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Philosophy & Social Criticism

http://psc.sagepub.com Suicidal thoughts: Hobbes, Foucault and the right to die

Thomas F. Tierney Philosophy Social Criticism 2006; 32; 601 DOI: 10.1177/0191453706064899 The online version of this article can be found at: http://psc.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/32/5/601

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Thomas F. Tierney

Suicidal thoughts
Hobbes, Foucault and the right to die

Abstract Liberal articulations of the right to die generally focus on balancing individual rights against state interests, but this approach does not take full advantage of the disruptive potential of this contested right. This article develops an alternative to the liberal approach to the right to die by engaging the seemingly discordant philosophical perspectives of Michel Foucault and Thomas Hobbes. Despite Foucaults objections, a rapprochement between these perspectives is established by focusing on their shared emphasis on the role that death plays in the order of modernity. After the article has established the complementarity of Foucault and Hobbes, Hobbes unique stance toward suicide is rst viewed in the context of the early-modern hostility toward suicide, and then contrasted with Foucaults Stoic-inspired afrmation of suicide. This comparison of these two philosophers positions on suicide opens to contestation dimensions of modern subjects that remain undisturbed by liberal approaches to the right to die. Key words bio-power Michel Foucault governmentality Thomas Hobbes liberalism right to die self-preservation Seneca Stoicism suicide

[N]ecessity of nature maketh men to will and desire bonum sibi, that which is good for themselves, and to avoid that which is hurtful; but most of all, the terrible enemy of nature, death, from whom we expect both the loss of all power, and also the greatest of bodily pains in the losing; it is not against reason, that a man doth all he can to preserve his own body and limbs both from death and pain. (Hobbes, 1640[1839]: 83) [I]f you take proper care of yourself, that is, if you know ontologically what you are, if you know what you are capable of . . . if you know what things you should and should not fear, if you know what you can reasonably hope for and on the other hand what things should not matter to you, if you

PHILOSOPHY & SOCIAL CRITICISM vol 32 no 5 pp. 601638

Copyright 2006 SAGE Publications (London, Thousand Oaks, CA and New Delhi) www.sagepublications.com DOI: 10.1177/0191453706064899


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know, nally, that you should not be afraid of death if you know all this, you cannot abuse your power over others. Thus there is no danger. (Foucault, 1984[1997a]: 288)

Of the many bio-ethical dilemmas that have appeared on the moral horizon of medically advanced cultures over the last three decades, one of the most visible and divisive issues is the recently asserted right to die.1 This right usually appears in public discourse in the form of physician-assisted suicide (PAS) and/or the related practice of euthanasia, but also includes the less controversial right to refuse life-saving treatment. While the right to refuse medically necessary treatment has been widely accepted for decades, the right to hasten ones death with the help of a physician, either through assisted suicide or euthanasia, was contested in the legislative and judicial forums of many nations during the last decade of the 20th century. Australia, Canada, Columbia, England, France, Germany, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, the Philippines, South Africa, Sweden and the United States all dealt with attempts to legalize PAS and/or euthanasia during the 1990s. Although none of these nations legalized either form of life-terminating act, the Northern Territory of Australia authorized both PAS and euthanasia in 1996, but the Australian Senate quickly overturned the policy in 1997.2 In the United States, the citizens of Oregon legalized PAS in 1994 through the ballot initiative known as the Death with Dignity Act, and in 1996 defeated a repeal measure; the law went into effect in 1997, making Oregon the only American state in which assisted suicide is legal. Holland has, of course, been the center of attention in discussions of PAS and euthanasia. Since 1973 the Dutch allowed, and gradually formalized, an exception to the national prohibitions against killing and assisted suicide, and in 2001 the Netherlands became the rst nation to legalize both PAS and euthanasia when it passed the Termination of Life on Request and Assisted Suicide (Review Procedures) Act.3 The next year Belgium followed the Dutch example, in part, and legalized euthanasia but not PAS (Watson, 2001: 1024). Recently, Switzerland has become Europes center for suicide tourism due to a unique provision of its 1942 law against assisted suicide, which allows anyone to assist in a suicide for altruistic reasons (Hurst and Mauron, 2003: 2713). Clearly, the right to die will continue to be a hotly contested topic of public discourse in the near future. Since the right to die usually appears in a juridical context in liberal democratic cultures, involving legislatures and/or courts, the issue is normally addressed as a question of balancing the right of individuals to end their lives in a manner of their own choosing, against the states interest in preserving life. For instance, in 1997 the US Supreme Court

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603 Tierney: Suicidal thoughts: Hobbes and Foucault

heard two cases in which state prohibitions against assisted suicide were challenged by a group of physicians and terminally ill patients.4 Six prominent liberal philosophers whom Michael Sandel dubbed the Dream Team (Sandel, 1997: 27) Ronald Dworkin, Thomas Nagel, Robert Nozick, John Rawls, Thomas Scanlon and Judith Jarvis Thompson led an amicus curaie brief in these cases, and also published their Philosophers Brief in The New York Review of Books. The Dream Team predictably argued that [a] persons interest in following his own convictions at the end of life is so central a part of the more general right to make intimate and personal choices for himself that a failure to protect that particular interest [from state interference] would undermine the general right altogether (Dworkin et al., 1997: 44). The court ultimately rejected that argument, however, and unanimously upheld the state prohibitions of assisted suicide. In the majority opinion Chief Justice Rehnquist emphasized that states have an unqualied interest in the preservation of human life, . . . even for those who are near death (521 U.S. 728, 730). This balancing act between the rights of individuals and the interests of the state may indeed be required by the liberal juridical paradigm, but it misses the opportunity this bio-ethical issue presents both for revealing the way in which medical power and legal power are bound together in a particular relationship to death in modernity, and for fostering reconsideration of the role that this juridico-medical power plays in shaping and ordering the identities of modern individuals. In order to cultivate some of the disruptive and hopeful possibilities that the newly asserted right to die presents within this particular conguration of power, I will offer an alternative perspective to liberalism that focuses not on the question of whether this contested right should be sanctioned by the law, but rather on the changing nature of the subject that can assert such a right. In developing this genealogical approach I will, unsurprisingly, rely to a great degree on Michel Foucaults perspective on the unique nature of modern forms of power. In the rst section of this article I will examine the conception of power that Foucault articulated in his publications, course lectures and interviews from the second half of the 1970s, and link this work with his earlier analysis of the birth of modern medicine. My primary aim in this section will be to emphasize how a crucial inversion in the status of death occurred both in the exercise of power and the development of medicine in modernity. After discussing the role that death plays in Foucaults analysis of modernity I will turn, perhaps more surprisingly, to the political theory of Thomas Hobbes, and argue that not only is Leviathan compatible with Foucaults perspective on the nature of modern power, but the combination of these two perspectives reveals crucial facets of the modern subject that are implicated in the assertion

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of the right to die. This combination may be surprising because, as Paul Rabinow recently remarked, Foucault never seriously entertained a view of the individual as bearer of natural rights (Rabinow, 1997: xvxvi), and in particular, he was explicitly and emphatically dismissive of Hobbes natural rights theory. Therefore, before I can engage their perspectives I will have to answer Foucaults objections to taking Hobbes political theory seriously. After establishing this rapprochement between these early- and late-modern thinkers, I will examine Hobbes prescient position on suicide in the context of the 17th-century suicide debate, and then contrast Hobbes stance toward suicide with Foucaults admittedly extreme position. From the Hobbesian/Foucauldian perspective developed here, the right to die should no longer appear simply as a matter of balance between the individual and the state, but should instead raise unsettling questions about the very nature of modern subjects.

Death, medicine and bio-power

In the mid-1970s Foucault underwent something of a crisis regarding his earlier publications. Looking back on this body of work, he announced in his 19756 course at the Collge de France that his previous investigations never added up to a coherent body of work, and were fragments of research, none of which was completed, and none of which was followed through (2003: 3; and 1980c: 78). His dissatisfaction with the earlier work turned on his recognition of the inadequacy of the implicit conception of power that informed his important analyses of those disciplines that rendered human being into an object of knowledge. In this earlier work he primarily treated power as a repressive force that excluded, silenced and marginalized that which did not t within the order that was established through its exercise. To move beyond this limited understanding of power, Foucault at rst adopted a Nietzschean stance that saw power relations as a struggle among competing forces, and relied heavily on militaristic images of war. In Discipline and Punish (1975[1979]), for instance, Foucault argued that disciplinary techniques do not simply repress criminality, but rather produce dangerous individuals, such as the delinquent, and concluded the book with the following image: In this central and centralized humanity, the effect and instrument of complex power relations, bodies and forces subjected by multiple mechanisms of incarceration, objects for discourses that are in themselves elements for this strategy, we must hear the distant roar of battle (1979: 308). Foucault had already begun to reconsider this Nietzschean conception of power by the time Discipline and Punish was published, however,

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and in his courses from 1975 through 1979 he struggled to develop a conception of power adequate to the task of understanding the ways in which lives have been ordered in modernity.5 As he remarked in his 19756 course:
It is obvious that everything I have said to you in previous years is inscribed within the struggle-repression schema. . . . Now, as I tried to apply it, I was eventually forced to reconsider it; both because, in many respects, it is still insufciently elaborated I would even go so far as to say that it is not elaborated at all and also because I think that the twin notions of repression and war have to be considerably modied and ultimately, perhaps, abandoned. (2003: 17; and 1980c: 92)

