Talking about Schopenhauer and suicide, today I found a very interesting essay by Schopenhauer on suicide. An extract:
The inmost kernel of Christianity is the truth that suffering - the Cross - is the real end and object of life. Hence Christianity condemns suicide as thwarting this end; whilst the ancient world, taking a lower point of view, held it in approval, nay, in honor. But if that is to be accounted a valid reason against suicide it invokes the recognition of asceticism; that is to say, it is valid only from a much higher ethical standpoint than has ever been adopted by moral philosophers in Europe. If we abandon that high standpoint, there is no tenable reason left, on the score of morality, for condemning suicide. The extraordinary energy and zeal with which the clergy of monotheistic religions attack suicide is not supported either by any passages in the Bible or by any considerations of weight; so that it looks as though they must have some secret reason for their contention. May it not be this - that the voluntary surrender of life is a bad compliment for him who said that all things were very good? If this is so, it offers another instance of the crass optimism of these religions - denouncing suicide to escape being denounced by it.
It is funny really that christianity could attain such popularity, preaching such idiocies. I guess you are what you believe. A rather bizarre example of christians enduring suffering for their faith, can be found in the practice of corporal mortification. From the Opus Dei Awareness Network:
Listed below are the ways Opus Dei numeraries practice corporal mortification:
Cilice: a spiked chain worn around the upper thigh for two hours each day, except for Church feast days, Sundays, and certain times of the year. This is perhaps the most shocking of the corporal mortifications, and generally Opus Dei members are extremely hesitant to admit that they use them. It is a painful mortification which leaves small prick holes in the flesh, and makes the Opus Dei members tentative about wearing swim suits wherever non-Opus Dei members may be.
Discipline : a cord-like whip which resembles macrame, used on the buttocks or back once a week. Opus Dei members must ask permission to use it more often, which many do. The story is often told in Opus Dei that the Founder was so zealous in using the discipline, he splattered the bathroom walls with streaks of blood.
Cold Showers : Most numeraries take cold showers every day and offer it up for the intentions of the current Prelate.
Meals : Numeraries generally practice one small corporal mortification at every meal, such as drinking coffee without milk or sugar, not buttering one's toast, skipping dessert, not taking seconds, etc. For the most part, eating between meals is not practiced. Opus Dei members fast on the Church's prescribed days for fasting, but otherwise must ask for permission to fast on their own.
The Heroic Minute : Numeraries are encouraged to jump out of bed and kiss the floor as soon as the door is knocked in the morning. As they kiss, they say "Serviam," Latin for "I will serve."
Silences : Each night after making an examination of conscience, numeraries do not speak to one another until after Holy Mass the following morning. (They do not say "Good morning" to anyone as they are getting ready.) In the afternoons, they try to avoid speaking until dinnertime. On Sundays, numeraries generally do not listen to music, especially in the afternoons.
So how stupid do you have to be to spend any time worshipping a non-existent god in ways that physically hurt you?
A while back I quoted this passage from Steven Pinker's book 'How the Mind Works':
Some parts of the mind register the attainment of increments of fitness by giving us a sensation of pleasure. Other parts use a knowledge of cause and effect to bring about goals. Put them together and you get a mind that rises to a biologically pointless challenge: figuring out how to get at the pleasure circuits of the brain and deliver little jolts of enjoyment without the inconvenience of wringing bona fide fitness increments from the harsh world. When a rat has access to a lever that sends electrical impulses to an electrode implanted in its medial forebrain bundle, it presses the lever furiously until it drops of exhaustion, foregoing opportunities to eat, drink and have sex. People don't yet undergo elective neurosurgery to have electrodes implanted in their pleasure centers, but they have found ways to stimulate them by other means. An obvious example is recreational drugs, which seep into the chemical junctions of the pleasure circuits.
And I wanted to know, if people are allowed to flagellate and mutilate themselves, where are the kind doctors working on a pleasure device that cuts out all the middlemen and delivers a jolt of happiness right when we want it? I found this damn interesting article over at DamnInteresting.com:
Between 1950 and 1952, another man named Dr. Robert G. Heath experimentally implanted similar depth electrodes into human brains, the subjects mostly comprised of mentally ill patients from state mental hospitals. His experiments were met with uneasiness from the scientific community at the time, yet he continued. Upon the discovery of the brain's pleasure centers by Olds and Milner in '54, he put much of his research focus there. He found that using ESB in these areas of a human brain had a similar effect as it did on laboratory animals, bringing the subjects immediate pleasure.
...Today, medical technology allows such electrodes to be completely implanted into the human body, including a battery pack the size of a book of matches. But these are a rarity, used only in very specific and extreme cases. Not even victims of intractable neuropathic pain or depression are permitted to have their pleasure centers wired. Individuals with happiness deficits are instead treated with drugs, which are both more and less invasive, depending on how you look at it. Medications don't involve holes drilled into the skull, but they do act upon the entire body, causing a host of unwanted chemical side-effects. Often they also result in a lifelong expense.
And I am actually outraged. We seemingly have the technology to end human misery for those that wish to take it, and if the technology is at present an unknown, it is because scientists have not pursued (or been allowed to pursue) this line of research with as much vigour as is necessary. The article concludes:
there is no way to know for certain how a human might change in response to such technology. One could also point out that many people never tire of other stimulations such as sex or pleasurable foods, and that while many people will naturally partake of those pleasurable activities a lot at first, most will gradually moderate the usage to times when it is most needed or appropriate. But nothing would stop an ESB-wired person from taking a day off work, putting a brick on the button, and enjoying an afternoon of bliss. As an added benefit over sex and chocolate, this technology isn't likely to result in unwanted pregnancies, disease, or weight gain.
It is absurd that any human chooses pain on the false promise of an eternal life and equally absurd that humanity knows how to create happiness, but denies itself. Come on people. There isn't anybody around to smack our hands from the cookie jar, and no higher power to disapprove.
I for one would consider testing such a device (although maybe I wouldn't be the first guinea pig). And would I get bored of pressing the button? That's a question I'm quite willing to empirically test...Go Top