## ~jacks/kings-essays

ref: d99dd2ef8623495a1cd090834cc304e6d3df6119 kings-essays/Second Year/CSP/Paper 4/final-essay.tex -rw-r--r-- 16.6 KiB
d99dd2ef — jacksarick done 1 year, 1 month ago

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\title{Liberty and its Limits:\\ The Sovereignty of Suicide in J.S. Mill and Carl Schmitt}
\author{Jack Sarick}

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\begin{document}
\maketitle \noindent
%%%%First page name, class, etc
Jack Sarick - CSP 2000\\
Section 2, Paper 4\\
April 8th 2019\\
Dr. Sarah Clift\\
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%Intro
John Stuart Mill and Carl Schmitt go together like a high-five and a cactus.
This is not to say that the two are diametrically opposed or radically incompatible.
Schmitt read Mill's work and called it the beginning of the "parallel of theology and jurisprudence" (Schmitt 41).
Both Mill and Schmitt assume that humans are, generally speaking, fairly unpredictable, work better in groups that have goals, and need external guidance to regulate behaviour.
It is also assumed that the act of independently making a decision is the highest expression of freedom possible, almost regardless of what the decision actually is.
There is a mutual feeling that as much as humans are unavoidably political animals, the government shouldn't be overly involved.
Mill makes it clear that "the strongest of all the arguments against the interference of the public with purely personal conduct, is that when it does interfere, the odds are that it interferes wrongly, and in the wrong place." (Mill, 150) whereas Schmitt puts it as "unlike the normal situation, when the autonomous moment of the decision recedes to a minimum, the norm is destroyed in the exception." (Schmitt 12), which is to say that exceptions disturb the norm, requiring intervention, and should therefore remain exceptional.

%Connexion to suicide
While not a central issue for either thinker, suicide is an interesting topic that reveals some intricate side-effects of the way in which definitions are subtly crafted.
One might expect the liberal Mill to permit quiet individual suicide and Schmitt's pragmatism to discourage a loss of labour force, where in reality it is quite the opposite.
Mill firmly believes in preventing suicide, and I will argue that suicide can fit into Schmitt's ideology as a crude expression of sovereignty.
Each comes to their own conclusions despite starting at first principles that are not too far apart.
As far as individual freedom is concerned, Mill and Schmitt agree that there are times when the plurality should exert their force to restrict other's freedom for their own sake, though this should ideally happen as little as possible.
One underlying difference is that Schmitt thinks that the conditions under which restrictions are allowed vastly outnumber those in which freedom may go unchecked.

%Schmitt vs Mill on sovereignity
Schmitt's famous line, and the opening line of \textit{Political Theology}, "Sovereign is he who decides the exception" (Schmitt 1), is an actionable aphorism that allows for quantifiable identification of authority in any decision making scenario.
Even one person on their own can demonstrate sovereignty by consciously choosing to work against a pattern for suspected gain.
Given a group of people interacting with one another, Schmitt's statement can parse out a power structure based on what kind of decisions are being made whom.
This is the starting point he chooses for the rest of his discussion because it is a standardized definition of power that is not necessarily complete, but is compatible with context in which he was thinking.
Mill's definition of sovereignty fits with Schmitt's at first glance: "Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign" (Mill 22).
Where Schmitt provides a conditional test of sovereignty, Mill offers a static maxim.
In regards to exceptions, however, Mill asserts that "to make any one answerable for doing evil to others, is the rule; to make him answerable for not preventing evil, is, comparatively speaking, the exception." (Mill, 25).
This is to say that individuals are responsible by default for their own evildoing, and those evildoings of others that the state deems as exceptional.
To put it another way: Mill thinks that the individuals are culpable for maintaining order, whereas Schmitt thinks that all blame ultimately rests on the state.
This focused responsibility is Schmitt's basis for a centralized state because "the hierarchical order that is legally valid in the state rests on the premise that authorizations and competences emanate from the uniform central point to the lowest point. [...] For juristic consideration there are neither real nor fictitious persons, only points of ascription. The state is the terminal point of ascription ..." (Schmitt, 19).

