Immanuel Kant's Categorical Imperative And Suicide In Society

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Table of contents

  1. Kant’s Argument Against Suicide
  2. Shortcomings Regarding Kant’s Arguments
  3. Autonomy, Rationality, And Personhood
  4. Dignity and Conditions of The Body
  5. Suicide, Virtue, And Life’s Meaning

The worth of human life is the most invaluable asset in human societies. Nevertheless, suicide raises some moral questions. While various theories elucidate the reasons why some individuals decide to attempt or commit suicide, there is a need for philosophical examination to justify such actions. Today, human beings are faced with numerous problems, some of which ultimately lead many individuals to prefer death to life. A significant body of literature documents different reasons that make these individuals commit suicide. These reasons rangers from personal views to the broad perspective of the society at large. Philosophers have played a critical role in this discussion. Some cite an instance of the existentialists in which suicide is not condemned in its entirety. This paper adopts Immanuel Kant's categorical imperative and critically analyze the impasse relating to suicide in human society.

Kant’s Argument Against Suicide

Immanuel Kant is a noteworthy opponent of suicide. Kant’s arguments draw upon his opinion of moral worth as stemming from the autonomous rational wills of persons. According to Kant, individuals’ rational wills are the source of their moral duty. Therefore, it is practically a contradiction to assume that the same will can acceptably harm the very body that executes its choices and volitions (Cholbi 498). Thus, suicide is an attack on the very source of moral authority, given the unique worth of an autonomous rational will.

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Kant’s universal law test for maxims aid as a standard for moral judgment. Suicide is used to exemplify the test in the Groundwork and the second Critique in which he rules suicide out. In the Groundwork, Kant uses suicide as the 3rd demonstration of the Law of Nature formulation of the categorical imperative (Cholbi 500). At this point, Kant asks people to visualize an individual tired of life because of numerous problems. The person thinks of suicide and considers the maxim. Maxim, in this case, stipulates that from self-love, an individual makes it his or her principle to shorten his or her life when its longer duration threatens more plights than it promises agreeableness. Kant’s argument of self-love is used to defend his belief that individuals who commit suicide are indeed violating the moral law. However, Kant asserts that committing suicide to avoid a troubled life is immoral in Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (Kant 34). The reason is that suicide is against the natural law that supports life. In this case, Kant mentions self-love that can preserve life. Therefore, according to Kant’s believes and their interpretations, suicide is immoral because it is against the self-love that was there initially.

Additionally, an individual is morally obligated to preserve his or her life because he or she has a priceless or immeasurable value that Kant refers to as dignity. This dignity is disrespected when a person decides to commit suicide for the benefit of his or her well-being (Cholbi 551). According to Kant’s believes, suicides signifies the destruction of an individual body as well as the very source of human moral value. Besides, the categorical imperative denotes that an act is prohibited when its maxima are not consistently universalized (Vong 656). Kant contends that an individual’s ethical action is grounded on specific rules or principles that designate what that individual should do and the reason that justifies that action. Subsequently, Kant categorical imperative comprises of several formulations. The first formulation specifies that a person should act according to the maxim which the person can simultaneously use so that it becomes a universal law. Consequently, the second formulation is about the imperative of morality, which stipulates that persons act in ways that the maxims of their actions were to turn out the universal law of nature through their will (Kant 44). More specifically, this formulation wants persons to always act in a way that will let the maxim of their actions to be consistently universalized. These individuals first need to check whether they want the maxim to be applied necessarily and universally in the process of the act of maxim becoming universal. Theorists distinguish logical and practical regarding the likelihood for a maxim to be universalized.

Subsequently, the concept of suicide can be tested using this principle when formulated as maxim. Indeed, suicide turns out to be moral if the maxim becomes universal. The maxim can be specified as a person's will to commit suicide solely to avoid agonizing sufferings in a manner that its criticism means an improved choice for the person (Cholbi 502). If this maxim was universally accepted, it means that people would find themselves in circumstances in which any individual whose life becomes unbearable can attempt or commit suicide. The idea behind the circumstance is logically plausible. More specifically, suicide satisfies the criterion of the logical likelihood for a maxim to be universalized. Nonetheless, it can turn out to be problematic and unacceptable regarding the practical likelihood for a maxim to become universalized. Indeed, people do not want to find themselves in a situation whereby the maxim of suicide is consistently universalized, which advocates that, any individual with a troubled life, chooses to commit suicide (Cholbi 502-503). Nevertheless, in the Kantian perspective, it might be acceptable if it is the maxim of an individual who is facing challenges with dementia.

