The Denial of Death

The Denial of Death

by Ernest Becker
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Overview

The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker

Winner of the Pulitzer prize in 1974 and the culmination of a life's work, The Denial of Death is Ernest Becker's brilliant and impassioned answer to the "why" of human existence. In bold contrast to the predominant Freudian school of thought, Becker tackles the problem of the vital lie — man's refusal to acknowledge his own mortality. In doing so, he sheds new light on the nature of humanity and issues a call to life and its living that still resonates more than twenty years after its writing.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780029021507
Publisher: Free Press
Publication date: 11/28/1973
Pages: 314

About the Author

After receiving a Ph.D. in Cultural Anthropology from Syracuse University, Dr. Ernest Becker (1924-1974) taught at the University of California at Berkeley, San Francisco State College, and Simon Fraser University, Canada. He is survived by his wife, Marie, and a foundation that bears his name — The Ernest Becker Foundation.

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The Denial of Death 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 22 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Stanley Hauerwas, the famed professor of Christian Ethics at Duke Divinity School, once labelled modern medicine a 'death deferral industry.' In his Pulitzer Prize winning book The Denial of Death Becker contends that medicine is not alone. According to Becker's thesis in fact all human enterprises are derivative of the Promethean will to tame death and rob it of its sting. The great protagonist of Becker's work is Soren Kierkegaard. Kierkegaard¿s ¿Knight of Faith¿ embodies for Becker all that both ancient religion and 20th century psychoanalysis set out to attain ¿ total consciousness in the face of the collective human tragedy we call death. Denial is in this respect a call to faith ¿ a call for humanity to admit the limits of its own creatureliness and drink its hemlock with Socratic courage. The great irony of Denial is Becker¿s analysis of his psychological forebear Freud. Becker harnesses a great deal of the psychoanalytic tradition he inherited from Freud then uses it, in good old Oedipal fashion, to knock the father from the throne. According to Becker, Freud was himself an embodiment of the kind of death denial from which psychoanalysis should have freed him. Becker argues Freud¿s dogged commitment to his own theories about human sexuality is an embarrassing example of Freud¿s refusal to let go his aspirations for intellectual immortality. When confronted by contrary evidence or conclusions it was Freud¿s pattern to simply feint ¿ an example, according to Becker, of Freud¿s escapist defense mechanics. Or, in Neil Young¿s own immortal words ¿it¿s better to burn out than just fade away.¿ If Becker¿s analysis of Freud is correct then we can see in ourselves some startling parallels. We cling to life through all kinds of ways and means until the end comes. And then we hope for a short, painless death. There is little talk of getting right with our maker. No one knows what it means to die well. Given the fact that we live in an age of genetic manipulation, cryogenic freezing and extreme makeovers the myth of immortality must still be alive. When it is all said and done, however, most of us could care less about discovering why we want our spouse to get a new set of boobs. Freud¿s old answer ¿ sex ¿ seemed as good as any. But Becker¿s thesis does have immediate implications for us as we contemplate the virtues of peace, freedom, democracy and whatever else we might be willing to kill and die for. Are modern values nothing more than fetishized expressions of our desire to out ring the bell which doth toll for all? At the very least Becker¿s book gives us pause to consider the possibility that even our most altruistic actions might be driven by blind self- interest. Becker seems to want to call the human species to a radical honesty about its place in the cosmos. It is uncertain, however, what coming to terms with the reality of death can alone do to mend the way we live our lives and die our deaths. What, apart from other virtues like courage, peacemaking, hope and love, do we have to gain from admitting that it is indeed from dust that we come and to dust we shall return. It is here that Becker¿s psychoanalysis seems to fall short. Liberating the unconsciousness is interesting, but not all that edifying ¿ especially if, as Becker asserts, the will of the unconscious is altogether ineluctable anyway. This is perhaps what made the apostle Paul candidly admit that if Christ were not raised from the dead then all his labors for the gospel were in vain (1 Cor. 15:13). For Paul the resurrection was the gospel and the only thing capable of rescuing us from death¿s long shadow. All Becker¿s heroes, Kierkegaard, Luther, and in acknowledged ambivalence even Jung, point toward a resurrection. The Kierkegaardian Leap is always occasioned by the hope for
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you put forth the mental energy required to understand and reflect upon what Mr. Becker has written, it WILL change your life. Beware though, my first reaction to it was depression...it reveals things about the nature of man and the nature of 'meaning' itself that are pretty disturbing, at least initially. If you have ever questioned the old adage 'ignorance is bliss' I don't think you will after reading this book. A piece of me wishes I had never read it, but most of me is eternally thankful to Mr. Becker. I guess this is a bit vague for a review, but suffice it to say that it is one of the most important books ever written for those of us seeking answers to meaning of life (and death).
Guest More than 1 year ago
there are a lot of thick, confusing words on this page that will likely put the curious reader off becker's work. that's too bad. becker's major accomplishment is a clarification of kierkegaard's existential philosophy: man is alone and owes nothing to anyone except his creator. that is reality. once this is internalized, death no longer transfixes the mind, but frees it. so there.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Approach this book with caution. Reading it has stripped me forever. Within the pages of this Pulitzer Prize winning work, I first discovered the concept of the 'character lie,¿ a facade worn for anonymity. It is self-deception woven to protect our fragile personas from scrutiny and prevent the awareness of our own mortality. Here is the bad/good news: Once you go forward with liberating knowledge, you can never return to safety. This book has made a significant personal impact. It gave me the courage to break free from a suffocating environment and carve my own unique path. More truthfully, it insisted that I do so. I am convinced that I would not have accomplished or experienced as much richness in my life had I not been diverted onto this tyrant road of mine.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Sometimes we read books that have interesting and fanciful theories about life, that make us think in a different way for a short time, but ultimately fail to make any real change. This is not one of those books. This book's power is in that it does not create a new hypothetical world for its ideas - it deals with the vital basics of our existence and bares truths that are so often obfuscated. This isn't a how-to guide to 'wellness', reading it won't automatically make you live a more satisfying life. In fact, it will make you question your entire life and burden you with its reality. But only from such an understanding can true enlightenment begin.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Becker presents the fields of theology, philosophy & psychology with a wonderful gift in his book The Denial of Death. This is a classic. He synthesizes the work of Otto Rank and Soren Kieerkegaard for the foundation that he builds from with his own creative additions. This book will change the way to think & feel. It will challenge you. You won't regret the time spent on this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
You could read a hundred books on psychology, philosophy, and psychotherapy and be baffled, or you could read this one book and get on with your life all the better for it. It's not for everyone, but I liked it a lot.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Read 'The Denial of Death' over 15 years ago and have never been the same since. It takes you to a place where you can stand on firm ground, not much mind you, but your ground none the less.
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It is a great book to understand our time! I recommend it.
JMCostanza More than 1 year ago
Excellent book by someone not afraid to confront the reality death...
Guest More than 1 year ago
Oftentimes we try to suppress the truth by inordinate means. Beckers book is a classic example of self denial on the authors part. Subjective introspection easily clears the air for any rational reader. I have read thousands of books on multiple subjects without ever surpassing this nonsensical tripe!!