Stay: A History of Suicide and the Arguments Against It, by Jennifer Michael Hecht

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  1. Just finished this book, quite relevant for a class I am taking this semester.

    The book is Stay: A History of Suicide and the Arguments Against It, by Jennifer Michael Hecht (and the class, BTW, is “Topics in Philosophy of Religion: Death, Happiness, and Immortality”).

    Because she is a poet in addition to a scholar and a historian, her writing is, unsurprisingly, beautiful.

    Her book grew from an essay that she wrote in the Ideas section of the Boston Globe, easily findable via Google if you are interested,

    As promised by title, she both gives an overview of the history of suicide – beginning several thousand years ago, with the Sampson in the Book of Judges, on through modern times, including remarkable periods of postmortem torture of suicide corpses – and also follows the string on arguments against suicide throughout all that time, concluding that suicide is wrong because it 1) harms the community, 2) damages humanity, and 3) unfairly preempts one’s future self.

    Because people in crisis and suicidal can find it nearly impossible to think about or hear such arguments, all the more reason, she argues, it is important for people at least to have heard of the many arguments against suicide, which is one reason why books like this, and open discussion and awareness about suicide, are so important.

    “If we try to suppress the whole subject,” she says in the Conclusion, “if we quarantine suicide from our consciousness and from public conversations, we run the risk of suddenly confronting it, alone and unarmed, when we are most vulnerable” (p. 234).

    “Clear as it is that suicides cause more suicide, it is clear that talking to people about rejecting suicide can help them reject suicide. Ideas matter” (p. 233).

    Yes they do.

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