Suicide and Moral Freedom

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After elucidating Kant’s notion of moral freedom within the context of his ethics, I examine Schiller’s “The Bride of Messina” (Die Braut von Messina). Contrary to Kant, Schiller associates suicide with the Kantian notion of moral freedom in order to save freedom from blind necessity. While Kant explicitly condemns suicide as a violation of moral law and an affront to the freedom on which it depends, Schiller depicts suicide in “The Bride of Messina” as an outward manifestation of man’s assertion of freedom from the forces of nature (or, in Schiller’s terminology, “Naturkräfte”) which, in this tragedy, takes the form of fate and inclination. Ultimately, Schiller’s overall tragic project is meant to awaken in the spectator a consciousness of moral freedom, and suicide is used as an effective vehicle for such an awakening.