Appointment to and Dismissal from Existence

Kant judges suicide to be a crime, a murder, and essentially a “violation  of one’s duty toward oneself”. In that part of his justification of this judgment which concerns us here Kant also adduces the notions of a violation of one’s duty toward one’s fellow men and, finally, of one’s duty toward God Himself, “who has entrusted to each man a post and station in this world, which said man abandons (if he takes his own life) without having been dismissed therefrom…” (Kant, Metaphysics of Morals, Metaphysical Principles of the Doctrine of Virtue (On Taking One’s Own Life, § 6)) This would mean that we are lieutenants or deputies of God’s here on the earth and have simply – devoid of all existential autonomy – to wait until some imponderable decree from on high comes to put an end to this service. From each individual’s point of view, indeed, the event that begins his or her sojourn in the world presents itself as equally imponderable. Human procreation has been going on for thousands of years until one day, for some reason that it is impossible to fathom, “I” come into existence (àIchfälligkeit). From the imponderability, for the individual, of this beginning at least Kant shows himself willing to draw moral conclusions: since no one ever gave consent to his or her summoning into existence, it is morally incumbent on our parents to render life sufficiently pleasant for us, up to the point of our coming of age, that it might plausibly be thought that we would have consented to it, had we had the choice between existing or not existing.  But given that Kant showed full philosophical comprehension of this fact that the entry of each individual into his or her condition as an existing being is something that is effected by a law or power external to this individual, whose consent to this “appointment” must therefore, by rights, be acquired retroactively, logical consistency would surely have required him to take the same attitude to the individual’s exit from this condition and to accord to human subjects the moral right, instead of waiting patiently on their “dismissal” by God, to “dismiss themselves” from their “post” as existing beings.

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