Rational beings should act in accordance with the maxim they want to apply as a universal law. Therefore, people’s actions must be consistently logical and have the capacity to be applied universally to all rational people. An immoral act, according to Kant’s view, is the concept of duty to commit suicide (Kant 46-47). The reason is that a person has a natural tendency for self-love and self-preservation. If the person no longer exists, he or she cannot love oneself. Kant’s case study examines a man who has a troubled life due to many problems. The man starts to wonder whether it is against the duty towards himself to commit suicide. Besides, Kant examines whether the maxim of the man’s action to commit suicide can be universally accepted if the man’s troubles are greater compared to his or her comfort experiences. After a deep examination, Kant realizes that this maxim is contradictory. This is because it would violate the same sense that should encourage people to live if it is universally accepted (Kant 47). Therefore, this maxim cannot become a universal natural law.

According to Kant, the first duty of an individual is self-preservation. As such, it is a crime to violate this duty or commit suicide. Life is worthwhile, according to Kant’s view, because it is a condition in which people possess freedom, freedom of action, and making choices. Kant elucidates how individuals who can commit suicide are considered not to be indecent or dangerous (Cholbi 507). In Kant’s perspective, such people can commit other crimes, and they do not respect themselves as well as other people. Additionally, Kant asserts that personhood is sacred within individuals, and a person’s life is a condition for everything else (Kant 55-56). An individual who commits a crime does not respect humanity and makes the things of him or herself. Therefore, suicide is defective, according to Kant.

Nevertheless, there are situations in which an individual is obliged to commit suicide for the sake of higher values. According to Kant, happiness is a paradigmatic motivation for life. A person cannot and should not commit suicide because he or she is not living happily. There is no need for a person to live happily as long as he or she lives, but it is imperative to live honorably, as long as the person lives. A person does not have the right to commit suicide because he or she is suffering. A man should not commit suicide because of these things. Thus, happiness is not a value that justifies suicide, and hence, an individual should not take his or her life because he or she is not happy.

Shortcomings Regarding Kant’s Arguments

Kant believes that it is wrong for people to commit suicide when they are troubled. Kant’s opinions for the evil of committing suicide are feeble. In Grounding, Kant’s arguments regarding the badness of self-killing take two forms (Budić 100). This is dependent on whether it is argued from the view of the 1st or 2nd formulation. Given that the numerous formulations of the categorical imperative reveal the different perspectives of perceiving the same principle, these forms should reach a similar conclusion. The principle that forbids self-killing is derived from the rule of universalization. Notably, Kant’s argument regarding self-killing focuses on a motive to avoid evil. Evil is a broad term that encompasses suffering (Kant 50). There is no reason it should prohibit a person from committing suicide if this person feels guilty after misconduct and agrees with Kant’s defenses of judicial execution.

According to Kant, suicide is immoral because it is against the self-love that was there initially. However, this argument is not compelling. Notably, suicide wrongness is situated in a contradiction in the laws of nature. Hence, to eliminate the wrongness specified by an inconsistency in the law of nature, people have to readdress the contradiction (Cholbi 505). It can be claimed that suicide encompasses no contradiction, perversion, or violation in any natural law if individuals repudiate that life promotion through self-love is a law of nature. Indeed, a principle of self-love does not promote a person continued life irrespective of whether it is motivationally inert or ert in any specific situation. Definitely, a feeling of self-love might be enough to avert a person from self-killing. Nevertheless, if the person commits suicide, this shows that his or her feeling of self-love is insufficient. On the contrary, Kant’s argument envisages a scenario in which people may be discussing suicide attractions (Kant 57). However, they may desist from it because they believed they have the self-love ability.

Additionally, Kant’s perception that a suicide maxim cannot be universalized also fails. The reason is that it can be universalized on standard elucidations of the universalization test. A universal choice to suicide when an individual is troubled with life to produce a contradiction in conception (Vong 656). Certainly, it would not prevent an individual’s maxim. This person’s success as suicide does not rely on another person’s hewing to life. On the other hand, a universalized suicide maxim does not thwart that person’s interest, creating a contradiction in a will. The will of a person to commit suicide is bent on renouncing additional interests or is interested in ending suffering, and both will be accomplished through suicide. Therefore, a universalized suicide maxim would not challenge a personal interest (Budić 106). Indeed, the universalizability test fails for suicide. It appears effortless to make a suicide maxim universal with no contradiction.

