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The Birth and Death of Meaning: An Interdisciplinary Perspective on the Problem of Man
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The Birth and Death of Meaning: An Interdisciplinary Perspective on the Problem of Man

4.37 of 5 stars 4.37  ·  rating details  ·  259 ratings  ·  12 reviews

Uses the disciplines of psychology, anthropology, sociology and psychiatry to explain what makes people act the way they do.
Paperback, 2nd Edition, 228 pages
Published September 1st 1971 by Free Press (first published January 1st 1962)
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The Birth and Death of Meaning by Ernest BeckerThe Politics of Experience/The Bird of Paradise by R.D. LaingThe Sane Society by Erich FrommTo Have or to Be? The Nature of the Psyche by Erich FrommThe Divided Self by R.D. Laing
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Leon Sandler
An absolutely amazing work. In the introduction, Becker sets out to answer the question "Why do people do what they do?" What follows, across 200 pages, is a remarkably well-constructed and well-written study on the development of selfhood and culture. Becker's work is truly interdisciplinary and draws on evolutionary biology, developmental psychology, anthropology, philosophy and literature. The book reveals the link between the organization of human societies and the vital, personal need for s ...more
As only Ernest Becker can do, this book serves as great 'prequel' to the better know Denial of Death & Escape From Evil. The writing style is comfortable and puts together key pieces of anthropology, sociology and psychology to lay the groundwork for understanding how we've built our cultures and fictions to deal with the world. A must read for anyone interested in the social sciences.
Toby Newton
Quite simply one of the most important books that I have ever read - the work of an absolute genius of the very first order. To read it with an open mind and with a willingness to attend is to usher in the possibility of super-pleasure and super-thought. Buy, read. Digest. Read again. Percolate. Read again.
Mind: Blown.
Life changing.
Valerie Seckler
Becker's "The Birth and Death of Meaning" was one of the most important books in a life of reading and one of this reader's most exciting learning experiences, as taught by Arthur LeGacy in his Syracuse University class, "Psychoanalysis and History."
Amy M
This book was required reading for one of the film theory classes I took in college. Unlike the rest of my college texts, I still have this book. Becker's concepts were quickly assimilated into my post-college belief system; probably leading me to all that Ayn Rand and Kurt Vonnegut reading of my post-college years. In fact, I think it's time for me to re-read this book so I can perhaps have more sympathy for those who are like the boxer in Becker's book: "I could have been a champion!"
Donna Sandidge
This book took forever to read. Excellent writing, interesting subject.
Jamie Dunbaugh
Possibly the most important and vindicating books I've ever read.
This book is a wonderful book of the human spirit!
May 17, 2010 Nathen added it
essential for any analyst
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Dr. Ernest Becker was a cultural anthropologist and interdisciplinary scientific thinker and writer.

Becker was born in Springfield, Massachusetts to Jewish immigrant parents. After completing military service, in which he served in the infantry and helped to liberate a Nazi concentration camp, he attended Syracuse University in New York. Upon graduation he joined the US Embassy in Paris as an admi
More about Ernest Becker...
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“We have become victims of our own art. We touch people on the outsides of their bodies, and they us, but we cannot get to their insides and cannot reveal our insides to them. This is one of the great tragedies of our interiority-it is utterly personal and unrevealable. Often we want to say something unusually intimate to a spouse, a parent, a friend, communicate something of how we are really feeling about a sunset, who we really feel we are-only to fall strangely and miserably flat. Once in a great while we succeed, sometimes more with one person, less or never with others. But the occasional break-through only proves the rule. You reach out with a disclosure, fail, and fall back bitterly into yourself.” 16 likes
“Try repeating “man is an animal" a few times, just to notice how unconvincing it sounds. There seems to be no way to get this idea into our heads, except by long rumination over the facts of evolution or perhaps by exposure to a primitive tribe or by being raised on a farm. Primitives sometimes see little difference between themselves and the animals around them. Karl von den Steinen was told by a Xingu that the only difference between them and the monkey was that they monkeys lacked the bow and arrow. And Jules Henry observed on the Kningang that dogs are not considered pets, like some of the other animals, but are on a level of emotional equality, like a relative. But in our own Western culture we have, for the most part, set a great distance between ourselves and the rest of nature, and language helps us to do this. Thus we say that a sheep “drops" its lamb, but a woman “gives birth"—it’s much more noble. Yet we have the right to make such distinctions because we assign the meaning to the world by naming names of things; we inhabit a different sphere and we capitalize naturally on the privilege.” 4 likes
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