The Secularization of Suicide?

R. A. Houston

in Punishing the Dead?

Published in print August 2010 | ISBN: 9780199586424
Published online September 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780191595356 | DOI:
The Secularization of Suicide?

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  • Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)


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It is conventionally assumed that suicide became secularized in the eighteenth century as religious understandings gave way to medical ones. This chapter explains the origins of this assumption and charts the hybrid of religious and secular understandings of suicide's causes that co‐existed throughout the early modern period. It shows how little the Devil mattered to Calvinists, who instead stressed the positive side of suicidal thoughts for salvation. The distinctively different intellectual approaches of English and Scottish thinkers are shown in both sermons and philosophical writings. Enlightenment arguments in favour of suicide were marginal to most understandings, which remained firmly grounded in Christian morality.

Keywords: England; Scotland; religion; devil; enlightenment; philosophy; law; calvinism; spirituality; historiography

Chapter.  20781 words. 

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700)

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