With the introduction of the concept of bio-power in the rst volume of The History of Sexuality (1976[1980a]), Foucault clearly moved beyond the repressive and militaristic conceptions of power. By biopower he was referring to a positive, productive form of power that does not so much restrict or limit dangerous activity, as promote or facilitate socially valuable behavior. This positive form of power does not operate primarily through laws or interdictions issued by sovereign authority, but works instead through the dissemination of standards and norms derived from the study of populations by the human sciences and other surveillance techniques. In describing the historical emergence of bio-power Foucault focused on the relation between death and power, and presented it as the culmination of a gradual reversal of the traditional form of power that had been exercised by medieval sovereigns. For a long time, claimed Foucault, one of the characteristic privileges of sovereign power was the right to decide life and death (1980a: 135). But in that period between the Renaissance and the 19th century, which he called the Classical Age, the sovereigns seemingly absolute right to kill subjects took a considerably diminished form as liberal political theory established limits on the exercise of sovereign power. Death could be inicted directly on subjects only as a punishment for injuries or threats to the sovereign, and could be inicted indirectly when the sovereign compelled subjects to risk their lives in his defense. Since the classical age, however, a very profound transformation of these mechanisms of power has occurred:
This death that was based on the right of the sovereign is now manifested as simply the reverse of the right of the social body to ensure, maintain, or develop its life. . . . But this formidable power of death . . . now presents itself as the counterpart of a power that exerts a positive inuence on life, that endeavors to administer, optimize, and multiply it, subjecting it to precise controls and comprehensive regulations. (1980a: 1367)

With the emergence of this positive, non-repressive form of power, death could be directly or indirectly inicted by the state only to the extent

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that it promoted the life and interests of the social body, rather than those of the sovereign or state. Power was no longer manifested primarily through the sporadic, ceremonial imposition of death, but was instead exercised in a more constant manner through the shaping of the minds and bodies of individuals by the acquisition and dissemination of knowledge in disciplines like psychology, sociology, criminology, psychiatry and, especially, medicine. Although Foucaults only sustained treatment of medicine was published very early in his career, in The Birth of the Clinic: An Archaeology of Medical Perception (1963[1973a]), he was nevertheless keenly aware of the role that medicine played in the network of power relations that he uncovered in the late 1970s. As he put it in a 1976 interview:
Medical power is at the heart of the society of normalization. Its effects can be seen everywhere: in the family, in schools, in factories, in courts of law, on the subject of sexuality, education, work, crime. Medicine has taken on a general social function: it inltrates law, it plugs into it, it makes it work. A sort of juridico-medical complex is presently being constituted, which is the major form of power. (1996b: 197)

And while The Birth of the Clinic has been accurately characterized as the most neglected of Foucaults works (Jones and Porter, 1994: 31, also 12; and Armstrong, 1997: 1920),6 this early examination of medicine ts quite well with his later claims about bio-power. For just as bio-power emerged out of a transformation in the relationship between power and death, Foucault revealed in The Birth of the Clinic that the normalizing power of modern medicine also developed out of a fundamental reorientation in the relationship between medical knowledge and death. Prior to the 19th century, Foucault claimed, the knowledge of life was based on the essence of living and an immemorial slope as old as mens fear turned the eyes of doctors towards the elimination of disease, towards cure, towards life (1973a: 1456). Around the turn of the century, however, the great break in the history of Western medicine occurred as physicians directed their gaze at that great dark threat in which [the doctors] knowledge and skill were abolished death (1973a: 146). Foucault attributed the birth of this anatomico-clinical gaze to Marie-Franois-Xavier Bichat, who posed the following challenge to his fellow physicians:
. . . for twenty years, from morning to night, you have taken notes at patients bedsides on affections of the heart, the lungs, and the gastric viscera, and all is confusion for you in the symptoms which, refusing to yield up their meaning, offer you a succession of incoherent phenomena. Open up a few corpses: you will dissipate at once the darkness that observation alone could not dissipate. (quoted in Foucault, 1973a: 146)

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607 Tierney: Suicidal thoughts: Hobbes and Foucault

Dissections had, of course, been carried out in splendid fashion during the Renaissance, as celebrated anatomists like Vesalius and Fallopius performed in lavish public anatomy theaters, revealing features of human anatomy that had been obscured by the lasting inuence of classical Galenic medical theory. But what Bichat was proposing at the turn of the 19th century was something altogether different than a structural anatomy that mapped the venal, nervous, muscular, skeletal and organ systems; rather, he called for a pathological anatomy that traced the course of disease throughout the dead body. Bichat himself contributed to structural anatomy by breaking these various systems and organs down into even more basic components, and identifying 21 different tissues that constitute the structure of the body, providing the concrete forms of its unity (Foucault, 1973a: 128). But Bichats primary interest was in studying how disease affected these constitutive tissues and spread throughout the body by way of them. In following the course of disease throughout the body, Bichat also discovered that death itself was not an event that occurred at a single point in time, but instead has a teeming presence that analysis may divide into time and space. Pathological anatomy revealed that death, or the process of mortication, begins well before the complete death of the organism, and long after the death of the individual, minuscule, partial deaths continue to dissociate the islets of life that still subsist (Foucault, 1973a: 142). This novel conception of death as something temporally and spatially divisible initially caused serious epistemological problems for medicine, due to the confusion it introduced between the spatio-temporal course of disease, on the one hand, and that of death, on the other. If the traces of the disease happened to bite into the corpse, Foucault explained, then no evidence could distinguish absolutely between what belonged to it and what to death; their signs intersected in indecipherable disorder (Foucault, 1973a: 141). Bichat responded to this epistemological problem by subjecting the process of death to an even more focused gaze in his Recherches physiologiques sur la vie et la mort (1800), which was the rst large scale experimental, physiological examination of death (Ackerknecht, 1968: 212). In this work he not only distinguished organic and animal life (i.e. vegetative and conscious life, respectively), and noted that the former could continue after the expiration of the latter, but he also identied three different sites from which death could begin: the heart, brain, and lungs (Ackerknecht, 1968: 213). With this anatomical illumination of the mortication process, death was no longer something beyond life and medicine the great dark Other but was instead turned for the rst time into a technical instrument that provides a grasp on the truth of life and the nature of its illness. Death [became] the great analyst that shows the connexions by unfolding them, and

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bursts open the wonders of genesis in the rigour of decomposition: and, Foucault insisted, the word decomposition must be allowed to stagger under the weight of its meaning (Foucault, 1973a: 144). Once death was dissected, the nature of disease also underwent a signicant transformation. Like death, disease had been seen as something exterior and threatening to life, and for centuries had been linked to a metaphysic of evil (Foucault, 1973a: 196). After the pathological-anatomical gaze was directed through the corpse, however, disease was no longer approached as the negation of health, but instead became a positively known phenomenon. [S]een in relation to death, Foucault noted, disease becomes exhaustively legible, open without remainder to the sovereign dissection of language and of the gaze (1973a: 196). Foucaults account of the origins of modern medicine stands in stark contrast to those in the medical community and elsewhere who today respond to the assertion of the right to die by claiming that medicine is concerned solely with the preservation of life, and cannot possibly embrace death. On the contrary, Foucault emphasized that modern medicine, unlike its predecessors, was grounded precisely in a positive relation to death:
It will no doubt remain a decisive fact about our culture, that its rst scientic discourse concerning the individual had to pass through this stage of death. Western man could constitute himself in his own eyes as an object of science, he grasped himself within his language, and gave himself, in himself and by himself, a discursive existence, only in the opening created by his own elimination. (1973a: 197; also 144)

And beyond grounding the medical gaze, Foucault also recognized that the anatomical illumination of death provided an epistemological model for all those sciences that objectify man. As he put it,
. . . positive medicine marked, at the empirical level, the beginning of that fundamental relation that binds modern man to his original nitude. Hence, the fundamental place of medicine in the overall architecture of the human sciences. . . . This is because medicine offers modern man the obstinate, yet reassuring face of his nitude; in it, death is endlessly repeated, but it is also exorcized; and although it ceaselessly reminds man of the limit that he bears within him, it also speaks to him of that technical world that is the armed, positive, full form of his nitude. (1973a: 1978)

So as sovereign power turned away from the threat of death and the scaffold in the early-modern period and gave way to a positive form of power that administered life, medicine assumed a crucial role in the exercise of this new form of power by turning toward death to establish a foundation for the human sciences that underlie bio-power.7 However, what seems to be missing from Foucaults account of this shifting relationship between power, medicine and death is some indication of

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609 Tierney: Suicidal thoughts: Hobbes and Foucault

the individuals subjective experience of death. But it would certainly be a mistake to limit what he has to say about death in The Birth of the Clinic to an archaeological treatment of discursive practices. Beyond the objectication of human being, Foucault was also acutely, if elliptically, aware of the role that the anatomical understanding of death played in the constitution of the self-consciousness of modern individuals. In fact, he offered in this early text a description of the modern relation between death and self-consciousness that sounded very much like Heideggers description of an authentic, existential experience of death in Being and Time: It is in that perception of death that the individual nds himself, escaping from a monotonous, average life; in the slow, halfsubterranean, but already visible approach of death, the dull, common life becomes an individuality at last; a black border isolates it and gives it the style of its own truth (1973a: 171; emphasis added; cf. Heidegger, 1962: 299311). Although Foucault did not explore the subjective dimensions of this black border in The Birth of the Clinic, he did mention certain paths that he would investigate more fully later in his career. For instance, he linked death with eroticism and noted the contemporaneity of Bichat and Sade, and also mentioned in passing several artistic and literary manifestations of that 19th-century voice that spoke obstinately of death (1973a: 171).8 Without developing any of these themes, Foucault intimated that the opening of the discursive space of the corpse powerfully inuenced the subjectivization, as well as the objectication, of human subjects. Indeed, he concluded The Birth of the Clinic by proclaiming that [g]enerally speaking, the experience of individuality in modern culture is bound up with that of death (1973a: 197). Along with these important changes in medicine and sovereignty that Foucault identied as occurring around the turn of the 19th century, there was also an earlier preparatory transformation in the modern subjects stance toward death, but this occurred in a realm that Foucault was reluctant to consider either early or late in his career the domain of classical liberal political theory.

