Search Results for Suicide
The issue of suicide has plagued humanity since ancient times.
The Greek and Roman Stoics condoned suicide in certain circumstances (such as extreme illness, loss of faculties or to avoid serving a tyrant), whereas the Christian theologian St. Thomas Aquinas unequivocally says “suicide is the greatest crime,” both against oneself and society.
The pioneering French sociologist Emile Durkheim (1858–1917) published a statistical study that outlined four distinct types of suicide: Egoistic, Altruistic, Anomic and Fatalistic.
For Durkheim each suicide group corresponds to a specific type of societal orientation.
- Egoistic suicide arises from excessive individualism and lack of integration with a greater social purpose. Along these lines, Durkheim believes that Protestants suicide more frequently than Catholics because the former are not as tightly knit within their Church.
- Altruistic suicide arises from a lack of individualism combined with an excessive identification with some greater social purpose, such as the Japanese kamakazi pilots of WW-II or the Middle Eastern suicide bombers of the 21st century.
Although the term “altruistic” sounds strange in this context, it should be stressed that Durkheim doesn’t make moral judgments within his theory. Rather, he tries to understand according to the type of relationship existing between the person committing suicide and their social group.
- Anomic suicide arises from a sense of alienation in a society lacking clearly defined meaning and characterized by diffuse social ideals. For instance, Durkheim found that high divorce rates coincided with high suicide rates.
- Fatalistic suicide is the opposite of anomic suicide. Fatalistic suicide is characterized by a sense of helplessness and futility in a harshly regulated social system, such as found in societies condoning master-slave relationships.
While this theory surely has his limitations, Durkheim remains important to the history of the social sciences because he looked at European demographics to try to understand suicide as a social phenomenon, just as social psychologists, advertisers and researchers gather and interpret data today.
More recently, the Hale Bopp Comet or Heaven’s Gate suicides of 1997 would probably be seen as altruistic suicide according to Durkheim’s schema.
Depending on one’s perspective, this California-based UFO cult or religious group believed the Earth was about to be destroyed. For members the only way to survive was to move on to a higher level, and to do this the group also believed they had to die at a precise cosmic moment, somewhat like jumping on a train when it’s in the station.
Because the Earth is still much the same as it was in 1997, it seems reasonable to say that this community was severely misguided.
- Revisiting Durkheim (includes an essay about Durkheim’s work, Suicide, in pdf format)
Add to this, report errors, suggest edits or voice your opinion
Gaius Julius Caesar (c. 100 – 44 BCE)
In the Punic tongue the word caesar means “elephant.” Caesaries also means “thick head of hair.” The surname Caesar was given to the Julian family of patricians¹ at Rome, because one family member once owned an elephant or had a healthy scalp.
After Julius had become the Dictator of Rome, his surname became an honorary title for the next 11 emperors during the age of the Roman Emperors, each emperor being hailed as a new “Caesar.” So we often hear about the “12 Caesars,” which includes Julius.
Julius was an innovative and tough political and military genius who single-handedly broke down the old Roman republic.
When sailing to finish his education at Rhodes, he was held captive by pirates. Paying more than demanded for his release he quickly returned with a ship of his own and crucified the pirates he had recently paid.
The Roman writer Pliny says that he conquered 800 cities, 300 nations and three-million people, which at that time in history was a considerable percentage of the Earth’s population.
Caesar traveled to current day England, where he wrote on the practices of the Druids. A learned scholar and historian, he used his influence to reshape the calendar into one with 365 days and leap years, making the year 365.25 days long. This Julian calendar was largely replaced by the Gregorian calendar, but it’s still used in some countries today.
Politically he would be closer to a Democrat (or Liberal) than a Republican (or Conservative). He favored the populares (nobles who worked through and acted for the benefit of the people) over the optimates (nobles who opposed the populares, claiming to represent everyone and not just the poor).
His end came about on the Ides of March (15 March, 44 BCE), the result of a conspiracy hatched by his closest advisers, all of whom stabbed him to death. The killers were lead by Brutus and Cassius. Apparently Caesar resisted the attackers after the first stab wound, but upon seeing his friend Brutus among the group, accepted his grisly fate.
The night before his death Caesar’s wife had vivid and terrible dreams, which perhaps Caesar should have taken into consideration. He was also warned of the plot by Artemidorus in a letter sent to the senate house, which he failed to read.
By the time of his death Caesar had stopped listening to the nobles altogether, a move which they clearly didn’t like. He had virtually ended the old Republic and his overweening confidence, which had taken him so far, ultimately led to his downfall.
His life has been depicted in several films and William Shakespeare wrote the tragic play, Julius Caesar, which looks at the conspiracy leading to his death, especially from the perspective of Brutus. Shakespeare’s Brutus, in fact, gets about four times as many lines as Caesar.