Given the prevalent impulse to self-preservation, a desire to self-killing may confound people. However, Kant cannot be asserting that self-killing is inconsistent with nature, considered teleologically. Teleological explanations are found in the metaphysics of morals (Cholbi 511). These elucidations argue that they are impulses of nature regarding the animality of a man. Through these impulses’ nature focuses on a man’s self-preservation, species preservation, and the preservation of man’s capacity to enjoy life. The vice included is committing suicide. In this case, committing suicide is condemned for violating the purposes of nature in providing individuals with the impulses it has provided them. But this is not the reason why a suicide maxim cannot be universally accepted. For Kant, teleology is a regulative concept. It assists in organizing people’s investigations of nature, not as they wish or imagines it to be, but as they find it (Kant 60). People must question themselves about the purposes of nature, but where things do not fit people’s story, they should not be rejected rather revised. Elsewhere, Kant speculates the desires for a man to commit suicide, that seemingly purposively, drive civilization forward. A teleological puzzle is created by law in cases where a pursuit for agreeableness occasionally inclines towards self-destruction and occasionally inclines towards self-preservation (Vong 657). Nature teleologically conceived can endure a universalized suicide maxim.

Autonomy, Rationality, And Personhood

For Kant, Autonomy is the basis of dignity in human nature. A person can set goals and purposes and follow them according to the moral law, in which the individual’s autonomy mirrors itself. A person acts autonomously when he or she acts according to the moral law. In the Kantian view, a person is a moral term in which it signifies responsible people for their actions and deserves to be respected (Budić 112). An individual must act in accordance with the laws of the reason, as well as the reason itself. People whose living does not rely on their will and are not rational but have relative value on nature are referred to as things. Kant distinguishes people who lack the ability to be moral beings and those with the ability when using the term person. A person refers to respect and dignity.

Dignity and Conditions of The Body

A forthright manner to avoid Kant’s argument against self-killing is to argue the committing suicide protects the dignity of rational nature and expresses respect for humanity's worth. In this context, individuals with a troubled life may commit suicide to prevent worsening into undignified conditions (Budić 112). Besides, a person may commit suicide because he or she is in an undignified condition. Validating this assertion rest on how the assertion that trouble life threatens a persons’ dignity is to be understood. On the one hand, a troubled life is constitutive of an undignified condition. Enduring severe discomfort, suffer cognitive impairment because of illnesses, and be reliant on other people for their own’s nutritive or hygienic needs are instances that lead to living in an undignified condition (Vong 657). Indeed, this perspective mirrors human dignity in accordance with the dignity that comprises traits such as efficacy, self-discipline, and self-sufficiency in interacting with the world.

However, problems with raising this perception of dignity exist in an allegedly Kantian justification of prudential suicide. For instance, such elucidations closely endorse the assertion that such indignities are wrong for the people who encounter them. They may be wrong for people because they are answerable for indignities that are themselves bad for the people or maybe bad for the people in and of themselves. However, no justification for prudential suicide can appeal to the person of the situations that suicides circumvent (Cholbi 511). Once more, such self-killings would not be allowed because a person would be treating his rational nature in a way to the accomplishment of his or her welfares.

According to Kant, dignity is not a condition of the body. It is a property that a person can lose due to conditions such as cognitive impairment and pain. According to the Kantian argument, dignity is not a property of moral agents founded by apparent empirical evidence regarding them (Kant 56-57). Dignity is a capacity people have because of their rational nature. Therefore, it is an inner property of moral agents. Hence, this capacity is not entirely apparent in any empirical evidence about people. Provided that people can exercise this ability principally and are alive, they have the dignity that prevents people from committing suicide (Budić 98). For Kant, therefore, dignity is not relinquished and not earned, and it is not a factor linked to the common comprehension of dignity. There may be a plausible argument for prudential suicide on the bases of a threat to dignity or loss of dignity. However, there is no Kant’s argument that credibly rests on such a principle.

Suicide, Virtue, And Life’s Meaning

Kant believes that suicide violates duties obliged to peoples themselves rather than duties people owe to others. Nevertheless, suicide raises questions such as whether committing suicide exemplifies virtue, which can be termed as ethical questions. If when it is determined that a particular situation of suicide is morally right, questions remain regarding whether the act exemplifies the best way to live and to commit suicide (Cholbi 514). Therefore, people may be compelled to supplement the idea of interpersonal rights and obligation with the idea of vices and virtues when contemplating the full normative account of suicide. Moreover, self-killing poses normative questions that are not apparently moral, like how suicide may detract or contribute to the meaningfulness of a person’s life.

Overall, Kant is a noteworthy opposer of suicide. His argument draws upon his perception of moral worth as originating from the autonomous rational wills of people. According to Kant, people’s rational will are the source of their moral duty. Suicide violates the duties people owe to themselves. Agents who commit suicide violate moral law. Indeed, the ethical theory of Immanuel Kant's categorical imperative is important to condemn suicide in society. The consequences of suicide lead to the ruining of life, and this may ultimately endanger the future development of human societies. It is better to get it wrong on the side of preserving life than the side of letting it be lost.

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