Foucaults dismissal of Hobbes

One might expect that early-modern political theory would play an important role in Foucaults account of the emergence of bio-power, since liberalism helped limit the scope of the sovereigns power by shifting the foundation of power from the monarch to the subjects. However, liberalism never questioned the essential principle of the juridical-political code of the king, which held that power always had to be exercised in the form of law (1980a: 86, 88). Furthermore, by

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focusing primarily on the juridical relation between individual bearers of rights, on the one hand, and the state, on the other, liberalism masked the ways in which the subject was shaped and incited to act through the wide variety of non-legal disciplines, institutions and techniques that constitute bio-power. Consequently, Foucault generally ignored the dominant gures of 17th-century liberalism, but he was emphatically dismissive of Hobbes. In fact, in his discussion of the classical sovereigns mitigated power of life and death in The History of Sexuality, Foucault asked, Must we follow Hobbes in seeing it as the transfer to the prince of the natural right possessed by every individual to defend his life even if this meant the death of others? (1980a: 135). And he answered that question in the rsum of the course he offered at the Collge de France in the winter of the same year, 19756: We must begin by ruling out certain false paternities. Especially Hobbes (2003: 270; for alternative translations, see 1997c: 63; and 1980d: 18). Although Foucault never offered any sustained criticism of Hobbes, some insight into his difculty with him is provided by the published class lectures and rsums from the mid- to late 1970s, when Foucault was trying to articulate a conception of power that went beyond both the traditional terms of the juridical subject, as well as the Nietzschean alternative that he had embraced.9 In his attempt to develop a conception of power adequate to modernity, Foucault was most bothered not by Hobbes classic articulation of the juridical, rights-bearing subject, as one might expect; rather, it was his claims about the warlike state of nature that led Foucault to declare Hobbes a false paternity. In his 19756 course Foucault was tracing the lineage of the militaristic conception of power through gures like Lilburne, Coke, Boulainvilliers and Du Buat-Nancay, all of whom evoked passionate memories of specic historical conicts and sought to rejoin those ancient struggles as the foundation of their political thought (2003: 2672). On Foucaults reading, Hobbes was an adversary of such political historicism in general, and of the use to which the Norman Conquest was being put by other 17th-century English theorists, in particular (2003: 98, 11011). It was in this context that Foucault declared:
What Hobbes calls the war of every man against every man is no sense a real historical war, but a play of presentations that allows every man to evaluate the threat that every man represents to him, to evaluate the willingness of others to ght, and to assess the risk that he himself would run if he resorted to force. Sovereignty . . . is established not by the fact of warlike domination but, on the contrary, by a calculation that makes it possible to avoid war. For Hobbes, it is nonwar that founds the State and gives it its form. (2003: 270, also 92; cf. 1997c: 63; and 1980d: 18)

Foucault was certainly correct in excluding Hobbes from the line of thought he was examining in this course; for Hobbes, the rst law of

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611 Tierney: Suicidal thoughts: Hobbes and Foucault

nature was to seek Peace, and follow it (Hobbes, 1962: 104). However, two years later, in 1978, Foucault once again took up Hobbes in the well-known lecture Governmentality. Here the context was not an investigation of the origins of the militaristic conception of power, but rather an examination of the larger historical shift from sovereignty to governmentality. Although this is the same context as the conclusion of the rst volume of The History of Sexuality, where Foucault rst dismissed Hobbes, in this instance he was somewhat more generous and nuanced in his explanation of Hobbes limited relevance for understanding governmentality:
This art of government tried, so to speak, to reconcile itself with the theory of sovereignty by attempting to derive the ruling principles of an art of government from a renewed version of the theory of sovereignty and this is where those seventeenth-century jurists come into the picture who formalize or ritualize the theory of the contract. . . . But although contract theory, with its reection on the relationship between ruler and subjects, played a very important role in theories of public law, in practice, as is evidenced by the case of Hobbes (even though what Hobbes was aiming to discover was the ruling principles of an art of government), it remained at the stage of the formulation of general principles of public law. (1991: 98)

From Foucaults perspective, therefore, Hobbes was at best a classical theorist of sovereignty who was on the way toward governmentality, and was at worst an opponent of the warlike conception of power that was developed by other early-modern theorists. In either context, Foucault found Hobbes to be of little value and discouraged any serious consideration of his role in laying the foundation of modern forms of power. However, I think Foucault overlooked certain dimensions of Hobbes thought that not only illuminate the relation between death and power in modernity, but also complement Foucaults own analysis of this relationship in interesting ways. For one of the insights provided by Foucaults reconceptualization of power was that rather than asking ideal subjects what part of themselves or their powers they have surrendered in order to let themselves become subjects, we have to look at how relations of subjugation can manufacture subjects (2003: 265; cf. 1997c: 59; and 1980d: 15). Even though Foucault explicitly emphasized that this process of subjugation would be precisely the opposite of what Hobbes was trying to do in Leviathan (2003: 28; cf. 1980c: 978), my admittedly presumptuous claim is that Hobbes is most illuminating precisely in regard to this manufacturing of subjects. Indeed, I will argue that the Hobbesian subject is perfectly suited, if not a prerequisite, for the exercise of bio-power in a system of governmentality. In order to reveal Hobbes crucial contribution to the juridico-medical complex of modernity we must look rather closely at Leviathan (1651), but our primary concern is not to discover how a multiplicity of individuals

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and wills can be shaped into a single will or even a single body that is supposedly animated by a soul known as sovereignty, which is what Foucault found to be the import of Leviathan (2003: 29; cf. 1980c: 978). Rather, our concern is to trace in Hobbes political thought the inscription of such rights in the multiple peripheral bodies, the bodies that are constituted as subjects by power-effects (2003: 29; cf. 1980c: 98). In other words, we will follow Foucaults advice to cut off the head of the king more closely than he himself did (1980b: 121), and read Leviathan in terms of subjects rather than sovereigns.

Bio-power and the Hobbesian subject

In Hobbes well-known state of nature, individuals were constantly at risk of losing their lives in a violent confrontation due to two fundamental features of the Hobbesian subject its natural right to do whatever it thought would promote its life (1962: 103), and the rough mental and physical equality that existed among subjects in this state of nature (1962: 989).10 Because of their natural parity, no individual in this state had such an advantage that it could hope to intimidate another into forfeiting its natural right to anything it desired. Consequently, when individuals in this state came to desire a common object they became competitors, and this natural competition was intensied by the passions, primarily vanity,11 and turned into a life-and-death struggle. It is because of the interplay of these features of the subject its natural right and equality, as well as its vanity that Hobbes concluded the state of nature was a state of war, every man, against every man (1962: 101; also 100, 103). What I would like to stress about Hobbes state of nature, however, is not simply its constant threat of violence, but rather the fact that this violence very poignantly raised the issue of human mortality, and that it did so in a temporal context. One of the problems or incommodities of the state of nature, to use Hobbes term, was that the lives of people in that state tended to be of short duration. In his famous description of life in this state, Hobbes said it is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short (1962: 100; emphasis added), and at another point in the text he said that in the state of natural equality there can be no security to any man, how strong or wise soever he be, of living out the time, which nature ordinarily alloweth men to live (1962: 103). So in Hobbes state of nature people not only died violently, but prematurely as well. While I agree with Foucaults observation that the founding of the Hobbesian state was actually a choice to avoid war, I think he passed a little too quickly over Hobbes account of the transition from the state of nature to civil society. For Hobbes claimed that the possibility of

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613 Tierney: Suicidal thoughts: Hobbes and Foucault

leaving the natural state of war was grounded partly in the [subjects] passions, partly in his reason (1962: 102), and like the state of nature, these passions and reason were imbued with a sense of mortality. Reason helped lead out of the state of nature by revealing to the subject natural laws which acted as limitations on the exercise of the natural right to do and take whatever one wanted. In his discussion of the laws of nature, Hobbes offered a generic denition of such laws which was surprisingly specic:
A LAW OF NATURE, lex naturalis, is a precept or general rule, found out by reason, by which a man is forbidden to do that, which is destructive of his life, or taketh away the means of preserving the same; and to omit that, by which he thinketh it may be best preserved. (1962: 103)

In general, therefore, a law of nature was not just an obligation or limitation that humans naturally recognize; it was rather a limitation on the fundamental right to do what one thought would best preserve ones life. According to the very idea of natural law one could not reasonably exercise this right in a manner that would actually lead to ones death, and furthermore one must do, or as Hobbes put it, one was forbidden to omit doing, that which one thought would best preserve or prolong ones life. In comparison with its Stoic predecessor, Hobbes conception of the natural law of self-preservation was uniquely modern. For Hobbes, the primary objective of this law of nature was to preserve physical, corporeal existence, while the Stoics were concerned with preserving something other than the body. This distinction becomes clear when one compares Hobbes corporeal conception of self-preservation with Ciceros description of the Stoic doctrine of self-love:
[S]ince love of self is implanted by nature in all men, both the foolish and the wise alike will choose what is in accordance with nature and reject the contrary. . . . When a mans circumstances contain a preponderance of things in accordance with nature, it is appropriate for him to remain alive; when he possesses or sees in prospect a majority of the contrary things, it is appropriate for him to depart from life. . . . And very often it is appropriate for the Wise Man to abandon life at a moment when he is enjoying supreme happiness, if an opportunity offers for making a timely exit. For the Stoic view is that happiness, which means life in harmony with nature, is a matter of seizing the right moment. So that Wisdom her very self upon occasion bids the Wise Man to leave her. (1967: III, 601, 27981)

For the Stoics, the law of self-preservation or self-love did not preclude the possibility of sacricing ones life in order to preserve ones virtue or tranquility, but as we will see, for Hobbes there was never a good reason to abandon ones life. (I will discuss this Stoic willingness to choose death over life in more detail later in this article.)

