©1973 Free Press, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.; (P)2005 Blackstone Audiobooks
"A brave work of electrifying intelligence and passion, optimistic and revolutionary, destined to endure." (New York Times Book Review)
"Ranks among the truly important books of the year. Professor Becker writes with power and brilliant insight." (Publishers Weekly)
The battle in my mind between my heritage of faith and my deep allegiance to the scientific method found some peace in the main hypothesis of The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker. He hypothesizes that man is driven by a deep fear of dying to build constructs of what happens after death. He suggests that the primal fear of death cause people to convert to religion, leave moments to their lives, and to spend their life in an Epicurean scramble to balance the nothingness of death.
The subject is the best, the performance by the reader is OK. Becker's book explains many of the symbols used in society and cultures to attach "meaning" to our lives. It's a fascinating study of human behavior and explains many of the polarizations in the world.
Becker was on his deathbed when his manuscript arrived at the publisher. The publisher rushed to his home to spend the last few hours with him. The poignancy of this moment is not lost on the publisher, nor the reader. As Becker faced his own death, his insights were enhanced and more clear.
Subtle. Slow. Unemotive.
That man is basically animal. And, as the knowledge of our differences to animal (thought, emotion, rationale thought, opposable thumbs, design and intention) we created symbols to attach meaning to our lives. As we denied our own mortality the creation of symbols, heros and God's became a necessary coping mechanism. However, those same symbols (religion, nationality, race, gender, sports teams, etc.) became our undoing as we reified them and gave them power. This power has been used and abused over the millennia to manipulate and control the masses.
Read this book. So many aspects of the human existence become more clear.
One of the deepest and yet very accessible books that I have ever heard. Since listening to it I have purchased the book and read it cover to cover. Superb.
Too many to mention. I believe each person who listens to this book will be moved and permanently changed.
He is very good. Reads quickly and clearly.
Loved the stories regarding Freud and Jung. Enlightening
A must read if you are interested in the core of our human being. This book absolutely deserved the Pulitzer Prize.
College English professor who loves classic literature, psychology, neurology and hates pop trash like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey.
Based on the work of Freud's least credited successor, Otto Rank, The Denial Of Death weaves an irrefutable argument that human aggression stems from an overweening hubris based exactly in the daily repression of the inevitability of our own individual death. In this denial, we attack and metaphorically or actually kill others--this can range from talking about our neighbor behind his back to all-out assassination on the battlefield. There is no easy-breezy solution to this problem, as in many lesser popular works--Becker sees human nature remaining more or less the same--but he does urge the reader toward redirecting hateful energies away from human scapegoats and toward abstractions like human suffering itself. A penetrating and unflinching work completed just before Becker's own demise from cancer. A must read.
becker died about the time this book was published
that probably didn't bother him as much as you'd think
he saw himself as a prophet/high priest of modern culture
he was after life's deepest meanings and truth with a capital T
in a sense he saw himself as outside of time and fashion
almost in the role of a weary old testament truth teller
the jargon was dense and built to survive academic scrutiny
he busily refered to otto rank and quoted soren kierkegaard
footnotes were included in the text in excruciating detail
the 20th century was built on marx and darwin and freud
marx has been discredited by world events
darwin was right but not as dogmatic as people believe
freud alone was folded and molded to suit each passing fancy
becker sought to reinterpret freud at the deepest level
in a sense he wanted to set things right with the human mind
the book was not written with the intention of being read aloud
it was written to be studied and then withstand the attack of becker's rivals
in provides understanding and insight more than entertainment
I always felt when reading books trying to explain religion scientifically or functionally that they were missing something essential about religion. Then when I listened to Ernest Becker's The Denial of Death it all finally made sense. What is more, I also began to understand the source of my own constant drive to leave a mark on the world.
It was a relief to finally find a theory that explained the evolution of these two essential social phenomena, religion and immortality projects, in one book.
Although it is an all encompassing theory, and I am sure life is about more than just this; Becker's analysis of what is undeniably a shared human tendency -- to fear and deny death -- and its impact on our psychology as a species, is profound.
l'enfer c'est les autres
This prize winning book from 1973 has immense value today because it captures how very smart people explained the world in those days and it is amazing we ever got out of the self referential tautological cave that was being created to explain who we are. There is nothing more dangerous than using just intuition and strong arguments without empirical data to reach your conclusions. That's what this author does.
He ties existential and psychoanalytical thought and the necessity for beliefs in God in to a worldview. He will tell us that it is our repression and our denial that end up giving us our neurosis. He does not use the psychoanalytical system developed by Freud because he makes our neurosis more than just dependent on sexual repressions, but nevertheless his system ends with 'castration', 'transference', and other such psychoanalytical belief systems. (That's why I feel comfortable characterizing his system as self-referential tautological. He's creating a system, some what like mathematics, by assuming truths within the system and using the system to justify the system. There's no way to refute the system unless one steps out of the system. That is to say, there is now way to show the system is incoherent within the system itself and there are things within the system which can neither be shown true or false).
He's just taking a pseudoscience and working within the system and uses the same techniques to develop his similar system of pseudoscience but he's going to call it post-Freudian. He will conclude things such as the schizophrenic and psychotic are 'neurotic' principally because they see the true reality better, the reality of the absurdity of life, the fact that we live with the certainty of death, and the inadequacy of life, the inability to live with the freedom we our given.
He will go into a whole host of reasons why we are inadequate. He'll even explain how LGBTQ people are perverted because fetishes created while growing up has led to that extreme denial of themselves (probably something to do with their lack of character).
The author emphasizes that character, culture and values determine who we become. Those who lack any of those three end up with 'neurosis', because under his psycho-dynamic system we know everyone is neurotic to some degree because one who denies his own repression must be neurotic and out of touch with reality. (There is a beautiful tautology within his belief system).
Unfortunately, to understand the 1970s one must understand how smart people did embrace the kind of thinking presented in this book. It's amazing that we as a society got out of that psychoanalytical trap. Now days, neurosis is not used as a category in the DSM for a reason.
I can highly recommend this book since it gives such an interesting window that psychoanalysis mistakenly provided to human understanding in 1973. It clearly gives a great peak into how psychiatry got off the rails. I would highly recommend reading "Shrinks: The Untold Story of Psychiatry" before attempting this pseudo-scientific book. "Shrinks" documents how psychiatry got so far off the rails and how it found itself by becoming a real science by including the empirical. This book, "Denial of Death", marks the start of the beginning from which a new era for human understanding began to finally find itself and jettison junk like this book contains.
If you like listening to a text book (which I do), you are halfway there. The ideas are somewhat dated. Strong Freudian themes and explanations, but in audio format it is a long listen.
I don't know exactly what I was expecting, but this was not it, unfortunately. I was there with the author through his explanations of humanity's quest to live forever, but was less interested as he went on to delve into Freud's theories on love, sex, and fetishism. Finally, when the author gave credence to Freud's view that homosexuality is a character flaw and a disease, I lost all respect.
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