%The state
How far the power of a state reaches is the basis for its citizen's freedom and sovereignty.
A libertarian state like Mill proposes draws its power from the individual's desire to be unperturbed by others
The law which governs this state is: "Acts of whatever kind, which [unnecessarily] do harm to others, may be, and in the more important cases absolutely require to be, controlled by the unfavourable sentiments, and [...] active interference of mankind. The liberty of the individual must be thus far limited; he must not make himself a nuisance to other people." (Mill 101).
The power of the state is consequentially inversely proportional to the population's capability to get along amicably with itself.
Alternatively, Schmitt's limitations of governmental power are "that it intervene only when the free individual or associational act proves to be insufficient; it should remain in the background as the \textit{ultima ratio}." (Schmitt 25).
It is from this \textit{ultima ratio}, this ultimate reason, that all laws draw their power, as "it is not the state but law that is supposed to have power." (Schmitt 23).
Moving power from state to law, when the state is defined as the producer the laws (Schmitt 23), limits the power of the state only to the extent that it is subject to its own laws.

%Differences in states
Both would seem to grant individuals the ability to make choices for themselves, limited only by the clause that others should also remain sovereign.
How is it that with such similar premises, the two thinkers should end up on opposite sides of the issue?
The difference does not lie in their respective notions of sovereignty and freedom, but in their definitions of exceptions.
As Bill Scheuerman says in response to Schmitt, "the liberal model of free debate implies an elected representative's capacity to be guided by the 'best' or most 'truthful' argument rather than power- or interest-based demands," (Scheuerman 136) which is to say that Schmitt's defence against the tyranny of the majority is an abstract one, implemented in the layers of law, not in open discussion as Mill proposed.
By identifying the underlying principles of the two variations on debate, Scheuerman distinguishes the fundamental differences between the two.
Where Mill promotes the maintenance of law through collective criticism, Schmitt takes a more formulaic approach to preserving peace; he only works with enforceable mediums like laws so that the state can always be held accountable, where Mill puts the judicial responsibilities on the citizen.
Returning to the importance of exceptions, Mill's exceptional circumstance is obligation to interfere with another's freedom, while Schmitt's exceptional circumstance comes as the affirmation of one's own freedom by the restriction of another's.

%Suicide in Mill
Suicide can be an act of sovereignty for Schmitt, whereas Mill sees it as shirking of public duty.
Neither ruminate specifically on death or its nuanced methods, though life has an implicit value for both.\footnote{Albeit Schmitt does not seem particularly concerned with the value of individual lives, especially considering his Nazi affiliations, his definition of power requires a military force based on people, and thus I would argue he sees at least some value in a human life.}
Killing oneself is, unequivocally, a bad thing according to Mill's line of reasoning:
\begin{quote}
"... it is impossible for a person to do anything seriously or permanently hurtful to himself, without mischief reaching at least to his near connexions, and often far beyond them." (Mill 144)

"Whenever, in short, there is a definite damage, [...] either to an individual or to the public, the case is taken out of the province of liberty, and placed in that of morality or law." (Mill 147)
\end{quote}
These quotes pack quite neatly into a syllogism: If unnecessary damage is to be stopped, and suicide is unnecessary damage, then suicide must be stopped.
This syllogism, like most, does very little to unpack anything beyond the surface of the claim, but it does provide a firmly grounded position from which to understand Mill's thought process.
Although Mill does think that suicide is sufficient grounds to intervene, why exactly that action is immoral is a more tangled subject.
Individual freedoms start and stop with conciousness, so death is a permanent and absolute suspension of any individual freedom.\footnote{While it is illegal to exhume a corpse without proper paperwork, it is not a crime \textit{against the corpse} to do so.}
As such, suicide (actively choosing to die, in contrast to slow suicides like lack of imagination or alcoholism that Mill regards as a grey-zone) can be seen as a wilful and irreversible forfeiture of one's individual freedoms.
Devoid of freedom, Mill says that "he who lets the world [...] choose his plan of life for him, has no need of any other faculty than the ape-like one of imitation" (Mill 106).
Without individual freedoms and choice, humans are no better than animals.
The act by itself cannot be a liberating act because, as Mill borrows from Von Humboldt (Mill 103), the act is only valuable when held in consort with the actor, saying that "it really is of importance, not only what men do, but also what manner of men they are that do it." (Mill 106).
Mill does not believe that suicide is a valid expression of freedom because as it negates any choices that would follow it.
Suicide is not a freedom that can be restricted because it is not a freedom at all, it is itself a restriction of freedom according to Mill.