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Given Hobbes corporeal conception of the law of nature, Foucault appears correct in describing Hobbesian subjects as calculative beings who were rationally inclined to avoid war, and not the aggressive, bellicose individuals so often ascribed to Hobbes. However, the depiction of the potential for violence in nature indicates that there was certainly much more to the Hobbesian subject than reason alone. Some passions, such as vanity, could cause individuals to ignore the dictates of reason and put their lives at risk, but there were certain other passions that could come to the aid of reason at such dangerous moments, and help promote peace. Foremost among these peace-keeping passions was the fear of violent death (1962: 100).12 For once the Hobbesian subject engaged in and survived the life-and-death struggle that erupted out of material competition, it became terrifyingly aware of the implications of such struggles. Leo Strauss gloss on the fear of death in Hobbes theory is instructive here: The struggle for pre-eminence, about tries, has become a life-and-death struggle. In this way natural man happens unforeseen upon the danger of death; in this way he comes to know this primary and greatest and supreme evil in the moment of being irresistibly driven to fall back before death in order to struggle for his life (1952: 201).13 This face-to-face confrontation with the possibility of a violent death was, according to Strauss, the passion which brings man to reason (1952: 18). Strauss emphasis on the terrifying fear of a violent death is appropriate for explaining the transition from the state of nature into civil society, but I want to emphasize that the more moderate and persistent fear of a premature death was crucial in supporting the foresight of their own preservation that Hobbes identied as [t]he nal cause, end, or design of men . . . in the introduction of that restraint upon themselves, in which we see them live in commonwealths (1962: 129). For after civil society succeeded, however imperfectly, in eliminating the threat of violence from the lives of certain populations, it was the fear of a premature death that rendered individuals responsive to the many shifting strategies of self-preservation that were, and continue to be, developed and deployed in the juridico-medical order of modernity. Indeed, from my perspective the most notable feature of Hobbes political theory is not the tension Strauss identied between base vanity and the justied fear of a violent death (1952: 18), but rather the dynamic relationship between the rational pursuit of self-preservation and the more mundane, tepid fear of a premature death. For such Hobbesian subjects could be counted upon to take whatever steps were required to defer death and prolong their lives, and were precisely the sort of individuals who were t for the exercise of bio-power. As modern medicine produced new knowledge and techniques for maintaining and preserving life, these subjects could be counted onto quickly, and without any

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615 Tierney: Suicidal thoughts: Hobbes and Foucault

coercion, alter their behavior and habits according to these new standards. Hobbes himself lived his life largely in accordance with this objective of deferring death as long as possible. Aside from his notorious ight to France during the Civil Wars, which could be justied by the fear of a violent death, Hobbes also governed himself on a daily basis according to the fear of a premature death, and took the preservation of his health as a serious personal responsibility. His health had been poor until he reached the age of 40, but at that point he began following a strict regimen, and enjoyed generally good health for the next ve decades of his long life (Aubrey, 1898: I, 347). Hobbes regimen was based on the idea, quite common in the 17th century, that as people age they come to have too much moisture and not enough heat, and consequently his regimen consisted primarily of vigorous exercise that produced a great sweat. According to one rst-hand account, Hobbes professd Rule of Health was to dedicate the Morning to his Health, and the Afternoon to his Studies. And therefore, at his rst rising he walkd out and climbd any Hill within his reach; or if the Weather was not dry, he fatigued himself within doors, by some Exercise or other to be in a Sweat (quoted in Rogow, 1986: 226). And John Aubrey, a lifelong admirer who dedicated far more space to Hobbes life than any other of his Brief Lives, noted that [b]esides his dayly walking, [Hobbes] did twice or thrice a yeare play at tennis (at about 75 he did it). After such exercise, Hobbes routine was to then give the servant some money to rubbe him. According to Aubrey, the reason Hobbes regularly engaged in sweaty exercise and rubdowns was because these he did believe would make him live two or three yeares the longer (1898: I, 351). And he not only vigorously exercised to extend his life, but also sang in this manner for the same reason:
He had alwayes bookes of prick-song lyeing on his table . . . which at night, when he was abed, and the dores made fast, and was sure nobody heard him, he sang aloud (not that he had a very good voice) but for his healths sake: he did beleeve it did his lunges good, and conduced much to prolong his life. (Aubrey, 1898: I, 352)

Hobbes personal behavior in regard to his health, as well as his theoretical portrayal of a rational subject that is governed by the fear of death, may appear unexceptional today. After all, one of the distinctive features of modern culture is the tremendous extension of human life expectancy that has been accomplished largely through the development of medical knowledge and techniques. Reasonable individuals have been eager participants in this modern project of death deferral, and remain exceedingly concerned about their health and quite willing to spend time and money to follow the latest regimental advice disseminated by

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medical and tness authorities. Indeed, in regard to the prevailing stance toward death and health, it seems fair to say that we are all Hobbesian now. However, it is important to note that this stance toward death as something fearsome, which should be deferred as long as possible, marks a crucial divergence from the long trace of the western philosophical and religious tradition. In general, death had been portrayed in that moral tradition as a passage to another, more important realm outside of time (Epicurus being a notable exception to this rule). From Plato who had Socrates proclaim in the Phaedo that as the true philosophers are ever studying death, to them, of all men, death is the least terrible (1973: 499) to Calvin who claimed that Christians should ardently long for death, and constantly meditate upon it (1845: II, 290) death was treated not as something to be feared and avoided at any cost, but as something that a truly virtuous person would gladly embrace when honor or faith required it.14 This willingness to sacrice ones life was, of course, an ideal that few would ever attain, but the moral heroes of the western tradition, from Socrates to Thomas More, were martyrs of one sort or another. For Hobbes, in contrast, martyrdom was a particularly vexing issue. Although Hobbes did not discuss the possibility of immortality in the rst two parts of Leviathan, in the third part, Of a Christian Commonwealth, he recognized that there was something beyond the limit of death. Such recognition, of course, opened up the politically disruptive possibility of martyrdom, and Hobbes went to great lengths to minimize the problems posed by this traditional ideal. At one point he conceded that if the sovereign issued a command that cannot be obeyed, without [the subject] being damned to eternal death, then it were madness to obey it (1962: 424). However, such a voluntary relinquishment of ones time on earth ew in the face of Hobbes dictum that people can, and should, do anything possible to save their earthly lives, so he offered a lesson to help believers to distinguish well between what is, and what is not necessary to eternal salvation. Hobbes conclusion was that [a]ll that is NECESSARY to salvation is contained in two virtues, faith in Christ, and obedience to Laws (1962: 425). While this lesson still left open the possibility of the laws demanding that a person renounce his or her faith, Hobbes counseled sovereigns against ever putting their subjects in a position where they would have to choose between saving their earthly or their immortal lives. And in regard to the subjects, Hobbes claimed that as for their faith, it is internal, and invisible; they have the licence that Naaman had, and need not put themselves into danger for it (1962: 436). So even if an indel sovereign was foolish enough to demand of his or her subjects that they renounce their faith, Hobbes argued that Christian subjects did not need to die for that faith, but only maintain their inner, invisible belief.

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617 Tierney: Suicidal thoughts: Hobbes and Foucault

Hobbes position on martyrdom, like his concern with health and longevity, has left its mark on modern western subjects, as even those who profess religious faith today respond with incredulity to the growing number of young Islamic men and women who are eager to die for their faith in the struggle against the indel West. In Leviathan, and in Hobbes personal behavior, there is no vestige of that traditional longing for death that Plato urged on philosophers, Calvin urged on Christians, and some radical mullahs urge today on Islamists. Indeed, I would like to suggest, Foucaults objections notwithstanding, that the Hobbesian subject was a harbinger of precisely the sort of health-conscious, death-deferring individuals that would be produced and governed by bio-power. In the 17th century, however, the Hobbesian subject was a radical and disturbing image, due to the controversy that surrounded the very meaning of the natural law of selfpreservation upon which Hobbes, as well as other liberal philosophers, grounded their conceptions of rational individuality. This controversy is revealed most clearly in regard to an issue that was even more disturbing than martyrdom for 17th-century liberals suicide.

Hobbes and the 17th-century suicide debate

In general, attitudes toward suicide in early-modern Europe were shaped by the traditional Christian condemnation of the termination of ones own life as the sin of self-murder. This tradition began with Augustines determination in the 5th century that the taking of ones life violated the biblical injunction against murder (Augustine, 1948: 2734; also 4748). In the 6th century suicides were denied Christian burial rights, and in the 13th century they could no longer be buried in hallowed ground (Williams, 1966: 2578; also see Alvarez, 1990: 89; and Fedden, 1972: 1334). Over the course of the Middle Ages the punishments grew more severe as ignominious burial practices, derived from pre-Christian folklore, were added to the religious sanctions. These degrading additions varied from region to region, but they usually had to do with the liminal aspect of the suicide, who had chosen to abandon the community of the living but was denied entry into the community of the dead. The ghosts of these unfortunate individuals were thought to be on an eternally unnished journey . . . [and] were believed to be restless and malevolent (MacDonald and Murphy, 1990: 47). In England, for instance, the bodies of suicides were sometimes hung on gibbets and allowed to rot. More frequently, the naked body was buried at night, face down in a grave dug in a highway or a crossroads, and a wooden stake was driven through the body pinning it to that spot. Various interpretations of the signicance of such roadside burials have

