By Timothy David Hill
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Extra resources for Ambitiosa Mors: Suicide and the Self in Roman Thought and Literature (Studies in Classics)
In this category belong Cicero’s Platonic statements that self-killing is forbidden by divine mandate. Cicero’s Epicurean-tinged reflections that self-killing is permissible without qualification arguably also belong in this class, although they serve additionally to reinforce the more restricted points made under the first heading. 112 forms a category of its own. Although Cicero’s evaluation of Cato’s death is logically dependent upon conclusions established in his earlier philosophical works, his remarks here are concerned less with the definition of the self than with the kind of action appropriate to this self.
The stultus (“foolish person” or “unenlightened individual”) is thus forbidden to kill himself even if, in retrospect, it becomes apparent that this would have been an appropriate action to take. According to Rist the epistemological loop is thereby closed, and can only be broken by the unmistakable summons of a “divine call” to death. Matters are, however, more complex than this. Stoics other than Cato apparently believed that there was little epistemological obstacle to providing particular practical guidelines regarding the circumstances under which it is permissible or advisable to kill oneself.
All the above limitations are encountered in attempting to reduce Cicero’s scattered pronouncements on the ethics of self-killing to a single determinate position. Although such a position does exist, references to self-killing in Cicero’s works are frequently opaque or ambiguous where they are not apparently contradictory. A cursory overview of the points at which Cicero addresses the question of self-killing makes this plain. 1. 49 Cicero reports—via his spokesman for the Epicurean position, Torquatus—the Epicurean belief that self-killing is permissible when life becomes unpleasing, tamquam e theatro exeamus (“as though one were leaving a theater”).
Ambitiosa Mors: Suicide and the Self in Roman Thought and Literature (Studies in Classics) by Timothy David Hill