The Denial of Death, first edition. 1974, two months after the author’s death. Becker argues that a basic duality in human life exists between the physical the denial of death by ernest becker pdf of objects and a symbolic world of human meaning. This, in turn, gives people the feeling that their lives have meaning, a purpose, and are significant in the grand scheme of things.
Becker argues that the arbitrariness of human-invented immortality projects makes them naturally prone to conflict. When one immortality project conflicts with another, it is essentially an accusation of ‘wrongness of life’, and so sets the context for both aggressive and defensive behavior. Each party will want to prove its belief system is superior, a better way of life. Science attempts to serve as an immortality project, something that Becker believes it can never do, because it is unable to provide agreeable, absolute meanings to human life.
The book states that we need new convincing “illusions” that enable us to feel heroic in ways that are agreeable. Becker, however, does not provide any definitive answer, mainly because he believes that there is no perfect solution. Instead, he hopes that gradual realization of humanity’s innate motivations, namely death, can help to bring about a better world. From this premise, mental illness is described as opposite, dysfunctional extremes in one’s relationship with their own immortality project. They either begin to think the immortality project is false, or feel unable to successfully be a hero in terms of that immortality project.