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been offered, such as beliefs that constant trafc would help to keep the ghost down, or the ghost would become confused by the various roads, or the sign of the cross would help dispel any evil energy emanating from the corpse of the suicide. In France and Germany suicides were often dragged through the streets to a place of execution, where they were hung on chains and left to rot, and in some parts of France the bodies were burned or tossed on public refuse heaps. In certain cities, such as Metz and Strasburg, the bodies were placed in barrels and set adrift down rivers (Williams, 1966: 25761; Fedden, 1972: 13941; MacDonald and Murphy, 1990: 1519; Alvarez, 1990: 645; Crocker, 1952: 50; and Noon, 1978: 372). Along with this degrading treatment of the body of the suicide, the Middle Ages also saw the emergence of the legal punishment of the suicides heirs through forfeiture laws that conscated some, if not all, of the suicides property. In England, if a death was suspected of being a suicide the coroner was required to convene a jury of local citizens to posthumously determine whether the individual was guilty of felo de se (literally, a felony of oneself), or was non compos mentis (not of sound mind), and therefore not subject to punishment. If the verdict was felo de se not only was the body denied a Christian burial, but that persons moveable goods, including tools, household items, money, debts owed to them, and even leases on the land that they had worked were forfeited to the crown or to the holder of a royal patent who possessed the right to such windfalls in a particular place (MacDonald and Murphy, 1990: 1518; also see Williams, 1966: 2614; and Fedden, 1972: 1379). In France as well, the property of the suicide was conscated by the Crown, and this practice, along with the degrading burial practices, was codied in the Ordonnance criminelle de 1670, which for the rst time grouped suicide with the major crimes of heresy and lse-majest (Crocker, 1952: 50; also see Alvarez, 1990: 656; and Fedden, 1972: 1902). These legal punishments of suicide lasted well into the modern period. In England, the last recorded ignominious burial of a suicide occurred in 1823, although the forfeiture law remained in place until 1870 (Alvarez, 1990: 646; Williams, 1966: 25962; and Fedden, 1972: 141, 1923). The French law against suicide remained in effect until 1770, when the degradations of the body were abolished and proper burials allowed for suicides, and the forfeiture laws lapsed with the Revolution (Fedden, 1972: 223). Although these various medieval punishments of suicide were available throughout the early-modern period, they were not uniformly imposed from the 16th through the 18th centuries. In Sleepless Souls: Suicide in Early Modern England, Michael MacDonald and Terence R. Murphy claim that these punishments were infrequently employed prior to 1500, but that [t]he rigour with which the law against suicide was

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619 Tierney: Suicidal thoughts: Hobbes and Foucault

enforced in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries distinguishes this period from the centuries before and afterwards (1990: 16). They identify the period between 1500 and 1660 as the era of severity in the punishment of suicide, and note that after that point suicide became secularized, and the frequency and severity of the punishments diminished throughout the 18th century until the legal punishments were ultimately repealed. Although MacDonald and Murphys study focuses on England, the pattern they identify is generally true for much of Europe. As Lester Crocker noted, seventeenth-century France, in the totality of its attitude, severely condemned suicide, but in the 18th century this hostility began to ag (1952: 2247). Hobbes political theory emerged toward the end of the era of severity, but his position on suicide was actually a precursor of the more lenient attitude that would eventually prevail throughout Europe. In fact, the Oxford English Dictionary claims that the word suicide rst appeared as a less pejorative alternative to self-murder in 1651, the year Leviathan was published.15 To appreciate the prescience of Hobbes stance toward suicide, one must have some sense of the larger discursive context in which the practice was addressed. From the 16th through the 18th centuries, philosophers, clerics, essayists and learned gentlemen were engaged in a very heated debate about suicide, although the terms of this debate shifted over time. During the late 16th and 17th centuries, when the punitive attitude waxed throughout Europe, suicide was discussed primarily in terms of the natural law of self-preservation, while in the 18th century, as the punishments of suicide waned, the terms of the debate shifted to self-ownership. The conceptual shift from self-preservation to self-ownership is beyond the scope of this article, however.16 My concern here lies primarily with the unique position that Hobbes conception of corporeal self-preservation held in the earlymodern suicide debate. To provide a sense of the signicance of Hobbes contribution to this debate, I will contrast two of the earliest sustained arguments for and against suicide that appeared in the 17th century, and then position Hobbes in relation to these other voices. In 1637 the Puritan cleric John Sym published the rst full-length English treatise against suicide, Lifes Preservative Against Self-Killing or, An Useful Treatise Concerning Life and Self-Murder, in response to what he perceived as a suicide epidemic that was sweeping across England (Sym, 1988: unpaginated preface; also see Fedden, 1972: 1835; and Sprott, 1961: 30). In his extensive argument Sym relied quite heavily on Augustines claim that the Fifth Commandment prohibited the murder of oneself as well as others, but he combined this traditional judgment with the natural law of self-preservation, corporeally understood, and concluded that self-murder was more heinous than any other crime, including the murder of another:

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Here is now the speciall difference of this sort of murder, wherby it transcends, and is distinguished from all other murders; and consists in restraint of the act of killing, in regard of its individual object, to a mans own life & self; which is the greatest and cruellest act of hostility in the world: when a man, who by nature is most bound to preserve himselfe, reects upon himselfe, to destroy himselfe; the horriblenes whereof is so monstrous, that we read no law made against it, as if it were a thing not to bee supposed possible. And this sinne of all others is most against the Law of nature, for that self-preservation, armes a man to turne upon others, unlawfully invading him to kill him. (1988: 534)

Beyond outlawing the conscious taking of ones own life, which he identied as direct self-murder, Sym also used the natural law of selfpreservation to condemn the much broader category of indirect selfmurder, which he dened as the intentional pursuit of some good by means that expose one to mortal danger without any respect, or expectation of death thereupon ensuing (1988: 856). He further divided this category of indirect self-murder into deaths that occurred due to commission, such as the excessive use of food or drink, or association with dangerous individuals, and deaths that resulted from omission, such as refusals of necessary medicine or surgery, or refusals to ee from avoidable dangers (1988: 91100). This category of indirect self-murder involves behavioral requirements that were very much like those Hobbes followed in his personal life, such as taking care of his health and eeing the Civil Wars, but there is an important difference in the justication Hobbes and Sym relied upon to support such behavior. For Sym would have his readers avoid dangerous commissions and omissions in order to escape the sin of self-murder, thereby preserving their souls, while Hobbes followed such advice on the basis of his rational commitment to the natural law of self-preservation, and the desire to add a few years to his earthly life. In other words, Syms embrace of corporeal selfpreservation involved a tension with his other-worldly commitments, while Hobbes embrace of this concept was free from any such tension. Although Syms hostility to suicide was indicative of the punitive attitude that prevailed in the 16th and 17th centuries, there were at that time a few voices raised in opposition to the punishment of self-murder. In the late 16th century Montaigne published essays that endorsed some prominent Roman suicides (one of which I will briey discuss at the end of this article), but the rst treatise-length defense of suicide was written in 1608 by John Donne, a young poet but not yet cleric, under the unwieldy title of Biathanatos: A Declaration of that Paradoxe, or Thesis, that Self-homicide is not so Naturally Sinne, that it may never be otherwise. This work is divided into three parts, each of which deals with a specic type of law that might be used to ground the prohibition against suicide: the law of nature; the law of reason; and nally,

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621 Tierney: Suicidal thoughts: Hobbes and Foucault

the law of God. Only the rst part concerns us here, and in regard to the natural law Donne confessed that self-preservation was its foundation, but he also noted that as it applied to humans this law was not a simple matter (1930: 49). According to Donne, natural law was comprised of two separate yet related elements, which he identied as the sensitive and rational laws of nature (1930: 38). The sensitive law of nature is equivalent to corporeal self-preservation, and Donne claimed that it extends to beasts more then [sic] to us, because they cannot compare degrees of obligation and distinctions of duties and ofces, as we can (1930: 445). In humans, this sensitive dimension doth naturally lead and conduce to the rational dimension, which he described as that light which God hath afforded us of his eternall law; and which is usually called recta ratio. Now this law of nature . . . is onely in man and in him directed upon Piety, Religion, Sociablenesse; and such for as it reacheth to the preservation both of Species and individuals (1930: 38, 39). In regard to suicide, Donne assumed that the natural law argument against the practice relied more upon the rational dimension than the sensitive. For he recognized that if the opposition to suicide was grounded in the sensitive, or corporeal, aspect of natural law, the implications would indeed be much more radical than these opponents understood. I think this is not the [sensitive] law of nature which these abhorrers of SELF-HOMICIDE complaine to bee violated by that Act, Donne argued. For so they might as well accuse all discipline and austeritie, and affectation of Martyrdome, which are as contrarie to the Law of sensitive Nature (1930: 39). Donne seems to have correctly understood the implications of such a corporeal natural law argument, but he could not imagine that the abhorrers of suicide would go that far in their opposition. In fact, Sym did not follow the logic of corporeal self-preservation to this conclusion, but explicitly excepted martyrdom from the prohibition against self-murder, and argued that a man ought to expose his life to death, in causes concerning religion . . . when a man is desired, commanded, or threatened to doe any sinne forbidden by Gods word; that then hee doe it not, although he therefore doe die (1988: 149; also see 14952). As we saw earlier, however, Hobbes was much less hesitant than Sym to fully embrace the consequences of the corporeal conception of self-preservation, and explicitly challenged the traditional ideal of martyrdom by arguing that no one ever need die for their faith. Since Donne could not imagine that the sensitive law of nature would be invoked to ground the prohibition of suicide, he concentrated on the rational law of nature, but found this an insufcient foundation as well. As he understood that dimension of natural law which applied exclusively to humans, it actually imposed duties and obligations that