% Suicide in Schmitt
Schmitt, on the other hand, does not hold the same opinion on suicide, and sees little wrong with it.
Similar to Mill's axiom of harm prevention, Schmitt thinks the state should only intervene when strictly needed, not as a default.
In his reckoning of theological and political, he says that a "continuous thread runs through the metaphysical, political, and sociological conceptions that postulate the sovereign as a personal unit and primeval creator" (Schmitt 47).
Individuals have the freedom to unmake themselves only insofar as they have made themselves.
An un-averted suicide puts no blame on any bystanders, for the individual acted within their own sovereignty, and any residual damage or guilt that Mill might cite as malignant rests with the state, the root of all ascriptions.
The act of suicide is not contradictory to, and thus not explicitly prohibited by, Schmitt's sovereignty because the act of freedom and the freedom itself are not held by the same individual.
Schmitt says that "the necessity by which the people always will what is right is not identical with the rightness that emanated from the commands of the personal sovereign" (Schmitt 48).
Suicide as an expression of sovereignty (choosing to excuse oneself from the minimum harm principle, per se) cannot be legally intervened with because, as Schmitt says, "sovereignty is the highest, legally independent, un-derived power" (Schmitt 17).
As long as the suicide does not impinge on the state's ability to make exceptions, there is nothing the state can legally do to prevent it, unless, of course, an exception were made.
To legally intervene with a suicide would devalue the sovereignty of the actor by basing their sovereignty on an external decision maker, but the ability to create even a singular exception allows for the protection of future sovereignty.
In this way, both the act of suicide and the act of preventing it are maintained as absolutely sovereign, because the lack of obligations turns everything into a choice.
Mill defines suicide as an exception, and thus temporarily suspends the sovereignty of both actor and bystander because their course of action has been laid out, yet Schmitt leaves the choice  to the actor and, by extension, the bystander.

%Issues
I had previously claimed that Schmitt values human life to some degree, which is true, but I do not, however, make claims as to what degree.
Schmitt's work on Article 48 and its legitimization of dictatorship\footnote{"The apologists downplay the role Schmitt's critique of parliamentarism played in legitimizing a dictatorial alternative to the crisis-ridden Weimar Republic during the early 1930's..."(Scheuerman 135)} should not disqualify his thinking outright, though it should warrant critical inspection.
At the risk of being a little heavy handed, Scheuerman attempts to pluck the dangerous thread of genocide out from Schmitt's work to fully reveal how terrifying its implications are:
\begin{quote}
"...the democratic tradition's attempt to establish identity supposedly has, in Schmitt's view, an authentically political character. [...] the establishment of political identity may very well imply the necessity of 'exterminating' heterogeneous minorities that fall outside the particular form of homogeneity upon which a given democracy rests. In contrast to liberal parliamentarism, democracy thereby acknowledges the centrality of intense, potentially life-threatening crises." (Scheuerman 140)
\end{quote}
Scheuerman by no means implies that death is necessarily the foundation of any stable democracy, though he does highlight the strictly non-violent nature of liberalism.

% Conclusion
When Schmitt was writing his \textit{Political Theology} in the Weimar Republic, he could not have known the impacts it would have down the line.
What a mind it would have taken to predict the ferocious efficiency with which Article 48 dismantled a government.
Schmitt equates "the omnipotent lawgiver [to] the omnipotent God," and says that "the exception in jurisprudence is analogous to the miracle in theology." (Schmitt, 36).
Had Schmitt known the masses that would come to worship and be subjugated by his laws, he would at least see his prophecies tested if not proven.
Whether or not he'd approve is another story; though his ideologies are undoubtedly severe, death does not bring a smile to any rational face.
Ultimately, neither Schmitt nor Mill think there is are good reasons for suicide, and both would ideally prevent it.
Though the value of one life is not substantial in a massive population, it is the sum of those values that make up the power of a state and enforce the laws that maintain it, and it is those component individuals that the state is built to protect.
No reasonable ideology should support suicide, and any good one should discourage the act gracefully.\footnote{Although there are always exceptions}

%%%%Works cited
\begin{workscited}

\bibent
Schmitt, Carl. \textit{Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty}. Univ. of Chicago Press, 2006.

\bibent
Mill, John Stuart. \textit{On Liberty}. https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/On\_Liberty, 2019. (Digitization of: London: Longmans, Green, Reader and Dyer,
1869)

\bibent
Scheuerman, Bill. “Is Parliamentarism in Crisis? A Response to Carl Schmitt.” \textit{Theory and Society}, vol. 24, no. 1, 1995, pp. 135–158. \textit{JSTOR}, www.jstor.org/stable/657922.

\end{workscited}

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