Re: Suicide as a Natural Right. (was: Re: In defense of Friendliness)

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Date: Wed Nov 13 2002 - 02:25:24 MST

Samantha Atkins wrote:
> Edwin Evans wrote:
>> I often suspect that people look at these questions backwards (though
>> I'm not saying you Samantha). That they struggle with a question like
>> "Should I commit suicide?" as a separate question from "What should I
>> do?" Yet 'commit suicide' is an answer to this initial, fundamental
>> question whereas "Should I commit suicide?" is a question that
>> probably just came up after internally hearing "Awful feeling! Stop
>> the pain! Won't you please stop the pain? I matter!"
>> I guess I know what your answer to the question is and you can guess
>> that I don't agree. I felt I should point out that it would be wrong
>> for anyone to struggle with this question by agonizing over whether
>> their "world is hell" or whether they have no hope or how it will
>> affect family and friends, without ever considering whether they are
>> agonizing over totally the wrong things (which I think they probably
>> are).
> [snip]
> So it was rather obvious that "Should I commit suicide" is not the
> question. However, I don't begrudge any sentient the right to wrestle
> with their pain and options and decide so basic a question for
> themselves. I would not presume to answer it for others.

Samantha, saying that people have the *right* to make the choice is one
thing. It is another thing entirely to say that they must make it without
help and alone. The concept of "Oops, I'm asking the wrong question" is
universal, and I see no reason why Edwin Evans should not ask whether
potential suicides are asking the wrong question, either objectively or
under their own standards, depending on whether it's an objective
question. The reason that you yourself gave is not one that seems like it
would be unique to Samantha Atkins alone out of all the world. Why
wouldn't someone else pondering the question be interested?

Eliezer S. Yudkowsky                
Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

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