffed

GoodPersonEffed

Brevity is my middle name, but my name was TL
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I wonder what the stoic philosophers had to say about "how", by which I mean: how to prepare oneself, how to overcome the instincts that prevent one from acting.
It was part of the Stoic practice to meditate on death, and to consider it as something natural rather than to be feared. They viewed the act of dying itself as short and contemplated it in comparison to how long life is. It was a long-term effort. They also focused on a having a mindset of being courageous in dying. As @Jean Améry mentioned, there is a bit of the soldier in Stoic philosophy, especially when it comes to courage, but they didn't seem to me to glorify it, it was more about its utility. Thy weren't into glorifying. Overall, they made it a point to learn to not fear death because it was natural and therefore could not be considered evil, and to consider that things were generally only good or evil because of personal preference or opinion. To them, the only true good was virtue.

On a side note, I've noticed on the forum that SI seems to be a blanket term for things that I don't believe are necessarily survival instinct, but are often a matter of preference, opinion, and emotion. Pure survival instinct, to me, is taking a bag off of one's head when suffocating, that is, it's physical and autonomic. Much of what is referred to on the forum as SI would be what the Stoics would consider an undue preference for living and and undue fear of the freeing release, and therefore gift, of death provided by nature.

I think what folks deem SI is a form of clinging and attachment with deep roots, but is not necessarily a true instinct. If one were raised in a warrior culture, they would have no such issues, so I think it's more a reflection of the conditioning of cultural beliefs and mores. Just as being anti-suicide depends on the the dominant social groups and the culture, because in this same world at the same time, suicide is deeply shamed in predominantly Catholic and some Muslim countries, while in Asian countries it is not, and sometimes is in such cultures it still considered an expression of one's honor in certain circumstances and is redeeming rather than damning. In fact, it can redeem the honor of families, while in the other countries I mentioned, it can shame the whole family.
 
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GoodPersonEffed

GoodPersonEffed

Brevity is my middle name, but my name was TL
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"By four o'clock, I've discounted suicide in favor of killing everyone else in the entire world instead."
-Warren Ellis, Transmetropolitan, Vol. 3: Year of the Bastard
Hi there. You may have overlooked that this thread is for quotes from Stoic philosophers only. Warren Ellis is a comic book writer, and the quote has absolutely no relation to Stoic philosophy. No Stoic would have been in favor of killing everyone else in the world, they were quite conscious of their obligations to fellow humans, and strove to manage their feelings about those who frustrated them, rather than assaulting them or removing them from existence.

I've already commented to you once in the thread about irrelevant quotes, but perhaps you overlooked it as well. Would you please stop posting irrelevant quotes here? Perhaps you can save the quotes for threads where they are relevant to the discussions.

Thanks.
 
J

Jean Améry

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While the Moral Letters of Seneca are readily available at reasonable prices and I firmly believe it's worth buying a copy there's a great online resource concerning the ethics of suicide: https://ethicsofsuicide.lib.utah.edu/ (pretty much the online, free version of the book 'The ethics of suicide: historical sources' edited by professor Battin as far as I can tell).

It contains much of the extant primary texts by the stoic authors (in English translation of course) like these three letters by Seneca: https://ethicsofsuicide.lib.utah.edu/selections/seneca/.

I think it would be useful to discuss them passage by passage.
 
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rata1

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While the Moral Letters of Seneca are readily available at reasonable prices and I firmly believe it's worth buying a copy there's a great online resource concerning the ethics of suicide: https://ethicsofsuicide.lib.utah.edu/ (pretty much the online, free version of the book 'The ethics of suicide: historical sources' edited by professor Battin as far as I can tell).

It contains much of the extant primary texts by the stoic authors (in English translation of course) like these three letters by Seneca: https://ethicsofsuicide.lib.utah.edu/selections/seneca/.

I think it would be useful to discuss them passage by passage.
nice idea. i'm afraid it would be perhaps too difficult for me as i am not a native speaker but just to watch and comment a little bit, i would like it. thanks for the idea
 
GoodPersonEffed

GoodPersonEffed

Brevity is my middle name, but my name was TL
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While the Moral Letters of Seneca are readily available at reasonable prices and I firmly believe it's worth buying a copy there's a great online resource concerning the ethics of suicide: https://ethicsofsuicide.lib.utah.edu/ (pretty much the online, free version of the book 'The ethics of suicide: historical sources' edited by professor Battin as far as I can tell).

It contains much of the extant primary texts by the stoic authors (in English translation of course) like these three letters by Seneca: https://ethicsofsuicide.lib.utah.edu/selections/seneca/.

I think it would be useful to discuss them passage by passage.
I agree that it would be useful. If you'd like to start the discussion, I'll look forward to engaging in it. I assume when you introduce a passage for discussion that you'll link the source for reference?
 
