Southwest Philosophy Review 37(1): 219-228, 2021
Abstract: Emil Cioran offers novel arguments against suicide. He assumes a meaningless world. But in such a world, he argues, suicide and death would be equally as meaningless as life or anything else. Suicide and death are as cumbersome and useless as meaning and life. Yet Cioran also argues that we should contemplate suicide to live better lives. By contemplating suicide, we confront the deep suffering inherent in existence. This humbles us enough to allow us to change even the deepest aspects of ourselves. Yet it also reminds us that our peculiar human ability—being able to contemplate suicide—sets us above anything else in nature or in the heavens. This paper assembles and defends a view of suicide written about in Cioran’s aphorisms and essays.
Keywords: Emil Cioran, suicide, ethics, good life, pessimism, French philosophy, existentialism
Why don’t I commit suicide? Because I am as sick of death as I am of life. I should be cast into a flaming cauldron! Why am I on this earth? I feel the need to cry out, to utter a savage scream that will set the world atremble with dread. I am like a lightning bolt ready to set the world ablaze and swallow it all in the flames of my nothingness. I am the most monstrous being in history, the beast of the apocalypse full of fi re and darkness, of aspirations and despair. I am the beast with a contorted grin, contracting down to illusion and dilating toward infi nity, both growing and dying, delightfully suspended between hope for nothing and despair of everything, brought up among perfumes and poisons, consumed with love and hatred, killed by lights and shadows. My symbol is the death of light and the flame of death. Sparks die in me only to be reborn as thunder and lightning. Darkness itself glows in me.—Emil Cioran, On the Heights of Despair