Voluntary death – interdisciplinary approaches

July 17, 2019 - July 18, 2019
Department of Philosophy, Tel Aviv University

Tel Aviv

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  • University of Lorraine, Nancy
  • The Minerva Center for Interdisciplinary Studies of the End of Life at the Tel Aviv University
  • The International Association for the Philosophy of Death and Dying

Keynote speakers:

Bristol University
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute


Tel Aviv University
Université de Lorraine

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Voluntary death – interdisciplinary approaches

The workshop aims to bring lectures and discussions in an interdisciplinary environment of researchers who focus on the questions of suicidality and voluntary death (from the point of view of philosophy, literature, law, sociology, psychology, healthcare and arts). Organized under the auspices of the International Association for the Philosophy of Death and Dying (IAPDD) and the School of Philosophy, Linguistics & Science Studies at the Tel Aviv University, Israel.

Co-organizers: Dr Anna C. Zielinska, philosopher at the University of Lorraine, France and Yael Lavi, PhD candidate at the Tel Aviv University

Location: Drachlis Hall, Gilman building (Humanities), room 496, Tel Aviv University

Date: 17-18 July 2019


Confirmed speakers and participants

  • Michael Cholbi, Professor of Philosophy and Director, California Center for Ethics and Policy, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.
  • Andrew Bennett, Professor of English, University of Bristol & the author of: Suicide Century: Literature and Suicide from James Joyce to David Foster Wallace, Cambridge University Press, 2017.
  • Tal Granit and Sharon Maymon, the creators of the film: “The Farewell Party” (Mita Tova)
  • Michael Barilan, Professor at the Department of Medical Education, Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Tel Aviv University
  • Shai Lavi, Professor of Law and Head of the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute. He is also the co-director of the Minerva Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of End of Life, Tel Aviv

Presentation of the project

Classically, voluntary death means suicide. Today, the vocabulary used to speak about end of life seems to slowly change, given the progressive paradigm shift in our conception of death. The notion of “voluntary death” includes now not only suicide, but also most forms of euthanasia. The process of modification of terms used to describe the end of life, as well as the social and demographical alterations of death makes us think that this question of privatisation of the end of life urgently needs a discussion lead by representatives of various disciplines.

Background discussion & questions

“Close to 800,000 people die due to suicide every year, which is one person every 40 seconds. [it] is the second leading cause of death among 15-29-year-old globally […] There are indications that for each adult who died of suicide there may have been more than 20 others attempting suicide.”

Statistically, it seems that suicide most often is a cry for help of a person who cannot handle a difficult life situation (maybe partly due to an initial fragility). This kind of suicide is targeted by various forms of suicide prevention, which presupposes a pathologization of this phenomenon. Yet it is also well known that suicide can be, and often is, an existential choice, presented as such by philosophers and by fiction writers. A new form of suicide, made “official” in several countries and under discussion in several others, is associated to the end of life decision, in the context of incurable illnesses and diseases. This new form raises fundamental questions, thus, there is an urgent need to propose a new way to talk about suicide, and this conference aims at preparing the ground for it.

We would like to invite submissions on the following topics

  • Does the assisted suicide legitimately belong to the category of suicides which are “existential choices”, or are its roots are rather close to the first category quoted above, considered pathological? Or maybe those two major categories are not enough?
  • How can we make a distinction between suicide as a pathological condition to suicide as an existential choice? Should this distinction be made and if so, why?
  • Should we look for a better definition of voluntary death and suicidal ideation that will go beyond the neo-liberal account for end of life decisions? Should we think of a construction of broader narratives, which do not require notions of normality, property, autonomy or duty?
  • In light of latest feminist critiques of bioethics (S. Sherwin, S. Wolf, R. Tong, and G. Lloyd, among others) which undermine certain implicit preconceptions in terms like autonomy and rationality, how can we address the main issues in the field of suicidality such as the deprivation debate? Or maybe the very question of this latter debate is ill stated?
  • Is phenomenology of the suicidal experience possible? Or its singularity makes it irreducible to any abstraction or generalization?
  • How can philosophical and scientific language deal with phenomena which resist neutral description?
  • What kind of moral theory fits best the considerations of ethical dimensions of suicide? A theory promoting general principles, or rather a theory insisting on moral sensitivity and imagination?
  • Can epistemology and philosophy of mind contribute to a better understanding of the suicidal mind?
  • Can we offer an alternative philosophical approach that not only explains and clarifies, but also expands the boundaries of language, shaping and changing the ethical reality itself?

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July 13, 2019, 9:00am +02:00

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Custom tags:

#suicide, #death, #euthanasia