Suicidal Thoughts: Hobbes, Foucault, and the Right to Die

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Liberal articulations of the right to die generally focus on balancing individual rights against state interests, but this approach does not take full advantage of the disruptive potential of this contested right. This article develops an alternative to the liberal approach to the right to die by engaging the seemingly discordant philosophical perspectives of Michel Foucault and Thomas Hobbes. Despite Foucault’s objections, a rapprochement between these perspectives is established by focusing on their shared emphasis on the role that death plays in the order of modernity. After the article has established the complementarity of Foucault and Hobbes, Hobbes’ unique stance toward suicide is first viewed in the context of the early-modern hostility toward suicide, and then contrasted with Foucault’s Stoic-inspired affirmation of suicide. This comparison of these two philosophers’ positions on suicide opens to contestation dimensions of modern subjects that remain undisturbed by liberal approaches to the right to die.


Sociology and Anthropology

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