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Jean Améry

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Letter 70: On the Proper Time to Slip the Cable (part I)

Source: https://ethicsofsuicide.lib.utah.edu/category/author/seneca/ (3d paragraph including the Virgil quote)

The following text consists of passages quoted from the letter (in italics) with my commentary. I only offer my opinion as to what Seneca meant: I do not claim to be an expert on this and neither should any of this be construed as advice in any way, shape or form. Feel free to give your own interpretation and disagree with me. Civil discussion is the way to better understanding and learning.

Using a passage by Virgil as an illustration Seneca remarks that while death will come for us all some get there (much) sooner than others. Life is highly uncertain and fate fickle. This is an indication that we could quite easily end up in a situation that is highly undesirable.

"To such a life, as you are aware, one should not always cling. For mere living is not a good, but living well."

It is not the quantity (x amount of years, months, days) that matters but the quality of life. What then is 'quality' in this context?

"Accordingly, the wise man will live as long as he ought, not as long as he can. He will mark in what place, with whom, and how he is to conduct his existence, and what he is about to do. He always reflects concerning the quality, and not the quantity, of his life."

The quality of life consists of how one lives (including one's residence), what company one keeps and what is (still) achievable/meaningful activity.

If those things are not present/not achievable and calamities befall him he frees himself:

"As soon as there are many events in his life that give him trouble and disturb his peace of mind, he sets himself free."

He mentions 'many events': to me this means that it's not enough for one or only a few things to have gone/go wrong in one's life. Presumably 'events' means irreversible events: throwing one's life away over things that can be rectified or that may in the course of time lose their importance would not be very wise.

The main condition here is that one's peace of mind is disturbed/affected (which would require a severe, irreversible disruption of one's life): a true stoic would be fairly indifferent to (most) external events so in my opinion this does not mean whenever we hit a rough patch or face difficulties we ought to off ourselves and if we steel our spirit there is not a lot that we cannot bear with equanimity (peace of mind).

" And this privilege is his, not only when the crisis is upon him, but as soon as Fortune seems to be playing him false; then he looks about carefully and sees whether he ought, or ought not, to end his life on that account."

We do not have to wait for the last possible time to free ourselves but as soon as it becomes clear the situation is unsalvageable and Fortune has proven too mighty it might be wise to end it there.

The key here is a making a rational, reasoned decision: "he looks about carefully..." meaning he considers all his options and the facts of the matter.

In my opinion this would entail discussing the matter with friends one can trust (family as well if that's possible) as was the custom with the Romans. This enables one to hear different points of view and ensure one's thought process is reasonable and logical. The next letter (77) depicts exactly such a situation: a man who is gravely ill (though not terminally so) asks his friends to counsel him on whether or not it'd be wise to keep on living.

"He holds that it makes no difference to him whether his taking-off be natural or self-inflicted, whether it comes later or earlier."

Objectively speaking it does no matter how one died exactly once one is dead. The same with how long one lived: does it matter to the dead whether they lived a 100 years or any lesser number?

Clearly the stoics were not superstitious (as for example Socrates was as he required a sign from the gods) and did not believe in a religious prohibition of voluntary death. In one letter Seneca even says it's not use to pray to the gods to change the outcome since their decrees are fixed for eternity and everything in nature heads to the same exit.

This reminds me of Epicurus' notion of the gods being so far removed from human affairs they simply do not interfere in them and it's therefore useless to fear them. Or pray to them.

"He does not regard it with fear, as if it were a great loss; for no man can lose very much when but a driblet remains."

In the above mentioned context of quality above quantity this makes a lot of sense: if one's quality of life is very low (persistently so) what life truly remains? In the context of someone who is dying of a physical illness: does it really matter to live just a little while longer? It's clear Seneca would disagree.

"It is not a question of dying earlier or later, but of dying well or ill. And dying well means escape from the danger of living ill."

Again it does not really matter how long we live, i.e. when we die exactly. A well-reasoned, rational suicide ensures protection against an ill life, simply because it makes it impossible. This implies the belief that death is no harm to us and on the contrary makes us forever immune to suffering and the blows of fate.

Again this isn't a blanket justification of suicide under any conditions or circumstances: one ought to make sure the only other alternative to suicide is an ill life. To rush to one's death prematurely or under the influence of the passions (let alone drugs or alcohol) is not what Seneca meant by "dying well means escape from the danger of living ill."

I welcome your comments. Seneca's arguments and counsel here should be read in the context of his other writings on the subject lest one risk a one-sided interpretation. Preferably also in contrast with other writers and with a working knowledge of stoic ethics in general.

In my opinion his counsel is only applicable to those who are willing and able to reflect deeply on the matter at hand (the ethics of voluntary death) and one's own, unique circumstances. It should not be used as an excuse for bad, rash decisions.

