Thinking about Suicide, with Michel de Montaigne


Course description

In 1580, Michel de Montaigne published a 13-page essay on preparedness for death, with arguments for and against suicide. In this essay, A Custom of the Isle of Cea, he recounts many stories from the ancient world, including some cases of assisted dying. He entertains both sides of the debate, which still rages today, about whether people have an unlimited moral right to choose their own time and way of dying. In these two sessions, which will include both lecture and group discussion, you will be introduced to Michel de Montaigne, his times, and his Essays. In the first session, we will begin to examine this essay through the lens of the current political discussion in Canada on assisted dying. You will be provided with an annotated translation of the 1580 essay before the first session, and in the second session, we will study and discuss the essay in detail, in its three successive versions, and some of its ancient sources.

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