August 6

Review: The Denial of Death

Posted by William Berry | Filed under Reviews | No Comments


Ernest Becker’s Pulitzer Prize winning work, “The Denial of Death” kept creeping into my life. I’d see references to it and quotes from it. I decided, as an existentialist, I had to read it.

I absolutely loved the beginning of the book. And by “the beginning” I mean at least the first part. Part 1, “The Depth Psychology of Heroism”, encompasses the first 93 pages of the book and lays out his theory. I love how Becker exalts Freud for his recognition of our ceatureliness (sex and aggression as our main drives) but points out how he came up short in his theory, ignoring our fear of death, perhaps because of his own. Generally, and perhaps this is the bias of an absurdist, but I found his blunt confrontation of how the fear of death, and perhaps more so, how the combination of our creatureliness and consciousness, create an untenable situation. I loved how he builds an argument about how we used religion to overcome this, but how with the reduction of religious belief in recent centuries we have looked to partners and psychology to fill this void (unsuccessfully). Generally, I like his theory and his support for it.

After reading about half of the book my excitement waned, and I began to find it redundant. I understand that philosophical argument often becomes so (at least for me), and perhaps I am too impatient or simply not intelligent enough to appreciate the depth of an argument in support of a theory. It is also possible I really just didn’t like some of the conclusions he was coming to, due to my beliefs. As such, I don’t think my opinion should detract you from reading (at least half of) the book. Becker does an excellent job of reminding us that though we hold ourselves high above other aspects of creation, we will end up in exactly the same place.


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This entry was posted on Monday, August 6th, 2018 at 4:50 PM and is filed under Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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