I would refer anyone who made it this far to @GoodPersonEffed's earlier post on the stoic framework on when suicide is appropriate: .

As a general introduction to the subject that's available online I recommend the article by professor Cholbi, an authority on the philosophy of suicide, in the Stanford Encylopedia of Philosophy:
https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/suicide/.

Unfortunately it's not a very good source on the specifics of stoic ethics on suicide but it does offer a broader view of the subject.

"In contrast, the Stoics held that whenever the means to living a naturally flourishing life are not available to us, suicide may be justified, regardless of the character or virtue of the individual in question. Our natures require certain “natural advantages” (e.g., physical health) in order for us to be happy, and a wise person who recognizes that such advantages may be lacking in her life sees that ending her life neither enhances nor diminishes her moral virtue.

When a man’s circumstances contain a preponderance of things in accordance with nature, it is appropriate for him to remain alive; when he possesses or sees in prospect a majority of the contrary things, it is appropriate for him to depart from life…. Even for the foolish, who are also miserable, it is appropriate for them to remain alive if they possess a predominance of those things which we pronounce to be in accordance with nature (Cicero, III, 60–61).

Hence, not only may concerns related to one’s obligations to others justify suicide, but one’s own private good is relevant too."

He does mention the main point I have discussed here: Seneca's position on what it means to live well (quality over quantity) which in turn is vital with regard to the topic of suicide.
 
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GoodPersonEffed

GoodPersonEffed

Brevity is my middle name, but my name was TL
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Letter 70: On the Proper Time to Slip the Cable (part I)

Source: https://ethicsofsuicide.lib.utah.edu/category/author/seneca/ (3d paragraph including the Virgil quote)

The following text consists of passages quoted from the letter (in italics) with my commentary. I only offer my opinion as to what Seneca meant: I do not claim to be an expert on this and neither should any of this be construed as advice in any way, shape or form. Feel free to give your own interpretation and disagree with me. Civil discussion is the way to better understanding and learning.

Using a passage by Virgil as an illustration Seneca remarks that while death will come for us all some get there (much) sooner than others. Life is highly uncertain and fate fickle. This is an indication that we could quite easily end up in a situation that is highly undesirable.

"To such a life, as you are aware, one should not always cling. For mere living is not a good, but living well."

It is not the quantity (x amount of years, months, days) that matter but the quality of life. What then is 'quality' in this context?

"Accordingly, the wise man will live as long as he ought, not as long as he can. He will mark in what place, with whom, and how he is to conduct his existence, and what he is about to do. He always reflects concerning the quality, and not the quantity, of his life."

The quality of life consists of how one lives (including one's residence), what company one keeps and what is (still) achievable/meaningful activity.

If those things are not present/not achievable and calamities befall him he frees himself:

"As soon as there are many events in his life that give him trouble and disturb his peace of mind, he sets himself free."

He mentions 'many events': to me this means that it's not enough for one or only a few things to have gone/go wrong in one's life. Presumably 'events' means irreversible events: throwing one's life away over things that can be rectified or that may in the course of time lose their importance would not be very wise.

The main condition here is that one's peace of mind is disturbed/affected (which would require a severe, irreversible disruption of one's life): a true stoic would be fairly indifferent to (most) external events so in my opinion this does not mean whenever we hit a rough patch or face difficulties we ought to off ourselves and if we steel our spirit there is not a lot that we cannot bear with equanimity (peace of mind).

" And this privilege is his, not only when the crisis is upon him, but as soon as Fortune seems to be playing him false; then he looks about carefully and sees whether he ought, or ought not, to end his life on that account."

We do not have to wait for the last possible time to free ourselves but as soon as it becomes clear the situation is unsalvageable and Fortune has proven too mighty it might be wise to end it there.

The key here is a making a rational, reasoned decision: "he looks about carefully..." meaning he considers all his options and the facts of the matter.

In my opinion this would entail discussing the matter with friends one can trust (family as well if that's possible) as was the custom with the Romans. This enables one to hear different points of view and ensure one's thought process is reasonable and logical. The next letter (77) depicts exactly such a situation: a man who is gravely ill (though not terminally so) asks his friends to counsel him on whether or not it'd be wise to keep on living.

"He holds that it makes no difference to him whether his taking-off be natural or self-inflicted, whether it comes later or earlier."

Objectively speaking it does no matter how one died exactly once one is dead. The same with how long one lived: does it matter to the dead whether they lived a 100 years or any lesser number?

Clearly the stoics were not superstitious (as for example Socrates was as he required a sign from the gods) and did not believe in a religious prohibition of voluntary death. In one letter Seneca even says it's not use to pray to the gods to change the outcome since their decrees are fixed for eternity and everything in nature heads to the same exit.

