2020-02Thematic Section
Death Awaits Me: An Existential Phenomenology of Suicide


This paper provides a phenomenology of the suicidal process. It begins with an examination of the self and the breaks that occur within the world that the suicidal individual endures. This includes an examination of suicidal hopelessness, termed in this paper as ontological petrification. It follows with the role in which hope plays in the suicidal. The paper then turns to carrying out the action of suicide, including a discussion of the suicide note and the developing form of the suicide note as found in live-streams on social media. The paper concludes by describing the completion of the suicidal process, and the persistence of the suicidal drive in the suicidal individual. The paper makes use of suicide notes, video suicide notes, and stories of suicides.


suicide, phenomenology, suicide notes, hopelessness, existential phenomenology

How to cite:

French, Michael. “Death Awaits Me: An Existential Phenomenology of Suicide.” Eidos. A Journal for Philosophy of Culture 4, no. 2 (2020):  70-89. https://doi.org/10.14394/eidos.jpc.2020.0017.


Michael French
School of Health Sciences, University of New Haven
300 Boston Post RD, West Haven, CT 0651, USA


“Videos – Amanda.” Amanda Todd Legacy Society. Accessed July 27, 2020. http://www.amandatoddlegacy.org/videos-amanda.html.

“Why Did No One Help Her? Distraught Teenager Sent 144 Tweets Expressing Her Pain Before Killing Herself.” Daily Mail Online, November 11, 2011.

Abel, David. “Book Details Motives for Suicide at Harvard.” The Boston Globe, September 27, 2010.http://archive.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2010/09/27/book_details_motives_for_suicide_at_harvard/.

Alcorn, Leelah. “Suicide Note.” Wayback Machine.  https://web.archive.org/web/20150101052635/http://lazerprincess.tumblr.com/post/106447705738/suicide-note.

Amery, Jean. On Suicide: A Discourse on Voluntary Death. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1999.

Bartley, S. H. Principles of Perception. New York: Harper and Row, 1969.

Berkow, Ira. “RED SMITH, SPORTS COLUMNIST WHO WON PULITZER, DIES AT 76.” The New York Times, January 15, 1982.

Brown, Marie T., and Jennifer K. Bussell. “Medication Adherence: WHO Cares?” Mayo Clinic Proceedings 86, no. 4 (April 2011): 304-314. https://doi.org/10.4065/mcp.2010.0575.

Callanan, Valerie J., and Mark S. Davis. “A Comparison of Suicide Note Writers with Suicides Who Did Not Leave Notes.” Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior 39, no. 5 (October 2009): 558-68.

Camus, Albert. The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays. Translated by Justin O’Brien. New York: Vintage Books, 1991.

Camus, Albert. A Happy Death. Translated by Richard Howard. New York: Vintage International, 1972.

Cioran, Emil M. All Gall Is Divided: The Aphorisms of a Legendary Iconoclast. Translated by Richard Howard. New York: Arcade Publishing, 2012.

Cioran, Emil M. On the Heights of Despair. Translated by Ilinca Zarifopol-Johnnston. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.

Cioran, Emil M. The Trouble with Being Born. Translated by Richard Howard. New York: Arcade Pub, 2012.

Critchley, Simon. “Being and Time, part 3: Being-in-the-world.” The Guardian June 22, 2009. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2009/jun/22/heidegger-religion-philosophy.

Critchley, Simon. Suicide. Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY: Thought Catalog Books, 2016.

Dazai, Osamu. No Longer Human. Translated by Donald Keene. New York, NY: New Directions Books, 1958.

Durkheim, Emil. Suicide: A Study in Sociology. New York: The Free Press, 1951.

Frankl, Viktor E. Man’s Search for Meaning: An Introduction to Logotherapy. Boston: Beacon Press, 2006.

Freud, Sigmund. “Contributions to a Discussion On Suicide.” In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XI. Edited and translated by James Strachey. London: The Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1957.

Freud, Sigmund. “Mourning and Melancholia.” In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XIV. Edited and translated by James Strachey. London: The Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1957.

Freud, Sigmund. “Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905).” In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume VII. Edited and translated by James Strachey. London: The Hogarth Press and the Institute of Psycho-Analysis, 1953.

Friedman, Emily. “Florida Teen Live-Streams His Suicide Online.” ABC News. ABC News Network., November 21, 2008. https://abcnews.go.com/Technology/MindMoodNews/story?id=6306126&page=1.

Granello, Paul F., and Gerald A. Juhnke. Case Studies in Suicide: Experiences of Mental Health Professionals. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Merrill, 2010.

Grant, Jamie M., Lisa A. Mottet and Justin Tanis. “Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey.” 2011. https://www.transequality.org/sites/default/files/docs/resources/NTDS_Report.pdf

Grene, Marjorie. “Sartre’s Theory of the Emotions.” Yale French Studies, no. 1 (1948): 97-101. https://doi.org/10.2307/2928865.

