Portal Site for Russellian in Japan
Illegal? by Bertrand Russell* From: Mortals and Others, v.1, 1975
西洋社会（キリスト教社会）にあってラッセルのような見方をする人は多くないようだが,日本人は共感する人が多いのではないだろうか。人命の尊重 を最重要だと主張し,自殺を潔しとしない人や社会は,(大量死をもたらす)戦争及び戦争の危険性をます軍拡競争に対しては猛反対をしなくてはならないはずである。そうでないとしたら,ラッセルが言うように その人や社会は '偽善的である' と言わざるを得ない。（1999.07.25,松下）
Shortly after the war, when Austria was in a very bad way, an Austrian farmer hanged himself from the branch of a tree. A neighbour saw him and cut him down before life was extinct. The farmer brought an action against the neighbour on the ground that the neighbour had inflicted a further dose of life on him, which constituted a tort, in view of the fact that life in Austria at that time was an evil. The court appeared to agree with the farmer, though it acquitted the neighbour on some technicality.
In England and in large parts of America, the view taken of attempted suicide is different; it is held that suicide is murder and that attempted suicide is attempted murder. When a man finds so painful that he tries to kill himself he is given a dose of prison to teach him to find life more pleasant.
This seems to me doubly irrational. In the first place, attempted suicide ought not to be considered a crime; in the second place, imprisonments is not likely in this case to prove a deterrent.
To say that it is as bad to kill yourself as to kill someone else seems to me absurd. If I take someone else's watch and throw it into the sea, I'm a criminal, but if I throw my own watch into the sea, I am at worse foolish, and if the watch is worthless, I may even be quite sensible. What applies to my watch applies also to my life. When I take another man's life I am taking what does not belong to me, but the question of taking my own life is clearly one that concerns me more than it does any one else.
It may be said that I ought not to take my life because it is capable of being useful to others. In many cases this is sound as a moral argument, but it is not wise to make the law as exacting as private ethics. One might say the same thing of property : it may be immoral to throw away even a worthless watch when one considers how much pleasure it might give to some small boy, but that would scarcely be an adequate ground for putting a man in prison if he throws away his own watch after it has ceased to go. It may be, in like manner, that every man could put the remaining years of his life to some good use. But there are many men who do not see any way of doing so, and not a few whose death would be no great loss to the community. In any case, a man's life, like his property, ought to be legally his, and if he chooses to throw it away he should be allowed to do so. From the deterrent point of view, the punishment of attempted suicide is futile. The man who attempts suicide expects to succeed and therefore to escape punishment; while the man who has failed and been punished is not likely to flnd life more agreeable after a period in prison.
The subject of suicide is apt to be considered not on its merits but in relation to what is called the sacredness of human life. I find, however, that it is illegal to take this phrase seriously, since those who do so are compelled to condemn war. So long as war remains part of our institutions it is mere hypocrisy to invoke the sacredness of human life against those unfortunates whose misery leads them to attempts suicide.