This reminds of Epicurus' notion of the gods who are so far removed from human affairs they simply do not interfere in them and it's useless to fear them.

"He does not regard it with fear, as if it were a great loss; for no man can lose very much when but a driblet remains."

In the above mentioned context of quality above quantity this makes a lot of sense: if one's quality of life is very low (persistently so) what life truly remains? In the context of someone who is dying of a physical illness: does it really matter to live just a little while longer? It's clear Seneca would disagree.

"It is not a question of dying earlier or later, but of dying well or ill. And dying well means escape from the danger of living ill."

Again it does not really matter how long we live, i.e. when we die exactly. A well-reasoned, rational suicide ensures protection against an ill life, simply because it makes it impossible. This implies the belief that death is no harm to us and on the contrary makes us forever immune to suffering and the blow of fate.

Again this isn't a blanket justification of suicide under any conditions or circumstances: one ought to make sure the only other alternative to suicide is an ill life. To rush to one's death prematurely or under the influence of the passions (let alone drugs or alcohol) is not what Seneca meant by "dying well means escape from the danger of living ill."

I welcome your comments. Seneca's arguments and counsel here should be read in the context of his other writings on the subject lest one risk a one-sided interpretation. Preferably also in contrast with other writers and with a working knowledge of stoic ethics in general.

In my opinion his counsel is only applicable to those who are willing and able to reflect deeply on the matter at hand (the ethics of voluntary death) and one's own, unique circumstances. It should not be used as an excuse for bad, rash decisions.

I would refer anyone who made it this far to @GoodPersonEffed's earlier post on the stoic framework on when suicide is appropriat: .

As a general introduction to the subject that's available online I recommend the article by professor Cholbi, an authority on the philosophy of suicide, in the Stanford Encylopedia of Philosophy:
https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/suicide/.

Unfortunately it's not a very good source on the specifics of stoic ethics on suicide but it does offer a broader view of the subject.

"In contrast, the Stoics held that whenever the means to living a naturally flourishing life are not available to us, suicide may be justified, regardless of the character or virtue of the individual in question. Our natures require certain “natural advantages” (e.g., physical health) in order for us to be happy, and a wise person who recognizes that such advantages may be lacking in her life sees that ending her life neither enhances nor diminishes her moral virtue.

When a man’s circumstances contain a preponderance of things in accordance with nature, it is appropriate for him to remain alive; when he possesses or sees in prospect a majority of the contrary things, it is appropriate for him to depart from life…. Even for the foolish, who are also miserable, it is appropriate for them to remain alive if they possess a predominance of those things which we pronounce to be in accordance with nature (Cicero, III, 60–61).

Hence, not only may concerns related to one’s obligations to others justify suicide, but one’s own private good is relevant too."

He does mention the main point I have discussed here: Seneca's position on what it means to live well (quality over quantity) which in turn is vital with regard to the topic of suicide.
Excellent post. I enjoyed reading it, and it expanded and enhanced my knowledge.

I have nothing to argue against.

I have two things to contribute.


First, I would expand a little on ill health with two comments:

1. Ill health was indeed a Stoic rational reason for withdrawing from the party of life, that is, that provisions for the party have been spoiled. One's soul can no longer use the tool of the body.

2. Virtue was, to the Stoics, the only good, and anything that prohibited the Stoic from being able to act virtuously was not only cause to consider withdrawing from life, but to some Stoics, demanded it. (See the article "Seneca and the Stoic View of Suicide" by William Englert. It's a free PDF, but I can't link it.) Therefore, one may also consider if ill health would cause one to act against their will, to act with virtue. For instance, is the pain so great that one would do unvirtuous things under its influence? Would it cause one to assault another? Would it lead to madness, which is a loss of control and another of the five rational reasons for withdrawing from the party? I'm not saying that if one gets ill and can't control themselves then that's it, kill yourself. But if it is a long-term, unbearable, perhaps even degenerative illness, then it is, in my opinion, rational to consider suicide, and I think many who have not experienced such illness can comprehend why someone would consider the relief of suicide. The Stoics honored someone who could maintain their reason and a measure of equanimity even in the worst of circumstances, such as the death of a child or illness:

"From Apollonius I learned freedom of will and undeviating steadiness of purpose; and to look to nothing else, not even for a moment, except to reason; and to be always the same, in sharp pains, on the occasion of the loss of a child, and in long illness..."

(Marcus Aurelius, Meditations book I, in which he did the Stoic exercise of listing all of the people who had positive influences on his life and why)


My second contribution is to, as @Jean Améry suggested, bring other philosophies into the discussion to enhance it.

I have often noticed there are many similarities between foundational Buddhist philosophy (before the founding of any schools such as Mahayana, Tibetan, etc.) and Stoicism. In fact, Buddhist philosophy was brought to Greece by a Greek who had learned it in his Asian travels. It has been linked to some Greek philosophy, but not directly to Stoicism.