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could, on occasion, cause individuals to neglect their own corporeal preservation, or that of the species. He cited celibacy as an example of a morally appropriate choice for some individuals, even though such a choice hindered the preservation of the species (1930: 45). And far from treating martyrdom as an exception to the law of self-preservation, as Sym did, or as a violation of that law, as Hobbes in effect did, Donne instead argued that the desire of Martyrdome, though the body perish, is a Self-preservation, because thereby out of our election our best part is advancd (1930: 49). By the same token, suicide could sometimes be the best choice for an individual, if it would allow him or her to preserve something higher than mere physical existence. In all these cases, Donne argued, [t]he like danger is in deducing consequences from this naturall Law, of Selfe-preservation; which doth not so rigorously, and urgently, and illimitedly binde, but that by the Law of Nature it selfe, things may, yea must neglect themselves for others (1930: 46). Donnes and Syms divergence over the issue of suicide is best explained not by any difference in their commitment to Christianity, but rather by their different interpretations of the natural law of self-preservation. Sym held a corporeal conception of self-preservation that was very close to that of Hobbes, although unlike Hobbes, he also tried to simultaneously maintain the other-worldly ethos of Christianity. Suicide was a violation of both scriptural and natural law, and Sym therefore condemned it as the most heinous crime imaginable. However, Donnes conception of the rational element of self-preservation was closer to that of the Stoics and pre-modern Christians than it was to Hobbes. For Donne, the preservation of the soul, or virtue, took precedence over the mere prolongation of the life of the esh, and consequently he could endorse both self-preservation and suicide without contradiction, as did the Stoics. Unfortunately, this traditional dimension of Biathanatos is often overlooked by those who (over-)emphasize the individualistic and relativistic dimensions of Donnes book, and herald it as one of the earliest articulations of a uniquely modern stance toward suicide (e.g. Sprott, 1961: 23, also 201; Fedden, 1972: 182, 1356; and Alvarez, 1990: 1767). On his own account, Donne wrote Biathanatos precisely to challenge the modern, corporeal notion of self-preservation held by those who attack suicide, as well as to comfort those who could not, in good conscience, abide by the increasingly strident screeds against selfdestruction that were generated by that concept:
I thought it therefore needfull, to oppose this defensative, as well to reencourage men to a just contempt of this life, and to restore them to their nature, which is a desire of supreame happiness in the next life by the loss of this, as also to rectify, and wash again their same, who religiously assuring themselves that in some cases, when wee were destitute of other meanes, we might be to our selves the stewards of Gods benets, and the Ministers of his mercifull Justice. (1930: 216)

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623 Tierney: Suicidal thoughts: Hobbes and Foucault

Since Hobbes understanding of self-preservation was closer to Syms than Donnes, one might expect him to have shared Syms extreme hostility toward self-murder, but surprisingly, he took a position on suicide that was actually closer to that of Donne, although for very different reasons than those offered in Biathanatos (see Stoffell, 1991: 2633; and MacDonald and Murphy, 1990: 141). Although Hobbes apparently considered suicide when he fell ill while nishing Leviathan in France (Stephen, 1904: 41),17 he did not spend much time discussing this issue in that book, but simply declared that the law of self-preservation precluded the exercise of natural right in a manner that would cause ones death. However, in A Dialogue Between a Philosopher and a Student of the Common Laws of England, which was written between 1662 and 1675 and published posthumously in 1681, Hobbes discussed suicide in the context of a conversation concerning felonies. When the law student claimed that not only the common law, but statutory law as well, recognized suicide as felo de se, the philosopher responded by saying:
I conceive not how any Man can bear Animum felleum, or so much Malice towards himself, as to hurt himself voluntarily, much less to kill himself; for naturally, and necessarily the Intention of every Man aimeth at somewhat, which is good to himself, and tendeth to his preservation: and therefore, methinks, if he kill himself, it is to be presumed that he is not compos mentis, but by some inward torment or Apprehension of somewhat worse than Death, Distracted. (1971: 11617)

When the student replied that it was necessary to prove that individuals were compos mentis before they could be deemed felo de se, the philosopher wondered, How can that be proved of a Man dead; especially if it cannot be proved by any Witnesses, that a little before his death he spake as other men used to do. This is a hard place; and before you take it for Common-Law it had need to be cleard (1971: 117). Hobbes lenient position on suicide, therefore, was distinct not only from Syms hostile stance, but from Donnes moderate position as well. Given his non-corporeal conception of self-preservation, Donne could allow that suicide might be a form of self-preservation in some circumstances, but for Hobbes suicide was clearly a violation of the law of selfpreservation in the corporeal sense in which he, and Sym, understood it. Yet unlike Sym and the many other 17th-century condemners of suicide, Hobbes did not feel compelled to punish this violation. Ironically, Hobbes moderate stance toward suicide can be explained precisely by his unalloyed embrace of the corporeal law of selfpreservation. For Hobbes had no doubt that all living things aim at their own preservation, and because his commitment to the other-worldly ethos of Christianity was rhetorical at best, he also had no moral compunction about claiming that individuals ought to do whatever was

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required to preserve their earthly lives. Suicide, therefore, was clearly evidence of some form of mental illness or imbalance, and he could not imagine punishing anyone whose mind was so deranged that he or she could actually end their own life. But for Sym there was still a fundamental ambivalence between the other-worldly ethos he shared with Donne, and the corporeal conception of self-preservation that was ascending in the 17th century. Suicide was one point on which the corporeal law of self-preservation and the Augustinian Christian ethos were in agreement, and Syms exceedingly harsh judgment of suicide allowed him to resolve that inherent tension between the two ethical registers he was trying to embrace. As the corporeal understanding of self-preservation gradually eclipsed the other-worldly ethos of Christianity, the hostility against suicide waned, and by the end of the 18th century the general judgment of suicide was close to the lenient position struck by Hobbes over a century earlier. Suicide came to be regarded as a secular calamity the consequence of mental disease rather than a diabolical crime, according to MacDonald and Murphy, and consequently more and more juries returned verdicts that labelled suicides as innocent mad people (1990: 133). This humane Hobbesian stance toward suicide, I would like to suggest, ts quite well with the exercise of bio-power in a system of governmentality. Since Hobbesian subjects could be counted upon to pursue corporeal preservation without any compunction whatsoever, suicide was best viewed as a medical problem that should be treated not by punishments inicted by agents of the sovereign, but rather by mental health professionals who aimed at maintaining a healthy, productive population. In the last decade of the 20th century, however, certain challenges to this governmental stance toward suicide have appeared, indicating that the prevailing order of corporeal preservation may be on the verge of a fundamental transformation. For aside from the growing numbers of individuals who now consider suicide as an individual right, rather than a symptom of mental illness, the mental health professions themselves also seem to be modifying their position on suicide. In the 1990s, studies of American mental health professionals and counselors found that over 80 per cent thought suicide could indeed be a rational choice in certain circumstances (Werth and Liddle, 1994: 4408; and Rogers et al., 2001: 369). But the legal and medical recognition of the reasonableness of suicide alone poses no signicant challenge to the system of governmentality, since the criteria for allowable suicides under Oregons Death with Dignity Act, as well as the criteria for rational suicide identied in surveys of mental health professionals, require that the suicide request be veried as reasonable by a physician and/or mental health professional.18 Suicides performed under such requirements, far from

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challenging the juridico-medical complex of modernity, would instead render suicide a safe practice, and lead ultimately to the medicalization of suicide.19 In order to take greater advantage of the opportunity that this recently asserted right provides for a fundamental reconsideration of the subject of governmentality, whose life is ordered upon the imperative of corporeal preservation, it is helpful to contrast Foucaults latemodern position on suicide with the modern one of Hobbes.

Foucault on suicide
In a 1983 interview that was published in English as Social Security, Foucault discussed the necessity of limiting the level of security that the state could be expected to provide individuals, indirectly indicating how far we have come since the 17th-century concern with establishing a theoretical foundation upon which the security state could be erected. During this interview he described the current experience of death, and employed terms quite different than those famously fearsome phrases used by Hobbes. Generally speaking, Foucault remarked, people die under a blanket of drugs, if not in some accident, so that they lose consciousness entirely in a few hours, a few days, or a few weeks: they are obliterated. We live in a world in which the medical and pharmaceutical accompaniment of death deprives it of much of its pain and drama (1988: 177). While Foucault cautioned against nostalgia for a more authentic experience of death that probably never existed, he was nevertheless disturbed by the meaninglessness of the current experience, and ended the interview with the suggestion, Lets try rather to give meaning and beauty to death-obliteration (1988: 177). What Foucault had in mind for such meaning and beauty was intimated earlier in the interview, when he discussed the issue of suicide. In response to questions about the best approach for limiting demands on the health care system, Foucault emphasized that the decisions made ought to be the effect of a kind of ethical consensus so that the individual may recognize himself in the decisions made and in the values that inspired them (1988: 174). When the interviewer asked, How, in fact, can the social security system contribute to an ethics of the human person?, Foucault answered:
The idea of bringing together individuals and the decision-making centers ought to involve, at least as a consequence, a recognized right for everybody to kill himself when he wishes in decent conditions. . . . If I won a few billion francs in the national lottery, Id set up an institute where people who wanted to die could come and spend a weekend, a week or a month, enjoying themselves as far as possible, perhaps with the help of drugs, and then disappear, as if by obliteration.

