Category: Critchley, Simon

true pessimists don’t kill themselves (quote)

Simon Critchley’s SUICIDE p. 106-07

Perhaps we have to calm down and look at matters more soberly and more pessimistically, without giving in to the optimistic delusions that our death would solve any kind of problem, enact payback, revenge or retribution, save us from ourselves, from others or from the painful commotion of the world. In a delicious coup de grace, Cioran writes,

‘The refutation of suicide: is it not inelegant to abandon a world which has so willingly put itself at the service of our melancholy?’

I find something grimly reassuring and even fortifying in what we might call ‘the inelegance of the refutation of suicide.’ Let’s grant that the capacity for suicide is what, at least partially, picks us out as a species. For as long as we are in possession of the powers of reflection and basic motility skills, we own the weapon with which we can assert our freedom and end our days, should we wish for such a consummation. But this does not entail that we should use that weapon. Not at all. That would be far too optimistic an Act. Nothing would be saved by our suicide.

Why not calm down and enjoy the world’s melancholy spectacle that spreads out so capaciously and delightfully before us? Why not linger a while in the face of what Nietzsche calls ‘strict, hard factuality?’ Why not try and turn ourselves inside out, away from the finally hateful inward suffering, and outwards and upwards towards others, not in the name of some right or duty, but out of love? Each of us has the power to kill themselves. Sure. But why not choose instead to give oneself to another or others in an act of love, that is, to give what one does not have and to receive that over which one has no power? Why not attempt a minimal conversion away from the self-aversion that lacerates and paralyzes us towards another possible version of ourselves? Is this not finally more courageous? Such is perhaps what Nietzsche calls the pessimism of strength as opposed to an optimism of naivety and weakness. True pessimists don’t kill themselves. Is that not enough?