¹ The patricians were a privileged class of Romans who, among other things, dominated politics and the priesthood.
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- August 30 30 BCE Cleopatra commits suicide (craighill.net)
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- Discovery: Ancient Fort Aided Julius Caesar’s Conquest of Gaul (sott.net)
- Evidence of Caesar’s Troops … In Germany? (rogueclassicism.com)
- Julius Caesar – Royal Shakespeare Company, Noel Coward Theatre, review (telegraph.co.uk)
- You: Review: ‘Julius Caesar’ is Brutus’ show at McCadden Place Theatre (latimes.com)
Émile Durkheim (1858-1917) was an innovative French sociologist who taught at the university of Bordeaux and the Sorbonne. He’s usually upheld in introductory Humanities courses as as one of great three “classical” sociologists, and one of the founders of sociology as a discipline in its own right. This academic honor also includes Karl Marx and Max Weber.
Among his many achievements and insights, Durkheim is seen as a pioneer in the use of scientific method. Durkheim focused on society instead of the individual. He believed that “collective representations” emerged from many minds that interact in a social environment. Depending on their character, these collective representations had variable but statistically demonstrable effects on society.
In addition, he tended to view society as a doctor would look at a patient. This is often called Durkheim’s “organic metaphor.” His outlook predates what would come to be called structural functionalism. As such, he believed that some social forms were healthier than others.
Durkheim sought to create one of the first rigorous scientific approaches to social phenomena. Along with Herbert Spencer, he was one of the first people to explain the existence and quality of different parts of a society by reference to what function they served in maintaining the quotidian (i.e. by how they make society “work”). He also agreed with his organic analogy, comparing society to a living organism. Thus his work is sometimes seen as a precursor to functionalism. Durkheim also insisted that society was more than the sum of its parts.†
Unlike his contemporaries Ferdinand Tönnies and Max Weber, he focused not on what motivates the actions of individuals (an approach associated with methodological individualism), but rather on the study of social facts. As a result, Durkheim contrasted mechanistic social types (where individuals cooperate less, relying on tradition and punitive authority) to organic solidarity (where individuals cooperate more, working together to satisfy mutual needs). And for Durkheim, the former is inferior to that latter.
Durkheim also wrote on alleged “elementary” forms of religion, building his theories on the anthropological studies available at the time. And he did (secondary) statistical analyses of the sociological facts of crime and suicide, trying to link their frequency to particular social conditions and beliefs.
What makes Durkheim unique to most sociologists is his blending of theory, method and observation. In most cases Durkheim provides a detailed outline and defense of his scientific approach before engaging in a particular study. After completing his research, a theoretical analysis of his data follows. However, most of Durkheim’s observations are secondhand. He used the statistics and case studies available to him at the time, and rarely – if ever – went out in the field to do his own primary research.
While this kind of approach wouldn’t wash today in social psychology, many academic sociologists can still get away with armchair philosophy, making pretty obvious statements and distinctions that hard core philosophers have already covered in far greater detail. The only difference is that the sociologist applies conceptual distinctions to everyday life in ways that are more easily understandable and up-to date.‡
‡ Forwarding simplified versions of existing philosophical distinctions is evident in the works of Peter Berger and Erving Goffman. However, Berger talked about the importance of data collection while Goffman usually went a step further, actually going out into the field and getting his own data.
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The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a classic 1886 novella written by the Scottish author, Robert Louis Stevenson. The tale illustrates what later would be described by psychiatrists as sociopathy (or psychopathy).
In the novella the once honorable and philanthropic Dr. Jekyll becomes absorbed with the problem of good and evil. To gain esoteric knowledge he divides his nature by drinking a concoction. This transforms him into the purely evil Mr. Hyde, with moments of reverting to the sunnier side of Dr. Jekyll. He desperately tries an antidote but eventually the dark side overtakes his personality. He finally commits suicide in what he believes is his last humane act.
We’ve probably all encountered a person or two (male or female) who reminds us a bit of Dr. Jekyll. They can seem quite intelligent by forwarding clever (if morally twisted and self-serving) rationalizations of their harmful behavior.¹ Or they may use fancy, pretentious language to try to cover up their abuses and to elevate themselves in the eyes of others. But once one gets wise to their upsetting combination of half-truths, outright lies and betrayal, one might never want to deal with such a person again.
¹ God fearing people do not call that “intelligence” but evil, which at bottom is just stupid.
