Has anyone read Ernest Becker's "The Denial of Death"?

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Wren

Wren

BIRDS AREN'T REAL
Jan 7, 2020
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45
I am trying for the third time to get through the book. I'm one third in. Perhaps I'm too stupid to understand, or maybe his overly verbose and dry writing makes the progress so painfully slow. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but what I think Becker's saying is:

Fear, and namely fear of death, is the most fundamental human emotion. We all know subconsciously that we'll die one day and try our best not to think about it in our daily lives, preferring to think we are immortal for today. We are scared of dying and thus create distractions to occupy our minds. We take on projects - work, family, hobbies, research, anything we deem meaningful - and lose ourselves in them in hopes of achieving recognition and greatness that will outlast ourselves, making us figuratively immortal and thus denying death.
If one lacks this passion project, they are left without a purpose and feel they don't matter and are constantly aware of the inevitability of death.

So, what I find interesting is that some people (like us gathered here) are fully aware of their mortality and are willing to take their own lives. Be it a rational outcome of thinking, a nihilist philosophy or a mental illness, this behaviour contradicts the prime directive of Life - to reproduce and secure the continuation of our lineage. We don't play by these rules, we are nature's deviations.
Contradicting life itself seems to me like the most courageous endeavour a man can undertake. I might be exaggerating, but isn't this the highest form of heroism and triumph?

As always, these things are subjective, but I'd be interested what you might have to say.
 
MiserableBastard1995

MiserableBastard1995

Veteran
Mar 17, 2018
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Nice try Mr. Gubberment Man
A copy of the book is on my shelf, but it'll be some months before I have time to properly read it. For what little it's worth, I think you make some very good points.
 
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Meretlein

Meretlein

Expired Meat
Feb 15, 2019
781
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For me heroism is something selfless. While suicide is not selfish, I don't see it as selfless either. It is simply a desperate move to get out of unbearable pain.
 
CynicalHopelessness

CynicalHopelessness

Tormented soul
Jan 9, 2020
164
381
Belarus
this behaviour contradicts the prime directive of Life - to reproduce and secure the continuation of our lineage
I don't think it does, if we are talking about evolution via natural selection. The prime directive of life is to throw dice around. Some throws are successful and reproduce, but some are bound to be not and die. Every generation will have a chance of a defect that drives them to the brink of death. Doesn't even have to be something severe. One can get a combination of being very empathetic and very rational, which sounds nice in abstract, but complicates survival in our global interconnected society with its woes. Whoops, bad roll, let it die.

Contradicting life itself seems to me like the most courageous endeavour a man can undertake. I might be exaggerating, but isn't this the highest form of heroism and triumph?
Well, it's not heroism, probably, but I do see voluntary death for own sake as a bittersweet triumph of consciousness and will over animal instincts, if that makes any sense.
 
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Wren

Wren

BIRDS AREN'T REAL
Jan 7, 2020
33
45
The prime directive of life is to throw dice around. Some throws are successful and reproduce, but some are bound to be not and die
That would make us the failed throws. Aren't we then bound to be the failed ones from the beginning? Wouldn't this make us those few who don't fit into the game of life? It's not our fault we are flawed, as we were made this way.
I'm not seeking justifications for the way I am, it just seems like some people are flawed by design and while our fates are in our own hands, we were dealt bad unjust cards in the beginning.


Your second thought makes perfect sense. Thanks for replying.
 
CynicalHopelessness

CynicalHopelessness

Tormented soul
Jan 9, 2020
164
381
Belarus
I'm not seeking justifications for the way I am, it just seems like some people are flawed by design and while our fates are in our own hands, we were dealt bad unjust cards in the beginning.
Well, yes, but no.

It's more peculiar than just being flawed. Our specifics are maladapted for reproduction in current environment. Life is about genes survival, not individual's - well, that's how I see it. Bad cards, yeah, though life doesn't have a concept of justice.

Consciousness, though, adds a layer of complication. We can invent our own meaning. Laugh in a face of the game of life, in a sense, and pick something else to shape our day to day life. The drawbacks being, it also enables us to be aware of our own suffering, the animal instincts are still there, and the global society we've built over millennia sucks at reducing suffering.

Then again. If I weren't depressed in the slightest, but refuse to reproduce, I'd be a failure by that "logic of life". If I had unprotected sex with hundreds of partners (stretching my imagination), but stil yeet myself at the age of 27, I'd be a success. This disgusts me so much, the only winning move for me is not to play, lol.
 
Mort

Mort

No use to know one
Feb 15, 2019
468
803
I am trying for the third time to get through the book. I'm one third in. Perhaps I'm too stupid to understand, or maybe his overly verbose and dry writing makes the progress so painfully slow. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but what I think Becker's saying is:




So, what I find interesting is that some people (like us gathered here) are fully aware of their mortality and are willing to take their own lives. Be it a rational outcome of thinking, a nihilist philosophy or a mental illness, this behaviour contradicts the prime directive of Life - to reproduce and secure the continuation of our lineage. We don't play by these rules, we are nature's deviations.
Contradicting life itself seems to me like the most courageous endeavour a man can undertake. I might be exaggerating, but isn't this the highest form of heroism and triumph?