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When the interviewer queried, A right to suicide? Foucault simply replied, Yes (1988: 176). While it may be tempting to draw a link between the right to die movement and Foucaults off-hand remarks about a right to kill oneself in some sort of suicide institute, there is an important difference between his position and the liberal one articulated by, for instance, the Dream Team. As mentioned in the introduction to this article, the liberal argument for the right to die is concerned with providing to individuals enough control over their deaths so they can avoid a painful and/or degrading demise, while simultaneously maintaining the integrity of juridico-medical authority that is aimed at preserving life. Foucaults claims about suicide, in contrast, emerged out of an aesthetic concern with the nature of ones life, rather than the circumstances of ones death. This aesthetic sensibility was clearly, if somewhat hyperbolically, displayed in a brief 1979 essay on suicide, The Simplest of Pleasures, in which Foucault criticized the common judgment that homosexuals often commit suicide (1996a: 295). He himself tried to commit suicide more than once while a student at the cole Normale, and the immediate explanation offered by mental health professionals, as well as biographers later on, relied on this same psychological account of the gay proclivity toward suicide (Eribon, 1991: 267; and Miller, 1993: 545). Foucault scornfully dismissed this ludicrous account in which suicide and homosexuals are portrayed so as to make each other look bad, and preferred instead to see what there is to say in favor of suicide (1996a: 295). The primary benet he identied with suicide was not release from a bad death, as liberals tend to argue, but rather the enhancement of ones entire life through the careful planning and consideration of how one would eventually end ones life. One has to prepare it, bit by bit, he claimed, decorate it, arrange the details, nd the ingredients, imagine it, choose it, get advice on it, shave it into a work without spectators, one which exists only for oneself, just for that shortest little moment of life. Suicide should be recognized as an extremely unique experience . . . which above all the rest deserves the greatest attention not that it shouldnt worry you (or comfort you) but rather so that you can make of it a fathomless pleasure whose patient and relentless preparation will enlighten all of your life (1996a: 296). As possible ways of ending ones life Foucault mentioned, perhaps facetiously, [s]uicide festivals or orgies, as well as the suicide centers he would suggest later in the Social Security interview (1988: 2967). Whether or not he was serious about these extreme suggestions, they should not detract from what I take to be the most important aspect of Foucaults stance toward suicide, which is that the deliberate, anticipatory consideration of ones chosen death can help individuals to live more reective, but not necessarily more authentic, lives.20

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Of course, many ancient schools of thought taught the benets of reection upon ones death, if not suicide, but Foucault claimed in The Simplest of Pleasures that [t]he philosophies that promise to teach us what to think about death and how to die bore me to tears (1996a: 296). He eventually overcame this boredom, however, and turned to precisely these ancient schools of thought in his last courses and publications from the early 1980s. His 19812 course at the Collge de France, for instance, was devoted to the formation of the theme of the hermeneutic of the self, and examined Platonic, Epicurean and Stoic texts. Among the various techniques employed in shaping subjects in the ancient world, Foucault found at the apex of all these exercises . . . the famous melete thanatou a meditation on death or, rather, a training for it. In his course rsum Foucault described this technique in terms that starkly distinguish it from the use to which Hobbes put the thought of death in the 17th century:
What accounts for the particular value of the death meditation is not just the fact that it anticipates what is generally held to be the greatest misfortune; it is not just that it enables one to convince oneself that death is not an evil; it offers the possibility of looking back, in advance as it were, on ones life. (1997b: 105)

There is an obviously important difference between thinking about ones eventual death, on the one hand, and thinking about taking ones life, on the other, and many ancient schools of thought, such as Platonism, encouraged the former while condemning the latter. Stoicism, however, explicitly linked the melete thanatou and suicide, and Foucault was keenly interested in this school in the last years of his life. Seneca, in particular, appeared in his 19812 course, and also gured prominently in his last publication, The Care of the Self, where this Roman Stoic was frequently cited to provide examples of the ancient imperative to perpetually cultivate oneself (1986: 3968). Unfortunately for our purposes, the discussion of Seneca in The Care of the Self was focused largely on sexual pleasures, passions and desires, and not on the melete thanatou or suicide. However, Foucault did discuss Senecas stance toward death in an important interview conducted just ve months before he died, titled The Ethics of the Concern for Self as a Practice of Freedom. Although this late interview was concerned primarily with the second and third volumes of The History of Sexuality, at one point an interviewer asked about the relation between Foucaults recent interest in the care of the self and a theme that concerned him throughout his career: But doesnt the human condition, in terms of its nitude, play a very important role here? . . . It seems to me that this problem of nitude is very important; the fear of death, of nitude, of being hurt, is at the heart of the care for self (1997a: 289; for an alternative translation, see Foucault, 1987: 9).21 Foucault responded to this crucial

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question by contrasting the Greco-Roman stance toward death, particularly that of the Stoics, with that of Christianity:
Christianity, by presenting salvation as occurring beyond life, in a way upsets or at least disturbs the balance of the care of the self. . . . Among the Greeks and Romans, however, given that one takes care of oneself in ones own life, and that the reputation one leaves behind is the only afterlife one can expect, the care of the self can be centered entirely on oneself, on what one does, on the place one occupies among others. It can be centered totally on the acceptance of death this will become quite evident in late Stoicism and can even, up to a point, become almost a desire for death. . . . In Seneca, for example, it is interesting to note the importance of the theme, let us hurry and get old, let us hasten toward the end, so that we may thereby come back to ourselves. This type of moment before death, when nothing more can happen, is different from the desire for death one nds among Christians, who expect salvation through death. It is like the movement to rush through life to the point where there is no longer anything ahead but the possibility of death. (1997a: 289; cf. 1987: 9)

Although there certainly is room to challenge Foucaults claims about the Stoic stance toward death and the afterlife, not to mention the value that the Stoics placed upon worldly reputation, this is not the place to engage in these quarrels. What is crucial for our purposes is that Foucault clearly appreciated Stoicisms undeniable acceptance of death as an unavoidable and natural part of life, and not as a punishment that needs to be avenged by a savior, as in Christianity, or as an evil that needs to be postponed as long as possible, as in Hobbesian modernity. While Senecas longing for death was particularly intriguing to Foucault, it is important to note that Seneca also emphatically endorsed suicide as a crucial facet of the care of the self. Although Foucault did not discuss Senecas stance toward suicide in any of the interviews, courses, or publications from the 1980s, his claims about suicide in The Simplest of Pleasures were remarkably similar to the advice Seneca offered in letters to his friend Lucilius. For instance, while Foucault claimed that ones suicide is a project that exists only for oneself, Seneca wrote:
Nowhere should we indulge the soul more than in dying. Let it go as it lists: if it craves the sword or the noose or some potion that constricts the veins, on with it, let it break the chain of its slavery. A mans life should satisfy other people as well, his death only himself, and whatever sort he likes is best. (Seneca, 1958: 204; also see Motto, 1973: 76; and Alvarez, 1990: 80)

Both also seemed to agree that one ought to think about, and be ready to perform (rather than commit), ones suicide, and Foucault would likely concur with Senecas judgment that [i]t is a great man who not

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629 Tierney: Suicidal thoughts: Hobbes and Foucault

only orders his own death but contrives it (1958: 207). Despite this shared appreciation of the benets of planning how one would end ones life under certain circumstances, there is nevertheless a particular tension between Seneca and Foucault in regard to one aspect of suicide its emancipatory potential. Seneca frequently employed the language of liberation in discussing suicide, as when he described suicide as break[ing] through the trammels of human bondage, or wrote that a scalpel opens the way out to the great emancipation (1958: 205). At other points he used the language of freedom, but still in the sense of liberation. For instance, in his criticism of those professed philosophers who assert that . . . we must wait . . . for the end Nature has decreed, Seneca argued that [t]he man who says this does not see that he has blocked his road to freedom (1958: 204). Foucault, however, had always been somewhat suspicious of the notion of liberation because it implied there was some essential self that could be emancipated (1997a: 282; cf. 1987: 2). He preferred instead to emphasize practices of freedom over processes of liberation, and in clarifying his conception of freedom he explicitly endorsed the Greco-Roman model in which the care of the self was the mode in which individual freedom . . . was reected as an ethics (1997a: 2834; cf. 1987: 34). He emphasized that extensive work by the self on the self is required for this practice of freedom to take shape in an ethos that is good, beautiful, honorable, estimable, memorable, and exemplary (1997a: 286; cf. 1987: 6). Certainly, the Stoics embraced this conception of working on oneself, and Seneca thought that the technique of reecting on how and when one would perform suicide was crucial to the formation of an exemplary life. In fact, he advised Lucilius that it is most essential to keep our end in mind. Other exercises, such as the anticipation of losing ones wealth, health, or loved ones, may prove futile, because one might never face circumstances that would test these characteristics. But he emphasized that reecting about whether or not one should continue living was training that must one day be put to use (1958: 205). So to the extent that Seneca thought the act of suicide was an emancipation of the individual from a burdensome or vexing life, Foucault would part company with the sage and treat such a death as a termination rather than a liberation, but to the extent that Seneca thought that reection on suicide was itself a source of freedom, Foucault would certainly concur. For both believed that the practice of thinking about the trajectory and shape ones life has taken, in order to determine whether one should continue to live, provided a valuable opportunity to periodically judge the quality of ones life. What Foucault said of the melete thanatou holds true for the meditation on suicide as well it is a way of making death actual in life. . . . It tends to make one live each

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day as if it were the last (1997b: 104). And for Seneca, such meditation was crucial in instilling in individuals the central lesson of Stoicism:
Living is not the good, but living well. The wise man . . . lives as long as he should, not as long as he can. He will observe where he is to live, with whom, how, and what he is to do. He will always think of life in terms of quality, not quantity. (1958: 202)

Without doubt, many contemporary arguments for the right to die also emphasize quality of life, but such quality is determined by the conditions of a persons impending death, and is fundamentally different than the determination of quality that Seneca and Foucault had in mind. According to these current arguments, death is an appropriate choice when illness or age has brought a person close to death and robbed him or her of the ability to take care of his or her own bodily functions, experience worldly pleasures or interact meaningfully with others. The qualityof-life considerations Seneca and Foucault thought relevant for the suicide decision, on the other hand, were not determined by the conditions of a persons imminent death, but were rather focused upon the moral and aesthetic quality of the life the person had actually lived. If it would be difcult to continue living a good and beautiful life, whether or not death is imminent, then suicide may be the appropriate choice. This emphasis on the moral and aesthetic quality of ones life, instead of the circumstances of ones death, is reected in Ciceros shocking claim that Stoics frequently judged it best to end their lives at a moment of supreme happiness. A provocative example of just such a suicide was provided by the essayist Montaigne, who preceded Donne in challenging the punitive attitude toward suicide that emerged at the outset of modernity. In his essay The Custom of the Isle of Cea (15734), Montaigne approvingly recounted Sextus Pompeius account of the suicide of an elderly, respected woman of authority from this island. Although Sextus Pompeius tried to convince her to abandon her publicly announced intention of taking her own life, she justied her decision by saying: For my part, having always experienced the favorable face of Fortune, lest the desire to live too long may make me see one of her contrary faces, I am going to dismiss the remains of my soul by a happy end, leaving two daughters of my own and a legion of grandchildren (Montaigne, 1958: 251).22

