Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A List of My Responses to J. David Velleman Articles

This is a list of various responses I have made to arguments that J. David Velleman advances against a right to suicide.

Life Rights and Death Rights - in which I briefly introduce, and more briefly consider, Velleman's argument that giving (terminally ill or disabled) people a right to die harms them even if they are fully rational and can be trusted to make choices that maximize their various interests.

Velleman's Sorrow of Options - in which I review Velleman's pro-forced-life argument in more detail, attempt to identify problems with the argument, and apply the argument given different starting conditions to get shocking conclusions.

Respecting and Erasing, in which I respond to J. David Velleman's pro-forced-life paper "A Right of Self-Termination?" In his article, Velleman proposes that suicide is nearly always morally wrong, because by taking one's own life, one acts in such a way that denies the inherent value of a person in general. I argue that killing oneself (and destroying something in general) does not at all require denying a person's (or a thing's) value, and that a person or a thing that is absent often paradoxically has a high value.

Altruism and the Value of Life: Another Response to Velleman - in which I challenge the ideas set forth in "A Right of Self-Termination?" in a different way, this time by contrasting Velleman's position (that suicide to end suffering is wrong because it involves trading "mere" agent-relative benefits for a human life) with the commonly-held intuition of the moral worthiness of altruistic suicides.


  1. I just found your blog (via Chip Smith.)

    Jesus, yes, allow people to end their lives, if there are no young children involved!

    I've just been in a hospital where a very elderly woman wanted to end her pointless suffering and her middle-aged children barked "Snap out of it, mom! This isn't like you!"

    I watched my own mother suffer through six months of incurable colon and liver cancer.

    It seems like torture to insist that people go on living just because it makes others uncomfortable with the alternative.

    Keep up the good work.

  2. Thanks so much, my sister - Chip pointed me to your work on mothers who kill. I wonder if you've read the evolutionary biology treatise called "Homicide" by Daly & Wilson? It deals with the conflict between parental and child evolutionary interests, and especially focuses on intra-family murder.

    I agree that forcing people to stay alive is often indistinguishable from torture.


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