One similarity I've found relates to the Stoic perspective of externals beyond one's control that are neither good nor evil, but only viewed as such by preference or opinion. In Buddhism, this is addressed by suffering and attachment -- one suffers because of attachment to pleasure, to views, to things, etc. Stoicism cautioned against being too strongly influenced by any external, including praise, fear, comfort, physical health, as these are all temporary and subject to change, just as the Buddha's foundational teachings include that suffering is caused by attachment to things that are impermanent, subject to change, and bound up in suffering. Pleasure and pain are but two sides of the same coin, bound up in, or perhaps centered and joined by suffering -- either being away from it, or too much in it, yet always there, always at play, always an influence.

Another similarity is in equanimity/eudamonia, and both have relate to the attainment of freedom. While Buddhists seek the ultimate release from samsara (the neverending cycles of suffering and rebirth) via enlightenment and freedom from rebirth into the conditionless, Nirvana, they also had the tool of equanimity to manage, while in the condition of life, suffering due to being in, or being influenced by, extreme states. In both philosophies, extreme states have too much influence over actions and can take control; for the Stoic, they are called the passions, and can lead one away from rationality and virtue. In comparison to Buddhists, the Stoics sought the condition of eudaimonia, happiness that is a result of balance, neither too happy nor too sad, allowing one to be able to flow through life more easily and contentedly in spite of external conditions, even if one were a slave, and, if one were an emperor, to not become a tyrant.

To bring it back to freedom, as we've seen in other comments on this thread, the Stoics considered death to be the ultimate liberation and freedom from life and all of its imposing and enslaving conditions. Contemplation of death made things more bearable, and when reason dictated that, as @Jean Améry stated and cited, fortune had turned against one, such that they could no longer practice virtue or have a reasonable amount of quality of life, then death via suicide led to freedom. Sometimes a Stoic would come to recognize that no matter how they viewed a situation, if they could not maintain any equanimity, and if they could not practice virtue, then it was best to withdraw.

As I said earlier in this thread, to the Stoic, the only true good was virtue. To me, then, it follows that to be prevented from practicing virtue would be evil. Perhaps an illness would not do that, perhaps it would. But madness could cause it, as well as tyrants, and as well as poverty, because, in the case of the latter, one would potentially resort to stealing food or other physical necessities, or even murder to obtain them. (In fact, Gautama Buddha recognized that poverty could cause one to break the Five Precepts, and urged rulers to improve conditions so that those in poor conditions would not have to resort to acts that harmed others, and in fact may go against their ethics against doing so, in order to survive.)

With regard to virtue being the only good:

"The key to transforming oneself into the Stoic sophos (wise person) is to learn what is ‘in one’s power’, and this is ‘the correct use of impressions’ (phantasiai), which in outline involves not judging as good or bad anything that appears to one. For the only thing that is good is acting virtuously (that is, motivated by virtue), and the only thing that is bad is the opposite, acting viciously (that is, motivated by vice)."

(Epictetus entry in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, https://www.iep.utm.edu/epictetu/)

A quick note of interest. Seneca said there was no point in praying, as the gods had already set everything in motion. They were uninvolved. Gautama Buddha said that gods exist, but that they are uninvolved with human experience and with what happens on earth. (Yet at the time of his enlightenment, he said a deity, who he had also been in a previous incarnation, approached him and convinced him to spread his teachings because there were some who were ready and could comprehend them. Sometimes Guatama contradicted himself, this was not the only time.) Just noting another similarity between the two philosophies.
 
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AcornUnderground

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On a side note, I've noticed on the forum that SI seems to be a blanket term for things that I don't believe are necessarily survival instinct, but are often a matter of preference, opinion, and emotion. Pure survival instinct, to me, is taking a bag off of one's head when suffocating, that is, it's physical and autonomic. Much of what is referred to on the forum as SI would be what the Stoics would consider an undue preference for living and and undue fear of the freeing release, and therefore gift, of death provided by nature.

I think what folks deem SI is a form of clinging and attachment with deep roots, but is not necessarily a true instinct. If one were raised in a warrior culture, they would have no such issues, so I think it's more a reflection of the conditioning of cultural beliefs and mores. Just as being anti-suicide depends on the the dominant social groups and the culture, because in this same world at the same time, suicide is deeply shamed in predominantly Catholic and some Muslim countries, while in Asian countries it is not, and sometimes is in such cultures it still considered an expression of one's honor in certain circumstances and is redeeming rather than damning. In fact, it can redeem the honor of families, while in the other countries I mentioned, it can shame the whole family.
@GoodPersonEffed - I totally agree and appreciate this insight. I hadn’t thought it through like that before.

