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Darwin's Worms On Life Stories And Death Stories Paperback – February 5, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A dazzling, poetic writer." -- Sunday Times, London

"A new book by Adam Phillips is a literary event worth noting." -- Anthony Storr, The Times, London --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Adam Phillips has been called "the closest thing we have to a philosopher of happiness." Formerly Principal Child Psychotherapist at Charing Cross Hospital in London, Phillips is the author of such works as Winnicott; On Kissing, Tickling, and Being Bored; Monogamy; On Flirtation; Terror and Experts; Darwin's Worms; Promises, Promises; and Houdini's Box.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 148 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; Reprint edition (February 7, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465056768
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465056767
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,303,537 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Karen Batres on March 16, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As usual, Phillips' disarmingly easy prose reveals a great deal of thought about the stories behind the stories: the messages that can only be found by asking the right questions. This erudite author can point the way toward new ways of thinking about psychoanalytical themes because he calls on a wealth of knowledge and synthetical ability. Be warned, however, that the reader has to take his own psychoanalytical knowledge to the encounter and be willing to track down some of Phillips' references from time to time. The clearness of his writing hides a number of concepts that the author presumes his audience knows. Whether you agree with his conclusions or not is irrelevant, the experience is worth the effort and can make a reader clarify his own thinking.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Michael Guttentag on December 22, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This book consists of four somewhat related essays on what Darwin and Freud have to say about how to live a life in the face of the transient nature of existence. Disappointingly, the essays fail to address this interesting question effectively. Instead, Darwin's Worms is a collection of brief, descriptive essays on a few elements of Darwin and Freud's thinking.
The first essay sets out the question. Darwin and Freud are two thinkers who are probably most central to the "existential" worldview, the view that there is no greater "being" responsible for or looking over our actions. As a result, each of these writers was keenly aware of the relevance of "transience" as an element of living a life. Darwin saw that transience was a natural element of his theory of evolution, and Freud saw mourning and loss as a critical component in the dynamic of the psyche. So the interesting question arises: what did each of these thinkers have to say about how to live a life in this new world into which they thrust us. This question is particularly intriguing since both viewed themselves as scientists for whom direct speculation on these issues would be inappropriate. The answer to the question needs to be carefully teased from their writings. Unfortunately, the author does not carry through this exercise.
The second essay focuses on Darwin and what can be learned from his interest in the productivity of worms. The writer provides a light pastel portrait of Darwin and considers the broader implications of Darwin's interest in worms. But for me the review was too cursory and I had no sense from this of Darwin's answer as to how to live an "existential" life. At best, this was a teaser to read the more detailed work done by Darwin's biographers.
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11 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Even though Adams is a brilliant thinker his writing lacks lucidity. His book promises too much, and delivers too little. I know he has an argument, but his writing style lacks deduction and his ideas need further development. It is almost easier to read Hegel's mind than to decipher the connection between Adam's premises. If you are not totally familiar with the works of Darwin and Freud be ware; Adams should not be your starting point.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Tony Bravo on March 10, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Brilliantly integrated discussion of Darwin's and Freud's career in the exploration of the human place in nature, of nature. Darwin finds in the worms that create and recreate the planet's topsoil a new sense of the fecundity of death. Freud life provides his self-example of the human death instinct—the drive to control the means and meanings of one's life by disabling the biographers' data and the terms of one's own dying.

Phillips's prose style is a sentence-by-sentence tapestry of grace and insight.
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