As always, these things are subjective, but I'd be interested what you might have to say.
What to counter point that book look up efilems that's a good head scratcher all so they a post on here about it sum were thats were i got the info
 
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WhyIsLife56

WhyIsLife56

Antinatalism + Efilism ❤️
Nov 4, 2019
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Have you heard of The Conspiracy Against the Human Race?
 
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Temporarilyabsurd

Temporarilyabsurd

NOISE:signal
Apr 27, 2018
440
1,096
@Wren

You're speaking my language !

I torrented the Blackstone Audio , audio book version ( I cannot recomend this highly enough - it is very well read ! )about five years ago .
I've listened to it dozens of times ... in my sleep lol !

I was drying out from 30+ years of alcoholism after a lifetime of unprocessed post fundamentalist childhood trauma ...
but thats another story ... although it was my entry into Beckers world .

My major take away is that ALL culture is fake and synthetic ... and basically a control system .
You need to conform as a "grey man" in order to fit in and thrive .
Be a "true believer " ( brass buttons , flags , uniforms ... ORDER ).

I've always been anti authoritarian so that is my buzz.

My other take away is the concept that our base drives are mirror images of organic life .

Life ingests other life in order to survive .

We oppress others in order to take away their power and enhance our own .
I see it everywhere I look in society .

I felt hopeless for a while ( well I'm here aren't I ? ) and still do ... apart from a slight glimmer of hope via a new "synthetic"
loving kindness 'project' from the compassionate world of the Buddha .

the reduction of suffering is the doorway for humanity ( trumpet blast ) :heh:

-see my 'signiature' for a blurb from beckers "escape from evil" ...

( I joke that I have become one of "Beckers Witnesses" ... I'll be knockin' on your door tomorrow ! )

This guy Becker totally gets it I reckon ... Changed my life .


edit to add .

1 some of the ideas are a bit dated and Uber-Freudian eg stiletto fetish and other sexual Freudian stuff ... (grain of salt land)

2 Sheldon Solomon on Youtube about TMT ... an into to Beckers legacy research work .

3 Becker re-presents ideas by Kierkergaard and Otto Rank .
there is a beautiful way that psychoanalysis is transmuted into theology ( as in the study of the soul ... not religious but "spiritual" as we understand it today in a strictly NON "woo woo " sense . Our internal world , subconscious etc .

Otto Rank appears to be a forgotten Freudian circle psychoanaltical theorist and broke with Freud over "basic drives " ( death v sex ) ... Becker seems to be presenting Rank ideas as much as presenting "new" thought .
He says as much and I rate him very highly for his humility in spending so much time presenting "old" forgotten thought for a newer audience .

The only bad thing about this book is that Bill Clinton recomends it :sunglasses:
 
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Wren

Wren

BIRDS AREN'T REAL
Jan 7, 2020
33
45
look up efilems
I'm not sure what are you saying, there's no results in search for that.

Have you heard of The Conspiracy Against the Human Race?
I haven't, but it's on my to-read list now! Thanks for the tip!



@Temporarilyabsurd
There's over half of the book remaining for me, so I'll refrain from forming concrete opinoins, thus no comments from me yet. I'm hapy to see someone so passionate about this. Come knock on my door anytime, I'll put the kettle on.
Otto Rank was brought up so frequently in the beginning I though Becker is just parapharasing him.
 
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Mort

Mort

No use to know one
Feb 15, 2019
468
803
I'm not sure what are you saying, there's no results in search for that.


I haven't, but it's on my to-read list now! Thanks for the tip!



@Temporarilyabsurd
There's over half of the book remaining for me, so I'll refrain from forming concrete opinoins, thus no comments from me yet. I'm hapy to see someone so passionate about this. Come knock on my door anytime, I'll put the kettle on.
Otto Rank was brought up so frequently in the beginning I though Becker is just parapharasing him.
https://efilism.fandom.com/wiki/Efilism_Wiki sorry about that here a web link see if that works ok
 
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WhyIsLife56

WhyIsLife56

Antinatalism + Efilism ❤️
Nov 4, 2019
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I think more people should get into Efilism.
Humans aren't the only ones suffering out there.
 
Wren

Wren

BIRDS AREN'T REAL
Jan 7, 2020
33
45
@Mort and @WhyIsLife56 :

Got the link, thanks, but I can't take it seriously.
I mean no offense as everyone can adhere to whatever worldview they are inclined towards, but this one seems absolutely absurd and egoistic. Aside from the article's overly dramatic writing appealing to emotion, the whole movement seems to be built on one false preremise - personification of nature/universe/life. It's not cruel or sadistic to spite us, it just is. Minimizing suffering is good and I agree with that, but defending this saying ''no one will sufer if no one is alive'' is childish. I sympathise with antinatalism, and will not continue my lineage, but as long as just one single human sees a point in living, it becomes moot.

I will read on it further, but these are my two cents so far.
 