This thread is perfect timing for me and I appreciate it all so much. I’m scheduled for assisted dying next week, I’m in this surreal place of being in my world, wondering how the hell I am going to leave it - and mostly leave THEM, and can I overcome it? From a Stoic perspective - the answer is clear. It is not a sustainable life, even taking into much account my abandoned responsibilities. But goddamn. Life is sacred to me. Perhaps, as a Stoic may say, I overlove it.

So much to overcome that is beyond SI, even in the face of really unfortunate logic. I don’t have much more to add of value, but I’m so enjoying the conversation.
 
D

Darksektori

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Hi there. You may have overlooked that this thread is for quotes from Stoic philosophers only. Warren Ellis is a comic book writer, and the quote has absolutely no relation to Stoic philosophy. No Stoic would have been in favor of killing everyone else in the world, they were quite conscious of their obligations to fellow humans, and strove to manage their feelings about those who frustrated them, rather than assaulting them or removing them from existence.

I've already commented to you once in the thread about irrelevant quotes, but perhaps you overlooked it as well. Would you please stop posting irrelevant quotes here? Perhaps you can save the quotes for threads where they are relevant to the discussions.

Thanks.
Understood
Understood
Curious is it wrong to feel that sometimes? Cause sometimes when you feel the whole world is against you sometimes?
 
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GoodPersonEffed

GoodPersonEffed

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GoodPersonEffed

GoodPersonEffed

Brevity is my middle name, but my name was TL
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I’m scheduled for assisted dying next week, I’m in this surreal place of being in my world, wondering how the hell I am going to leave it - and mostly leave THEM, and can I overcome it? From a Stoic perspective - the answer is clear. It is not a sustainable life, even taking into much account my abandoned responsibilities. But goddamn. Life is sacred to me. Perhaps, as a Stoic may say, I overlove it.
The Stoics would say many things!

I've collected some quotes for you from the chapter on death in the book The Practicing Stoic. I hope you find something here that brings you comfort, and other things you may need at this time.

:heart:


Take as much as Fortune gives, remembering that it comes with no guarantee. Snatch the pleasures your children bring, let your children in turn find delight in you, and drain joy to the dregs without delay; nothing is promised for this night -- nay, I have granted too long an extension! - not even for this hour. We must hurry, the enemy is right behind us!

- Seneca


We do not suddenly fall on death, but advance toward it by slight degrees. We die every day. For every day a little of our life is taken from us; even when we are growing, our life is on the wane. We lose our childhood, then our boyhood, and then our youth. Right up to yesterday, all past time is lost time; the very day we are now spending is shared between ourselves and death. It is not the last drop that empties the water-clock, but all that has flowed out already.

- Seneca


Why fear your last day? It does no more to advance you toward death than any other day did. The last step does not cause your fatigue; it reveals your fatigue. Every day is a step toward death. The last one arrives there.

- Montaigne


The most voluntary death is the finest. Our life depends on the will of others; our death depends on our own. In nothing should we defer to our own feelings as much as in this. What others think has nothing to do with this business; it is madness to even consider it. Living is slavery if the freedom to die is lacking.

- Montaigne


Men do not care how nobly they live, but only how long, although it is within the reach of every man to live nobly, but within no man's power to live long.

- Seneca


What matters is not how long you live, but how well; and often living well means that you cannot live long.

- Seneca


A life is not incomplete if it is honorable. Wherever you leave off, provided you leave off nobly, your life is a whole.

- Seneca


One who roams through the universe will never weary of the truth; it is the false things that will bring on disgust. And on the other hand, if death comes near with its summons, even though it be untimely in its arrival, and even if it cuts you off in your prime, you will have had the enjoyment of all that the longest life can give. The universe in great measure will have been known to you. You will understand that honorable things do not depend on time for their growth, while every life must seem short to those who measure its length by pleasures that are empty and for that reason unbounded.

- Seneca


Not the longest life is the best, but the best-lived. For it is not the one who has played the lyre the most, or made the most speeches, or piloted the most ships, who is commended, but the one who has done these things well.

- Plutarch


There is no reason for you to think anyone has lived long just because he has grey hairs or wrinkles. He has not lived long; he has existed long. For suppose you should imagine that a man had a great voyange when in fact he was caught by a fierce storm as soon as he left harbor, was swept this way and that by strong winds from different directions, and was driven along the same path in circles. He did not make a great voyage. He was greatly tossed about.

- Seneca


"He didn't live as long as he might have." And some books contain few lines, but are admirable and useful in spite of their size. Then there are the Annals of Tanusius -- you know how ponderous the book is, and what people say about it. The long life of a certain sort of person is like that -- a kind of Annals of Tanusius!

