Mathematician and philosopher, Bertrand Russell, wrote some interesting books on various subjects. One was entitled The Conquest of Happiness. In this work, Russell had an interesting take on both suicide and argumentation. These selections largely speak for themselves.
August Glen-James, editor
External interests, it is true, bring each its own possibility of pain: the world may be plunged in war, knowledge in some direction may be hard to achieve, friends may die. But pains of these kinds do not destroy the essential quality of life, as do those that spring from disgust with self.
There is no arguing with a mood . . .
In adolescence, I hated life and was continually on the verge of suicide, from which, however, I was restrained by the desire to know more mathematics. Now, on the contrary, I enjoy life; I might almost say that with every year that passes I enjoy it more. This is due partly to having discovered what were the things that I most desired, and having gradually acquired many of these things. Partly it is due to having successfully dismissed certain objects of desire--such as the acquisition of indubitable knowledge about something or other--as essentially unattainable. But very largely it is due to a diminishing preoccupation with myself. Like others who had a Puritan education, I had the habit of meditating on my sins, follies, and shortcomings. I seemed to myself--no doubt justly--a miserable specimen. Gradually I learned to be indifferent to myself and my deficiencies; I came to center my attention increasingly upon external objects: the state of the world, various branches of knowledge, individuals for whom I felt affection. External interests, it is true, bring each its own possibility of pain: the world may be plunged in war, knowledge in some direction may be hard to achieve, friends may die. But pains of these kinds do not destroy the essential quality of life, as do those that spring from disgust with self. And every external interest inspires some activity which, so long as the interest remains alive, is a complete preventive of 'ennui' [a feeling of utter weariness and discontent resulting from satiety or lack of interest; boredom]. Interest in oneself, on the contrary, leads to no activity of a progressive kind. It may lead to the keeping of a diary, to getting psychoanalyzed, or perhaps to becoming a monk. . . . External discipline is the only road to happiness for those unfortunates whose self-absorption is too profound to be cured in any other way.
In an argument . . . we must distinguish between a mood and its intellectual expression. There is no arguing with a mood; it can be changed by some fortunate event, or by a change in our bodily condition, but it cannot be changed by argument. I have frequently experienced myself the mood in which I felt that all is vanity; I have emerged from it not by means of any philosophy, but owing to some imperative necessity of action. . . . The human animal, like others, is adapted to a certain amount of struggle for life, and when by means of great wealth 'homo sapiens' can gratify all his whims without effort, the mere absence of effort from his life removes an essential ingredient of happiness.