Beyond the Search for Suigiston: How Evolution Offers Oxygen for Suicidology

  • C. A. Soper
Part of the Evolutionary Psychology book series (EVOLPSYCH)


For more than a hundred years, suicide researchers have tried to identify conditions that predictably lead people to take their own lives. I call these supposed conditions suigiston, and draw multiple analogies with protracted efforts by 18th Century chemists to find the hypothesized element phlogiston, which transpired not to exist. Challenging a consensus in suicidology, I offer three reasons to doubt that suigiston will be found. First, there is no empirical evidence that it exists. Second, there is no theoretical foundation for the notion either. Third, beyond absence of evidence, evolutionary theory provides positive evidence of absence, on the grounds that natural selection would expectably have exhausted any and all utilizable markers of suicide risk. In other words, suicide is predictably unpredictable. A new "pain-and-brain" model of suicide's evolutionary origins points to more useful directions for suicide research.


Suicide Suicidology Suigiston Pain-and-brain  Evolutionary psychology Psychological immune system 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • C. A. Soper
    • 1
  1. 1.Private PracticeLisbonPortugal

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