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Reading: The Giver, Not the Gift: Why the Gift-Analogy Properly Condemns Suicide


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The Giver, Not the Gift: Why the Gift-Analogy Properly Condemns Suicide


Meredith Diane Lockman

About Meredith Diane

Meredith Diane Lockman is an MSc Political Theory student. Her main elds of interest are metaethics (particularly in justications for a mind-independent morality), philosophy of religion (the Euthyphro Dilemma, problem of evil), and metaphysics (the conception of the person).

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One of the most common theological arguments against suicide relies on a simple analogy: life is a gift from God; therefore, it is immoral for humans to destroy their lives. Because the gift argument is an analogy, its power rests on its ability to connect a normal event (the giving of a gift) to a philosophical problem (whether the gift of life can be taken by its recipient). Margaret Pabst Battin has argued that we cannot condemn suicide because, under ordinary conceptions of gift-giving, a recipient may morally destroy the gift she receives, particularly if that gift is painful or ill-fitting. This paper argues that Battin's response to the gift analogy is incomplete and, therefore, cannot prove suicide theistically acceptable. While dependent on its connection to a normal event, the gift analogy is only relevant within a theistic framework, which carries the assumption that God is omnipotent, omnibenevolent, and omniscient. A recipient's ability to refuse or destroy a gift is typically contingent on the fallibility of her giver-his wrong intent or misunderstanding of the recipient's desires, situation, or needs. The theistic recipient of a painful life, in contrast, can never conclude that God intended wrong, doesn't love or understand her, or is powerless to change her situation. It is the perfect nature of the giver of life that makes suicide immoral, not the quality or status of the gift. Since Battin fails to acknowledge this fundamental theist assumption, her attempt to discredit the fails to prove suicide acceptable.

How to Cite: Lockman, M.D., 2016. The Giver, Not the Gift: Why the Gift-Analogy Properly Condemns Suicide. Rerum Causae, 8(1), pp.94–103.
Published on 01 Jan 2016.
Peer Reviewed


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