Experimental Research of Our Common Sense and Reasoning concerning Difficulties of Suicide Survivors

published: 2014-05-01 Japanese:日本語版へ


In the twenty-first century, various difficulties suicide survivors face are finally receiving increasing attention in Japan. One of the difficulties is the imputation of responsibility in which people impute the responsibility for an intimate person’s killing himself/herself to the other suicide survivors or the people themselves. Imputation of the responsibility tends to be criticized since it arises from people’s false consciousness within their mind toward suicide and suicide survivors. However, if we have research attention on the mind of each individual (it is doubtful since it cannot be observed by others and thus is so whether the person understands it correctly), we fall into barren controversy over “the true mind”. If we pursue this way, it leads to denial of experimental research of every individual activity, that is, research with clear evidences (those who are interested in this should read books on ethnomethodology, especially The Social Construction of Mind written by Jeff Coulter). This is also a situation where we fall over at the stage before understanding issues and solving them.

Therefore, I decide to start my research focusing on languages not the mind—describing how people, including suicide survivors, use what languages in order to impute to responsibility. The reason is that if we focus on spoken languages and their use, it is possible to illustrate with clear reasoning. This kind of research policy was already proposed from 1960s to 70s in the area of sociology. In order to reorganize/succeed/develop its achievements, what I have been doing is (1) examination of methodology on description, (2) interview research to suicide survivors, (3) collection of newspaper articles/government materials, and (4) (re)description of the activities of imputation of responsibility over suicide of people based on the above-mentioned articles and materials. Especially in interview research I have experienced many times that my suppositions based on the literature review of the other areas including thanatology have been destroyed by suicide survivors who actively talk both about guilt feelings/indecision over suicide of the close relatives they have experienced by themselves and about conflicts/struggles with people around.


Analysis of activities over imputation of responsibility of suicide by people can be overviewed as follows. Firstly, (a) how are motives of suicide of the victim described? For example, are they divorce/bullying/debt/long-time labor/depression? Secondly, (b) taking their motives into consideration, what types of persons are they? For example, are they ex-husbands/students/heavily indebted people/labors/patients/suicide victims? Thirdly, (c) taking applicable types into consideration, who can be most connected to them, and (d) what are expected rights/obligations/activities among them? Finally, (e) taking languages which are regarded as motives of suicide, who are against such rights/obligations/activities?

Actually, however, responsibility tends to be imputed to suicide survivors, and the specific person(s). What this shows is that rights/obligations/activities that “family members should support each other”, “mutually-supportive bonds equal family”, and “they should understand each other very well” are one-sided distribution to families. Moreover, even within families they are unfairly distributed. Furthermore, in our common-sense reasoning implementation of them is regarded as a sign of being a family. Thus, we easily tend to conclude that the cause of his/her suicide is (a specific) family member violates to such rights/obligations/activities and if so the family member has its responsibility. There exists common sense over family and common-sense reasoning practices—parts of the practices which make families—in the issue of the specific suicide survivors have the responsibilities of the intimate person’s suicide. My present challenges are establishing a methodology for still immature description and illustration while continuing research activities for describing and illustrating such people’s practices.


Research Highlights

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