Can Suicide Preserve One’s Dignity? Kant and Kantians on the Moral Response to Cognitive Loss

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Department or Administrative Unit

Philosophy and Religious Studies

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Kantian defenders of suicide for the soon-to-be demented claim that killing oneself would protect rather than violate a person’s inherent worth. The loss of cognitive functions reduces someone to a lower moral status, so they believe that suicide is a way of preserving or preventing the loss of dignity. I argue that they misinterpret Kant’s examples and fail to appreciate the reasons behind his absolute prohibition on suicide. Although Kant says that one may have to sacrifice one’s life to fulfill a moral duty, suicide is not morally equivalent to self-sacrifice because it involves treating oneself merely as a means. Furthermore, people facing the onset of dementia would not protect their dignity by killing themselves while they are still rational and would not avoid a demeaning existence.


This article was originally published in Kant-Studien. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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