History ; Suicide Influences and Factors:
Critical Remarks What is Suicide? Explanation requires comparison; comparison requires classification; classification requires the definition of those facts to be classified, compared, and ultimately explained.
Consistent with The Rules of Sociological Method, therefore, Durkheim began his work with a warning against notiones vulgares, together with an insistence that our first task The obvious solution -- i.
First, as we have seen p. Second, the definition of suicide by the end sought by the agent would exclude actions -- e. The distinctive characteristic of suicides, therefore, is not that the act is performed intentionally, but rather that it is performed advisedly -- the agent knows that death will be the result of his act, regardless of whether or not death is his goal.
This criterion is sufficient to distinguish suicide, properly so-called, from other deaths which are either inflicted on oneself unconsciously or not self-inflicted at all; moreover. Durkheim insisted that such a characteristic was easily ascertainable, and that such acts thus formed a definite, homogeneous group.
Suicide is applied to all cases of death resulting directly or indirectly from a positive or negative act of the victim himself, which he knows will produce this result. This definition, however, was subject to two immediate objections. The first was that such foreknowledge is a matter of degree, varying considerably from one person or situation to another.
At what point, for example, does the death of a professional dare-devil or that of a man neglectful of his health cease to be an "accident" and start to become "suicide"? But for Durkheim to ask this question was less to raise an objection to his definition than to correctly identify its greatest advantage -- that it indicates the place of suicide within moral life as a whole.
For suicides, according to Durkheim, do not constitute a wholly distinctive group of "monstrous phenomena" unrelated to other forms of behavior; on the contrary. Suicides, in short, are simply an exaggerated form of common practices.
The second objection was that such practices, however common, are individual practices, with individual causes and consequences, which are thus the proper subject matter of psychology rather than sociology.
In fact, Durkheim never denied that suicide could be studied by the methods of psychology, but he did insist that suicide could also be studied independent of its individual manifestations, as a social fact sui generis.
Indeed, each society has a "definite aptitude" for suicide, the relative intensity of which can be measured by the proportion of suicides per total population, or what Durkheim called "the rate of mortality through suicide, characteristic of the society under consideration.
Thus defined, Durkheim's project again fell naturally into three parts: Extra-Social Causes Durkheim suggested that, a priori, there are two kinds of extra-social causes sufficiently general to have an influence on the suicide rate. First, within the individual psychological constitution there might exist an inclination, normal or pathological, varying from country to country, which directly leads people to commit suicide.
Second, the nature of the external physical environment climate, temperature, etc. Durkheim took up each in turn. The annual rate of certain diseases, like the suicide rate, is both relatively stable for a given society and perceptibly variable from one society to another; and since insanity is such a disease, the demonstration that suicide is the consequence of insanity a psychological fact would successfully account for those features of permanence and variability which had led Durkheim to suggest that suicide was a social fact sui generis.
Durkheim was thus particularly concerned to eliminate insanity as a probable cause of suicide, and he did so by attacking that hypothesis in its two most common forms: The first Durkheim dismissed by classifying suicidal insanity as a "monomania" -- a form of mental illness limited to a single act or object -- and then arguing that not a single incontestable example of such monomania had yet been shown to exist.
The second he rejected on the ground that all suicides committed by the insane are either devoid of deliberation and motive altogether or based on motives that are purely hallucinatory, while many suicides are "doubly identifiable as being deliberate and springing from representations involved in this deliberation which are not purely hallucinatory.
But what about psychopathic conditions which fall short of insanity -- neurasthenia and alcoholism -- but which nonetheless are frequently associated with suicide? Durkheim responded by showing that the social suicide rate bears no definite relation to that of neurasthenia, and that the latter thus has no necessary effect on the former; and alcoholism was discarded as a putative cause on evidence that the geographical distributions of both alcohol consumption and prosecutions for alcoholism bear no relation to that of suicides.
A psychopathic state, Durkheim concluded, may predispose individuals to commit suicide, but it is never in itself a sufficient cause of the permanence and variability of suicide rates. Having dismissed pathological states as a class of causes, Durkheim turned his attention to those normal psychological conditions race and hereditywhich, again, are sufficiently general to account for the phenomena question.
The view that suicide is the consequence of tendencies inherent in each major social type, for example, was undermined by the enormous variations in social suicide rates observed within the same type, suggesting that different levels of civilization are much more decisive.
But the argument that suicide is hereditary had first to be distinguished from the more moderate view that one inherits a predisposition to commit suicide; for the latter, as in the case of neurasthenia, is not an "explanation" of suicide at all.
The stronger argument -- that one inherits a semi-autonomous psychological mechanism which gives rise to suicide automatically -- was then rejected on the grounds that its most dramatic manifestation the regularity with which suicide sometimes appears in the same family can be explained by other causes contagionand that as within racial types, there are patterned variations within the same family between husbands and wives which.
But if normal or abnormal psychological predispositions are not, by themselves, sufficient causes of suicide, might not such predispositions acting in concert with cosmic factors climate, seasonal temperature etc.
The conjunction of such predispositions with climate, Durkheim answered, has no such influence; for while the geographical distribution of suicides in Europe varies according to latitude and thus roughly according to climate as well, these variations are better explained by social causes.
Montesquieu's suggestion that cold, foggy countries are most favorable to suicide was equally discredited by the fact that, in every country for which statistics were available, the suicide rate is higher in spring and summer than in fall and winter.
Is suicide, then, as the Italian statisticians Ferri and Morselli believed, an effect of the mechanical influence of heat on the cerebral functions? Durkheim here objected on both conceptual and empirical grounds -- that this theory presumes that the constant psychological antecedent of suicide is a state of extreme excitation, where in fact it is frequently preceded by depression; and, in any case, that the suicide rate is in decline in July and August, and thus does not vary regularly with temperature.
The "revised" Italian argument -- that it is the contrast between the departing cold and the beginning of the warm season that stimulates the psychological predispositions -- was equally rejected by Durkheim as inconsistent with the perfect continuity steady increase from January to June, steady decrease from July to December of the curve representing the monthly variations of the suicide rate.The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception Chapter III Man and the Method of Evolution.
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The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception Chapter III Man and the Method of Evolution. Activities of Life; Memory and Soul-Growth.
Our study thus far of the seven Worlds or states of matter has shown us that each serves a definite purpose in the economy of nature, and that God, the Great Spirit, in Whom we actually and in fact "live and move .