- Seneca


It is with life as with a play: what matters is not how long it is, but how good. It makes no difference at what point you stop. Leave off where you choose; just be sure to give it a good ending. [I can show you] not only brave men who have made light of the moment when the soul breathes its last, but some who, if undistinguished in other respects, matched the spirit of the bravest when it came to this one thing.

- Seneca
 
GoodPersonEffed

GoodPersonEffed

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@GoodPersonEffed these are true pearls. Thank you for taking the time to care and find these for me. I’m using them. The most trying of times. ♥
It was truly my pleasure. I already had them and was so happy that I could provide them for you. I think you are absolutely worthy of the effort. I do not know you well, but what you've shown of yourself to me on the forum and in our brief PMs has led me to respect you. I have truly enjoyed our brief acquaintance. I wish only the best for you. If I can't cure you, I am happy that I can provide something that serves you and that you appreciate. But even if you did not value what I gave you or if it did not serve as I'd hoped it would, that would be okay; it's not about the gift and making me feel good that you enjoy it, but that you are worthy of the effort to offer compassion and thoughtful gifts. I'm glad that at the end of my life, if that's what it turns out to be, that I could do something positive for you, and I am even more rewarded by having had your positive presence in my life as well.

Now, you and everyone else reading this, go take your insulin. I know that was some sugar overload. I probably should have put it in a spoiler with a trigger warning. :pfff:
 
J

Jean Améry

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This thread is perfect timing for me and I appreciate it all so much. I’m scheduled for assisted dying next week, I’m in this surreal place of being in my world, wondering how the hell I am going to leave it - and mostly leave THEM, and can I overcome it? From a Stoic perspective - the answer is clear. It is not a sustainable life, even taking into much account my abandoned responsibilities. But goddamn. Life is sacred to me. Perhaps, as a Stoic may say, I overlove it.
Seneca and other stoics taught not to be too attached to life nor to discard it casually. I don't remember the exact source but in one of his letters he compares life to a house one rents: you know you will have to leave it one day so it's best not get too attached. It's also far beter to leave the house when the rent is up rather than being thrown out.

These three letters by Seneca offer a good selection of his thoughts on the subject: https://ethicsofsuicide.lib.utah.edu/category/author/seneca/.

Plato's account of Socrates' death (commonly called 'the Phaedo') is also very much worth reading especially in your circumstances. You can find a free online copy here: https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/1658.

I take it you mean physician assisted suicide or euthanasia. This means you'll be able to die peacefully and without pain. Rejoice in that and calm your mind by immersing yourself in the lofty thoughts of the great men mentioned in this post. Of course there are others as well.

In a way many here will envy you. I wish you a good death. Leaving life in a dignified manner is a great achievement and will serve as a proper example for others. By showing others how to die well you'll be able to do them a last great service.
 
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Jean Améry

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A good introduction to Seneca's philosophy in general can be found here: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/seneca/.

Probably the most useful chapters are those on philosophical psychology and virtue.

Oddly enough suicide is only mentioned twice and then only in the context of his own suicide. Whie it is quite central to his moral philosophy. Still it's useful to get to know his philosophy in general.
 
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AcornUnderground

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@Jean Améry thank you for such a thoughtful post and sharing that information. I read through the three letters. Insightful and then unsettling for me - the letter on overcoming illness. I don’t see any real option for me but to go, but that letter speaks as if pain should be endured. Unfortunately my abilities have been reduced to almost nothing and I have no financial resources. And with very wonderful beautiful innocent children in the mix, I’m not sure how noble or brave my passing is. It’s all just a mess but these resources do help so much.♥
 
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GoodPersonEffed

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I came across a Montaigne essay that isn't about suicide, but has really impacted me about whether to keep fighting what is guaranteed to be a losing fight.

There are multiple translations for the title of this essay, for my purposes I chose "One who is punished for defending a place obstinately without reason."

I've also mixed a couple of different translations for these quotes from the essay that I found relevant:

"LIke all other virtues valor has its limits; overstep them, and you tread the path of vice; consequently a man may go right through the dwelling place of valor into rashness, stubbornness and madness [or temerity, obstinacy and folly] if he does not know where those boundaries lie: yet at the margins they are not easy to pick out."

"But the judgment of the strength or weakness of a place is formed by estimating the comparative strength of the forces attacking it; a man might properly hold out against two [cannon] who would be crazy to resist thirty cannon."

"Thus above all we must beware, if we can, of falling into the hands of an enemy judge who is victorious and armed."


Some comments...

First, virtue was placed above all else for the Stoics; it was the only good, and vice, or what prohibited one from virtue, the only evils, hence the majority of the five rational reasons for leaving the party of life.

What Montaigne is talking about here is the virtue of valor, that is, great courage or bravery in the face of danger. He's saying that clinging obstinately to a virtue can instead turn into a vice, or an evil. If one keeps defending what s/he is incapable of defending, s/he can end up acting stubbornly, rashly, or downright crazy, or can even end up utterly disempowered and victimized.