- Dr. Jekyll/ Mr Hyde (wherelionsroam.wordpress.com)
- MP3: Ezra Furman “Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde” (donewaiting.com)
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- Powerful Vocals Dominate Doma Theatre Company’s ‘Jekyll & Hyde’ (laist.com)
- A dinner table at night (daydreamertoo.com)
The term guardian angel refers to the Catholic belief that we are guided from birth to death by an angel, assigned by God to each particular individual.
Similar ideas are found in the ancient world. In Plato’s Apology of Socrates, Socrates speaks of some kind of otherworldly agency that tells him what not to do but never what to do.
The Old Testament also speaks of angels that intercede for mankind, the most famous example being that of Moses leading the people through the wilderness. Here God tells Moses that an angel will lead him. And many Muslims believe that they are guided by two angels.
In Shamanistic and Amerindian belief, the guardian and guide may be in the form of an animal spirit.
Today, the belief in guardian angels is quite widespread and does not pertain to any single religious group or denomination.
Historically speaking, it’s long been believed that dark or evil angels can confuse people and compel them to sin, even to suicide. No doubt as a product of mankind’s sexist history, women, especially, were thought to be driven to the point of madness by evil spirits posing as loving presences.
Contemporary psychiatry generally downplays or ignores the possibility that evil spirits could influence a person’s behavior. Psychiatry does recognize the phenomenon of “magical thinking” but usually within the interpretive framework of a cognitive error or mental illness.
Many exhibiting so-called magical thinking probably do make all sorts of interpretive errors. But the issue here is the underlying cause. The medical psychiatrist looks to inherited, (apparently) abnormal predispositions and adverse environmental conditions which may, indeed, be present. However, psychiatry tends to overlook the possibility that these contributing factors could be part of a much larger dynamic, a dynamic that might involve evil spiritual influences.
- Angel Talk (theaceofswords.wordpress.com)
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- How to ask Your Angel (theaceofswords.wordpress.com)
- Fools Rush In (davidscommonplacebook.wordpress.com)
- Lost & Found (logisticallychallenged.wordpress.com)
- Puppy Pile of Angels (mightyinspiration.wordpress.com)
- Elgar’s Guardian Angel – London Concert Choir sing Dream of Gerontius (classicalmusic.southbankcentre.co.uk)
- Angels Are Here (freedomperthought.wordpress.com)
In her book Illness as Metaphor (1978), Susan Sontag argued, not unlike Michel Foucault, that contemporary ways of approaching and understanding illness are intricately linked to societal norms. Huston Smith, in Beyond the Postmodern Mind (1982), also contends that current views about illness are culture-bound.
Other cultures, particularly those located in different historical periods, would probably regard as abnormal some contemporary beliefs, ideas and practices which many today see as normal.
This kind of argument is often used in relation to mental illness (and an inverse argument is often used with regard to homosexuality and polygamy¹), but Sontag (and Foucault) point out that it also applies to physical illness.
As with mental illness, bias with physical illness is evident in the way the issue is construed—i.e. the apparent causes, the best course of treatment, and what an illness supposedly signifies about a sick person’s moral character.
Related Posts » Aesculapius, Athleticism, Castanada (Carlos), Demons, DSM-IV-TR, Evil, Francis of Assisi (St.), Homeopathy, Jung (Carl Gustav), Koestler (Arthur), Laing (R. D.), Madness, Medicine Wheel, Occam’s razor, Shaman, Soul Loss, Spiritual Attack, Suicide, Szasz (Thomas), Venial Sin
¹ That is, other cultures, particularly those located in different historical periods, would probably regard as normal some contemporary beliefs, ideas and practices which many today see as abnormal. For instance, many in the ancient world believed that illness was caused by spiritual attack. Today, this belief would probably be uncritically dismissed by medical science.
- 38% Of Europeans Are Mentally Ill [Research Study] (inquisitr.com)
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- Study: 60% of Europeans Have Mental Disorders (weeklyworldnews.com)
- U.S. Adult Mental Illness Surveillance Report (cdc.gov)
- Mental Illness Affects Half Of All Americans During Their Lifetime (medicalnewstoday.com)
- Nearly 40 percent of Europeans suffer mental illness – Yahoo! News (underpaidgenius.com)
- Foucault, Oxford bibliographies online (2011) (foucaultnews.wordpress.com)
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- 40% of Europeans Are Mentally Ill (newser.com)
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Judas Iscariot (1st-century CE) was the New Testament Apostle who betrayed Jesus Christ for thirty pieces of silver. Judas singled Jesus out before the High Priest Caiaphas’ soldiers by kissing his cheek in the garden of Gethsemene (Mark 14.43-6).
Otherwise, the Priest’s guards wouldn’t have known who to arrest among Jesus and his disciples, who’d been sleeping and praying at Gethsemene during the night. Caiaphas had been appointed High Priest by the Romans, and his soldiers duly turned Jesus over to Pontius Pilate’s guards.
