van Hooff Anton J. L. - From Autothanasia to Suicide
|Autothanasia and suicide; is there a moral difference? Self-killing was as common in the Graeco-Roman world as it is now, but its sociological profile, its motives and methods were at considerable variance. Dr van Hooff provides us with a book unique in its approach to suicide since it covers the facts, popular attitudes and the reflections of philosophers and theologians on the subject. One interesting conclusion is that the `noble suicide' of philosophers and politicians was only the tip of the iceberg, i.e. it was the focus of public interest, but the patterns of behaviour among common people were much more varied.|
Using almost one thousand case studies, he covers suicides from shame, love, insanity, guilt, even the use of suicide as a deliberate pollution of an enemy's house. Methods too are discussed, with hanging emerging as the most common. In addition, the author analyses ancient popular morality as it appears in the various media; in drama, light verse, law, burial customs, pictures and even jokes.
In the third part of the book, the development of the concept of self-murder as opposed to the original idea of authothanasia is traced in philosophical and religious thinking, which culminates in St Augustine's principled rejection of self-killing. Here lies the root of the Christian abhorrence of suicide which until recently dominated western attitudes.