Seneca talked about the virtue of bravery as well. "Bravery is a scorner of things which inspire fear; it looks down upon, challenges, and crushes the powers of terror and all that would drive our freedom under the yoke." But he never said, "Don't be sensible about it." Sometimes, for Seneca and others Stoics, bravery comes at the moment when one rationally recognizes the party is doomed and applies bravery to their own death. In fact, bravery in the face of death was one of the highest aspirations of Stoic practitioners, as has already been discussed in this thread. For many Stoics, death was considered the ultimate freedom, as has also been seen in this thread.

I don't and won't talk about them, but there are things in my life that are overpowering me. I can get high sometimes on my virtue and thinking I can keep going and fighting, and yes, I can do some good along the way, but defending my life and those bits of good I can do against thirty cannon is a fool's mission. And ending up in the hands of an enemy judge who is victorious and armed? No. Liken my situation to the person with a progressively debilitating illness that has clearly taken control, is victorious, and is armed against them, every so often with more cannons. How many people have the energy, ability, and external support to be inspiration porn for everyone else and keep displaying great courage and keep fighting? At what point does it turn to obstinacy and madness?

I am afraid of the suffering of dying. If only it were as simple as Montaigne's quote from an earlier comment on this thread:

"If chance delivers some great misfortune that you cannot remedy, a haven is always nearby. You can swim away from your body as you would from a leaking boat. Only fools are attached to their bodies by a fear of death rather than a love of life."

I definitely have great misfortune and no ability to remedy it, or use a Stoic mediation to change my perception of it and bear it. It fits in the five rational reasons to suicide, more than one of them, and the party is already fucked and on the edge of ruined. I am ready to exit, to calmly withdraw. I am ready to swim away. But I'm not going to take on Montaigne's admonition that I am a fool because I fear death, I only fear the dying, and Montaigne knew very well that he himself had a low tolerance for pain and could be very easily challenged because of it. Right now, an intolerance for certain types of suffering is my challenge. And by the way, I won't say that I don't fear death, I just don't know what it is, but I'm not attached to my body because of it, and I no longer have a love of life that keeps me attached to my body. It's the act of swimming away that I'm dealing with, and sometimes it's tempting to change my focus to one of valor, and to say, "I can keep doing this, and certainly there is some ass I can kick; surely I can go the Stoic route of the obstacle being the way and become even stronger and more capable."

When I was reading the quoted essay and applying it to my own situation, I was reminded of @Jean Améry's definition of force majeure, so I looked up the definition of the term to refamiliarize myself with it, and expanded it so that I could work with the term to better define my own irremediable misfortune: irresistible compulsion or greater force; an extraordinary event or circumstance beyond the control of the party, alleviating one of responsibility and liability.

I no longer have total responsibility and control over my own life and my virtue because of forces outside of my control, forces far greater than me. They are more than thirty cannons.

The obstacle is only showing me one rational way -- withdrawal from the party. What it's not yet showing me is a method I can obtain that is tolerable and ensures death, or how to tolerate what methods I can obtain that ensure death. That conundrum itself is now the obstacle: how to swim away from my body, not only bravely, but tolerably, or as I said in another thread, to make the switch from "I just can't" to "I can." So far, everything that "I can" did not work. A peaceful partial hanging is impossible with my physiology. The ReBreather was a dud and not worth powering through the discomfort since I didn't know if it would still bring the desired result. I don't have the practical means to do charcoal. For now, SN is still at "I just can't," but at least I know that if ever I can, it is likely to ensure death.

What a pisser that I live in Mexico and it's so difficult to safely get N. If I were a man, I would have kept trying, but it's just not safe for a woman, especially a white woman who stands out because of her whiteness. To try would require relying on other people I don't know and who haven't earned my trust, which is the equivalent of the worst potentials of the Partners Megathread. It would be an irrational move to pursue it.
 
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Alucard

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Epicurus II to Menoeceus, Greetings.

One should not believe that at a young age, it is too early to learn to die, nor should one renounce to learn to die at an older age. Because it is never too early or too late to walk towards true serenity. Now, he who would claim that the hour of learning to die has not arrived yet or has passed for him, may be compared to a Man who would say that the hour of no longer being afraid to die has not arrived yet or is no longer there for him. The young man and the old man, both must therefore learn to die; the latter to rejuvenate through the contact with the serenity that comes from the certainty of dying gently, remembering the pleasant days of the past; the former to fully enjoy his youthfulness, without missing the party of a lifetime because of the fear of death. And so, it is necessary to meditate upon the means which can allow us to die gently, for when these means are ours, there is nothing frightening about dying, whereas when they are lacking, we risk dying in long lasting pain.


(...)
 

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