Before the betrayal, Judas looked after the mission’s finances (John 13:29). Some writers assume that all he ever cared for was money, even though most religious organizations necessarily have a business aspect. Shortly after Jesus’ arrest, Judas’ greedy mood turned bitter and self-recriminating. He returned the ‘blood money’ and hung himself on a Yew tree.¹
“Poor old Judas” goes the refrain, at this point, in Andrew LLoyd Webber’s rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar.
Matthias was chosen to replace Judas as an apostle, keeping the number of apostles at twelve, which is an important Biblical number (e.g. the twelve tribes of Israel).
The tale of Judas is, perhaps, the best-known story illustrating the old adage, “all that glitters is not gold”—or in this case, silver.
¹ There are actually several canonical and non-canonical variants concerning the death of Judas: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judas_Iscariot#Death
- Did Judas Iscariot write anything and were his writings in the Bible (wiki.answers.com)
- Campaign of terror & character assassination targeted Mary Magdalene & Judas Iscariot “Sicarii” (aeldwood.wordpress.com)
- Judas was a Judas before Judas meant Judas (byrdmouse.wordpress.com)
- Passion Week (E) Wednesday Events and John Piper-Judas Iscariot,the suicide of Satan and the Salvation of the World (rodiagnusdei.wordpress.com)
- Finding Judas… (drmoose.wordpress.com)
- Holy Week: Spy Wednesday (allsufficientgrace.wordpress.com)
- Peter vs. Judas (vitaconsecrata.wordpress.com)
- Was Judas Iscariot’s death a fulfillment of the scriptures (wiki.answers.com)
Sir Elton John (1947- ) is a British pop music star.
Elton John’s original name was Reginald Kenneth Dwight. Born in Pinner, Middlesex, Reginald played songs by ear on the piano at the age of 4 and took formal training at the Royal Academy of Music when 11.
As Elton John, his collaboration with lyricist Bernie Taupin flowered in the 1970′s with chart toppers like ‘Your Song’, ‘Rocket Man’, ‘Daniel’, ‘Honky Cat’, ‘Bennie and the Jets,’ ‘Goodbye Yellow Brick Road’ and ‘Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me.’
With a keen interest in Rugby, Elton at one time owned a British Football Club, eventually selling his shares to become its Life President.
He apparently began life as a shy person. Most biographers say his glamorous 1970′s stage image compensated for his inherent sensitivity. Others suggest he was hiding behind various – at that time outlandish – costumes and wigs while fighting an inner battle with drug addiction.
Likely both factors came into play. Elton apparently came close to suicide, at which time the journeyman musician Long John Baldry convinced him to quit drugs (‘Someone Saved My Life Tonight’).
After achieving international stardom, Elton publicly admitted to being bisexual, an admission that hurt his career for a while. But despite scathing comments from the press, he kept making albums. These didn’t do quite as well commercially until a comeback in 1992 with the album The One.
His remake of ‘Candle in the Wind’, performed with revised lyrics at Princess Diana‘s funeral, was the largest selling single in history one month after its release (The original 1973 song was about Marilyn Monroe).
He continues in the spotlight as an artist and icon for gay liberation, particularly since his much publicized same sex marriage to a long-time companion. Like Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney, he was knighted by the Queen of England in 1998 for “services to music and charitable services.” However, he’s shown marked distaste for organized religion.
More recently, Sir Elton John seems comfortable not having his new singles on the top 10 charts. He says his approach to making cds is more about an album concept instead of going for a hit. In other words, a slow burn instead of fireworks.
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Arthur Koestler (1905-83) was a Hungarian-born journalist and author who initially favored communism and wrote against the Nazis.
Koestler joined the German Communist Party (KPD) and was interned in a concentration camp but escaped to England in 1940, where he spent the rest of his life. By this time he’d broken with communism and had begun to explore political, scientific and humanistic themes through fiction and learned works.
He had a definite interest in the human brain, envisioning it as inherently conflicted due to an incomplete process of evolution. This idea of inherited conflict might have been more about him, however, and not the vast majority of people. He apparently was a misogynist and has gone on record for raping one woman.
Koestler also became interested in possible links between sub-atomic physics and parapsychology. And he wrote about the idea of coincidence, forwarding ideas remarkably similar to C. G. Jung’s concept of synchronicity. While this may surprise some, one has to remember that synchronicity is an ethically neutral concept. Dangerous madpersons, troubled neurotics and suffering saints may all experience – or believe they experience – the alleged parapsychological phenomena that Jung called synchronicity.
An advocate of euthanasia, Koestler and his wife both committed suicide when he developed a terminal illness.
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