Heidegger, Martin. Being and Time. Translated by John MacQuarrie and Edward Robinson. New York: Harper&Collins Publishers, 1962.

Heisman, Mitchell. “Suicide Note.” 2010. https://www.geenstijl.nl/archives/images/suicide_note.pdf.

Irby, Kate. “Why Are People Live-streaming Their Suicides?” Miami Herald, January 27, 2017. https://www.miamiherald.com/news/nation-world/national/article129120064.html.

Jamison, Kay Redfield. Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide. London: Picador, 2012

Joiner, Thomas E.  Why People Die by Suicide. Cambridge, MA: Havard University Press, 2005.

Joiner, Thomas E. “The Interpersonal-Psychological Theory of Suicidal Behavior: Current Empirical Status.” American Psychological Association: Psychological Science Agenda, (June 2009), https://www.apa.org/science/about/psa/2009/06/sci-brief. https://doi.org/10.1037/e554302011-004.

Joiner, Thomas E. “Why Do People Die By Suicide.” Youtube. Posted on Feb 4, 2016., https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DESRIZtUIT4&t=752s.

Keel, Pamela K., David J. Dorer, Kamryn T. Eddy, Debra Franko, Dana L Charatan, and David B Herzog. “Predictors of Mortality in Eating Disorders”, Archives of General Psychiatry 60, no. 2 (February 2003): 179-83. https://doi.org/10.1001/archpsyc.60.2.179.

Koch, Sigmund, ed. “Psychology: A Study of a Science.” Vols. I-VI. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1959-1963.

Lacan, Jacques. The Seminar of Jacques Lacan Book VII: The Ethics of Psychoanalysis. Edited by Jacques- Alain Miller. Translated by Dennis Porter. New York: Norton, 1992.

Laing, Ronald David. The Divided Self. London: Penguin Books, 1964.

Leenaars, Antoon A. Suicide Notes: Predictive Clues and Patterns. New York, NY: Human Sciences Press, 1988.

Lester, David and Steven Stack. Suicide as a Dramatic Performance. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Transaction Publishers, 2015.

Levinas, Emmanuel, Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority. Translated by Alphonso Lingis. Hingham MA: Martinus Nijhoff and Duquesne University Press, 1979.

McDermott, John J., ”Why Bother: Is Life Worth Living,” Journal of Philosophy 88, no. 11 (November, 1991): 677-683.

O’Connell, Mark, “Edouard Levé’s ‘Suicide’ and Edouard Levé’s Suicide.” The Millions, July 25, 2011. https://themillions.com/2011/07/edouard-leve%E2%80%99s-suicide-and-edouard-leve%E2%80%99s-suicide.html.

O’Connor, Ian. “Aaron Hernandez Leaves Us with One Final ‘Why?’” ESPN. ESPN Internet Ventures, 2017.

Pompili, Maurizio. Phenomenology of Suicide: Unlocking the Suicidal Mind. Cham, Switzerland: Springer International Publishing, 2018.

Ratcliffe, Matthew. “Phenomenology as a Form of Empathy.” Inquiry 55, no. 5 (September 2012): 473-495. https://doi.org/10.1080/0020174X.2012.716196.

Roy, Alec, Nancy L. Segal, and Marco Sarchiapone. “Attempted suicide among living co-twins of twin suicide victims” American Journal of Psychiatry, 1995.

Sartre, Jean-Paul. Being and Nothingness. Translated by Hazel E. Barnes. New York: Washington Square Press, 1992.

Sartre, Jean-Paul. Sketch of a Theory of the Emotions. Translated by Bernard Frechtman. London: Routledge, 2001.

Schopenhauer, Arthur. The World as Will and Representation. Volume 1. Translated by E. F. J. Payne. New York: Dover Pub, 1969.

Schopenhauer, Arthur. Studies in Pessimism. Translated by T. Bailey Saunders. London: S. Sonnenschein, 1893.

Shneidman, Edwin. The Suicidal Mind. New York: Oxford UP, 1998.

Shneidman, Edwin.. Voices of Death. New York, NY: Bantam Books, 1980.

Solomon, Robert C., Existentialism, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.

Solomon, Robert C.  “The Rationality of the Emotions.” The Southwestern Journal of Philosophy 8, No. 2 (1997): 105-114. https://doi.org/10.5840/swjphil19778232.

Webster, Jamieson, conversation with the author, November 2014.

Open Access Statement:

This is an open access journal which means that all content is freely available without charge to the user or his/her institution. Users are allowed to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of the articles, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without asking prior permission from the publisher or the author, as long as the author and original source are properly cited. This is in accordance with the BOAI definition of open access.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. Submitting a text to Eidos. A Journal for Philosophy of Culture means that the author agrees with the general conditions of this license. The author does and will maintain copyrights and publishing rights for his/her article without any restrictions.