Over the course of his career Foucault revealed that modernity is grounded in a dual inversion in the status of death, both in the realm of medicine and in the exercise of power. On Foucaults account the illumination of death by pathological anatomy provided an epistemological

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631 Tierney: Suicidal thoughts: Hobbes and Foucault

foundation not only for medicine, but for the human sciences in general, and the knowledge generated by these disciplines helped facilitate the transition from the sovereigns power of life and death to the positive, productive form of power that administers and optimizes life in modernity. I have tried to show, over Foucaults objections, that Hobbes political theory reects a third inversion of the status of death that is integrally related to those inversions identied by Foucault. Rather than longing for death, as urged in the Platonic/Christian tradition, the Hobbesian subject feared death and sought to preserve life above all else, and such subjects were therefore precisely the sort who were amenable to governmental techniques and strategies that aimed at promoting the health and longevity of the population. Recently, the success of the modern project of death deferral has generated a variety of divisive bio-ethical dilemmas, but the return of the public discussion of suicide at the turn of the 21st century provides a more fertile opportunity than any other bio-ethical issue for a fundamental challenge to the juridico-medical complex of modernity. When considered in the context of the early-modern suicide debate, the current assertion of the right to die throws into relief, and opens to contestation, the complementary roles that the imperative of corporeal preservation and medical authority have played in governing Hobbesian subjects. Liberal arguments for the right to die, such as that offered by the Dream Team, do indeed challenge the modern, Hobbesian stance toward death (as something to be deferred as long as possible) and suicide (as the result of mental illness), but these arguments still rely, as did Hobbes political theory, on the fear of death. The death feared by liberal proponents of the right to die, however, is not the violent, premature death that terried Hobbes in the 17th century, but rather a prolonged, gradual death that is the promise/threat offered by modern medical culture.23 While the Dream Team claims that [m]ost of us see death whatever we think will follow it as the nal act of lifes drama, and we want that last act to reect our own convictions, those we have tried to live by, their emphasis is on preventing the convictions of others [being] forced on us in our most vulnerable moment (Dworkin et al., 1997: 44). For these liberals, [d]eath is . . . among the most signicant events of life (1997: 44), but if one cannot control that event the quality of ones life is signicantly diminished. In order to manage this fear of a death that is controlled and imposed by medical authority, the right to die movement ironically seeks to establish the right to medical assistance in suicide and/or euthanasia. This goal of gaining control over death will likely be unfullled as the legalization, rationalization and medicalization of suicide will render it a safe practice within the administrative parameters of the juridico-medical order, but that is not my primary objection to liberal claims about the right to die. Rather,

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my concern is that by focusing on controlling ones death this liberal perspective does not foster critical reection upon those convictions by which one lives ones life, and leaves unchallenged the role of medical authority in shaping those convictions. As a supplement, if not an alternative, to the standard liberal arguments for the right to die, Foucaults Stoic-inspired stance toward suicide can help reveal certain hopeful possibilities that are overlooked in the current discussion of this right. For as Seneca, Montaigne, Donne and Foucault all understood, the self that ought to be preserved is not simply the body, but the character of the life of that embodied self. Although I am certainly not offering her as an example that ought to necessarily be followed, reection upon the suicide of the woman from Cea might help us late-moderns recognize the extent to which we are governed by the imperative of corporeal preservation that underlies the medicalized culture of modernity. The calm, thoughtful suicide of this woman who chose to end her life at a point when things were going quite well, and her faculties remained intact, may seem scandalous to those of us who, like Hobbes, live in order to avoid death. But to imagine living ones life with such an intense concern about ones character, and the way ones life was going, would generate greater possibilities for the practices of freedom, in the Foucauldian sense, than will bald assertions of the liberal right to end ones life with a physicians help when death is already at hand. At best, this liberal stance can only offer the quite likely hollow promise of providing control over ones death, while the Foucauldian/ Stoic stance offers the possibility of living a more deliberate, reective life that will nevertheless always remain beyond ones control. The College of Wooster, Wooster, OH, USA


1 This article is derived from fragments of several chapters of a larger project that is tentatively titled The Government(ality) of Health: Death, Medicine, and the Health-Conscious Subject. 2 One of the leading proponents of PAS and euthanasia in Australia is Dr. Philip Nitschke, who is often portrayed as Australias equivalent of Americas Dr. Death, Jack Kevorkian; see Beam, 2003; McInerney, 2000: 148; Mydans, 1997: 3; Singer, 1994: 1389; and ERGO!: 2005. 3 Dutch Upper House Backs Aided-Suicide, The New York Times, 11 April 2001: sec. A, p. 3. For critical discussions of the Dutch practice of euthanasia and PAS, see: Smith, 2000: 10911; Hendin, 1997: 49, 758; and Welie, 1992: 4237. For a more complete and less damning examination

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of the Dutch experience with medically assisted death, see Pijnenborg et al., 1993: 11969; Singer, 1994: 1516; Battin, 2003: 4025; and Battin, 1994: 13044. Washington et al. v. Glucksberg et al. (521 U.S. 702) and Vacco v. Quill et al. (521 U.S. 793). For a thorough discussion of Foucaults reconsideration of his conception of power during the second half of the 1970s, see Gordon, 2000; for a shorter discussion see Rabinow, 1997: xvxvii. The status of The Birth of the Clinic does seem to be changing in certain elds, however. In particular, British historians and sociologists of medicine have begun to reconsider their initial hostility to this text; e.g. see Jones and Porter, 1994: 1011; Rose, 1994; and Armstrong, 2002: 1789. I link Foucaults early claims from The Birth of the Clinic concerning the signicance of pathological anatomy, with his later concept of governmentality, in Tierney, 1998. Concerning the light by which Bichat illuminated the abyss of illness, Foucault wrote that it is the same light, no doubt, that illuminates the 120 Journees of Sodome, Juliette, and the Desastres de Soya (1973a: 195). In the realm of painting Foucault listed Goya, Delacroix and Gericault, but did not mention David, although I believe that he too belongs in this group. In literature, he mentioned Baudelaire, Holderlin and, of course, Nietzsche. Foucaults most protracted engagement with Hobbes was in his lecture from 4 February 1976; see Foucault, 2003: 89111. Foucault examined the role that equality played in Hobbes account of the natural state of war, in Foucault, 2003: 901. For Hobbes description of vanity and the violence engendered by this passion, see 1962: 99. Leo Strauss demonstrated at length how the competition that occured in Hobbes state of nature expanded into a life-anddeath struggle in the presence of this uncontrolled appetite, or passion, of vanity; see Strauss, 1952: 629. There are other passions besides the fear of death that lead people out of the state of nature, and these may be grouped together as the desire for convenience, or commodious living, to use Hobbes term. I have written about these passions elsewhere; see Tierney, 1993: 1745, 17980. I think Strauss was justied in emphasizing the centrality of death in Hobbes understanding of the transition from the state of nature to civil society; for Hobbes claimed that since mortal conict is always a threatening possibility in the state of nature, the continual fear, and danger of violent death is the worst of all the incommodities of the natural state of war (1962: 100). In the 16th century Calvin recognized the emergence of Christian subjects of the sort Hobbes envisioned, but found it strange that many who boast of being Christians, instead of thus longing for death, are so afraid of it that they tremble at the very mention of it as a thing ominous and dreadful (1845: II, 290). Several scholars have identied earlier appearances of suicide; see MacDonald and Murphy, 1990: 1456, including note 3 on p. 145; Alvarez, 1990: 68; and Noon, 1978: 372.

4 5 6

7 8

9 10 11





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16 I discuss the shifting relationship between self-preservation and selfownership in Tierney, 1999. 17 That Hobbes was not personally opposed to suicide is also indicated in a letter he wrote to the physician Guy Patin, indicating that he would rather die than repeat the experience of passing kidney stones; see Stoffell, 1991: 28. 18 See Oregons Death with Dignity Act (1995), Oregon Revised Statutes, 127.800127.995; for criteria for rational suicide, see Werth and Cobia, 1995: 23140. 19 I make such an argument in Tierney, 1997: 712. Also see Salem, 1999: 306; and Prado, 2003: 20710. 20 Although this emphasis on the thought of death as a spur to a more deliberate, reective life is related to Heideggers claims about the existential experience of death and authentic existence in Being and Time, there is an important difference that separates Foucaults and Heideggers positions. For Heidegger, it was the impossibility of experiencing ones own death, and the thought of death as the impossibility of any being-in-the-world whatsoever, which evoked a mood of anxiety that goaded individuals to live a more deliberate, authentic form of existence (see Heidegger, 1962: secs 503: 293311). On the other hand, Foucault, at least in The Simplest of Pleasures, claimed that one ought to envision and imagine ones death in its specicity. 21 The issue of nitude was a dominant theme in Foucaults early publications. Aside from its centrality in The Birth of the Clinic, nitude also gured prominently in The Order of Things (1966[1973b]), where Foucault characterized the modern project of turning the fundamental limitations of human existence life, language and labor into the specialized elds of biology, linguistics and economics, as an analytic of nitude (1973b: 31218). 22 In his frequently misinterpreted, or rather, malignly interpreted, essay Is There a Duty to Die?, John Hardwig expressed a stance toward suicide that is somewhat similar to that of the woman from Cea; see Hardwig, 1997. 23 Opponents of the right to die rely on the fear of a premature death that is similar to the fear that animated Hobbes political theory, except that the premature death these opponents fear is not a violent death at the hands of another in a state of nature, but rather a peaceful, painless death imposed too early on the aged and inrm by medical authority within advanced cultures. Elsewhere I have contrasted this quasi-Hobbesian fear that informs much of the opposition to the right to die, with the quasi-Heideggerian anxiety about being kept alive in a state of obliviousness that motivates many supporters of the right to die; see Tierney, 1997: 73.


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