Nietzsche on Suicide

Paolo Stellino

Abstract

Nietzsche’s view of suicide is a topic which in the last years has been the focus of works such as Julian Young’s and Paul S. Loeb’s. Within this context, this paper seeks to add new elements to the discussion. To this purpose, Nietzsche’s attitude to suicide will be explored from two different points of view. The first part of the paper focuses on the distinction between voluntary (free) and involuntary (natural) death. Nietzsche’s appraisal of both will be scrutinized. In particular, through the comparison with the Classical and, especially, Stoic philosophy and through the critique of the religious (particularly Christian) conception of death, it will be shown, among other things, that Nietzsche defends the rationality of suicide, presents a view of voluntary death as emptied of morality and fights against the Christian denaturalization of suicide. In the second part of the paper, suicide will be considered from a philosophical-existentialist viewpoint, that is, as a possible consequence of the meaninglessness of human existence. The problem is to judge whether life is or is not worth living in a world devoid of meaning and purpose. Nietzsche’s attitude to suicide will be analyzed in a chronological way (early, middle and late Nietzsche). Special attention will be given to the role played by art. The relevant conclusion is that, although in different ways, Nietzsche gives an affirmative answer to the question whether life is worth living in a world devoid of meaning and purpose.

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