WhyIsLife56

WhyIsLife56

Antinatalism + Efilism ❤️
Nov 4, 2019
896
2,275
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@Mort and @WhyIsLife56 :

Got the link, thanks, but I can't take it seriously.
I mean no offense as everyone can adhere to whatever worldview they are inclined towards, but this one seems absolutely absurd and egoistic. Aside from the article's overly dramatic writing appealing to emotion, the whole movement seems to be built on one false preremise - personification of nature/universe/life. It's not cruel or sadistic to spite us, it just is. Minimizing suffering is good and I agree with that, but defending this saying ''no one will sufer if no one is alive'' is childish. I sympathise with antinatalism, and will not continue my lineage, but as long as just one single human sees a point in living, it becomes moot.

I will read on it further, but these are my two cents so far.
Human existence is random. You don't think that's cruel?
Everything is random.
Although nature doesn't care about human opinions. It will gladly make humans, animals and plant suffer. Cause that's what it's meant to do. It doesn't care about you.
 
Wren

Wren

BIRDS AREN'T REAL
Jan 7, 2020
33
45
@WhyIsLife56
A force of nature cannot be cruel or benevolent because these are human traits that we project on inanimate objects because we are egocentric (anthropocentric?).
I don't get angry at colour green, argue with fish, hold grudges against pineapples, or fight windmills. That would be ridiculous. How is spiting life any different?
 
WhyIsLife56

WhyIsLife56

Antinatalism + Efilism ❤️
Nov 4, 2019
896
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@WhyIsLife56
A force of nature cannot be cruel or benevolent because these are human traits that we project on inanimate objects because we are egocentric (anthropocentric?).
I don't get angry at colour green, argue with fish, hold grudges against pineapples, or fight windmills. That would be ridiculous. How is spiting life any different?
I'm talking about entropy.
 
Wren

Wren

BIRDS AREN'T REAL
Jan 7, 2020
33
45
Every day. It just happened at random, or rather thanks to chains of cause and effect and no one is to blame. Is this the randomness and entropy you mean?

Why does anything exist when it doesn't need to?
Saying anything needs or doesn't need to exist implies intent or intrinsic meaning. Both of which are imposed by humans.
 
WhyIsLife56

WhyIsLife56

Antinatalism + Efilism ❤️
Nov 4, 2019
896
2,275
USA
Every day. It just happened at random, or rather thanks to chains of cause and effect and no one is to blame. Is this the randomness and entropy you mean?


Saying anything needs or doesn't need to exist implies intent or intrinsic meaning. Both of which are imposed by humans.
It's called compassion. Look it up
 
WhyIsLife56

WhyIsLife56

Antinatalism + Efilism ❤️
Nov 4, 2019
896
2,275
USA
I must admit I lost you or where you're heading.
You seem to not have any compassion for any other living beings. Try watching the Dominion documentary and not throw up.

Humans aren't the center of the universe. Just because animals don't have human consciousness doesn't mean they're not suffering. Birds, pigs and dolphins are proven to be as smart as humans are.

Just because someone has a consciousness doesn't mean they're intelligent or smart.
Just because someone is of adult age doesn't mean they're mature.
 
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Wren

Wren

BIRDS AREN'T REAL
Jan 7, 2020
33
45
@WhyIsLife56
I do have compassion, just don't see how it's relevant to the discussion at hand. Compassion with all living things doesn't clarify to me how's this philosophy valid. Assuming we can decide for other forms of life or know what's better for them or how they suffer is just as egoistic as proclaiming ourselves as the masters of the universe.
I see efilism as corny and cannot take it seriously due to this assumption that Life is evil, spiteful, sadistic and is pretty much human while it's not.


We can wrap this up now if you wish.


PS: I saw a similar documentary in youth and it traumatized me for a long time.
 
B

Backwood_tilt

Wise
Dec 27, 2019
220
301
The only bad thing about this book is that Bill Clinton recomends it :sunglasses:
:pfff: :pfff:

As temporarilyabsurd says, you need to check out of the work of Sheldon Solomon/Jeff GReenberg. Terror Management Theory is the name of the concept, and it is developed in part from Becker's work.

There are some interesting and fun effects you observe in people when you prime them to think about death.
 
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WhyIsLife56

WhyIsLife56

Antinatalism + Efilism ❤️
Nov 4, 2019
896
2,275
USA
@WhyIsLife56
I do have compassion, just don't see how it's relevant to the discussion at hand. Compassion with all living things doesn't clarify to me how's this philosophy valid. Assuming we can decide for other forms of life or know what's better for them or how they suffer is just as egoistic as proclaiming ourselves as the masters of the universe.
I see efilism as corny and cannot take it seriously due to this assumption that Life is evil, spiteful, sadistic and is pretty much human while it's not.


We can wrap this up now if you wish.


PS: I saw a similar documentary in youth and it traumatized me for a long time.
You're too delusional about life.
 
Wren

Wren

BIRDS AREN'T REAL
Jan 7, 2020
33
45
@Backwood_tilt
Will check it out, thanks!

@WhyIsLife56
That statement says nothing, so let's us drop this now. Thanks for the discussion.