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The Worm at the Core: On the Role of Death in Life Kindle Edition
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“A neat fusion of ideas borrowed from sociology, anthropology, existential philosophy and psychoanalysis . . . [The] sweep-it-under-the-carpet approach to death is facile and muddle-headed. More than that, it has consequences more far-reaching than we could possibly imagine because, as [the authors] see it, death informs practically every aspect of human existence. From the way we organise our societies to the moral codes we live by, even down to how we have sex and what rituals and emotions we ascribe to it, death is the bedrock.”—The Herald (U.K.)
“Deep, important, and beautifully written, The Worm at the Core describes a brilliant and utterly original program of scientific research on a force so powerful that it drives our lives, but so frightening that we cannot think clearly about it. This book asks us to, compels us to, and then shows us how—by shining the light of reason on the heart of human darkness.”—Daniel Gilbert, Edgar Pierce Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of Stumbling on Happiness
“As psychology becomes increasingly trivial, devolving into the promotion of positive-thinking platitudes, The Worm at the Core bucks the trend. The authors present—and provide robust evidence for—a psychological thesis with disturbing personal as well as political implications. This is an important book.”—John Horgan, author of The End of War and director of the Center for Science Writings, Stevens Institute of Technology
“This is a wonderfully (terrifyingly) broad and deep study of most everything we know or have thought about death. It carries Ernest Becker’s work a long way further down the road.”—Sam Keen, author of Faces of the Enemy
About the Author
Jeff Greenberg is a social psychology professor at the University of Arizona.
Tom Pyszczynski is a social psychologist, and he is notable, together with Jeff Greenberg and Sheldon Solomon, for founding the field of Terror Management Theory (TMT).
John Pruden is a professional voice actor who records audiobooks, corporate and online training narrations, animation and video game characters, and radio and TV commercials. An AudioFile Earphones Award winner, John has a solid creative foundation from which to draw for his intelligent audiobook narrations. --This text refers to the mp3_cd edition.
- File size : 7616 KB
- Publication date : May 12, 2015
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 263 pages
- Publisher : Random House (May 12, 2015)
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Language: : English
- Screen Reader : Supported
- ASIN : B00N6PELWO
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- Lending : Not Enabled
- Best Sellers Rank: #255,689 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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The book The Worm at the Core succeeds because it is an extension of Solomon's captivating lectures on the subject. Instead of just regurgitating the theories of Ernest Becker, the book succeeds because it provides the reader with the empirical corroboration of what Becker had suggested in his classical tome Denial of Death. Solomon and his colleagues write about the dozens of experiments that they have undertaken over the years to show how the fear of death leads to increased intolerance of the other. Although the writers are all tenured academics, they write in a way that is accessible for the layperson, avoiding any jargon that would make the book a tedious read for all but the few die-hard academics that need to consult it for their own research. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the human condition.
The Worm at the Core: On the Role of Death in Life clearly and succinctly summarizes these findings and suggests ways we can best manage these anxieties. If there were just one book I would have other people read, this would be it, along with Ernest Becker's The Denial of Death. For only if we become aware of our inner fears and find constructive ways to deal with them will we be able to create a kind, progressive world.
Top reviews from other countries
1) The invention of the catchy Terror Management Theory or TMT is a bogus attempt at creating an entirely new psychological field of understanding regarding the terror of death but in actual fact the theory of the terror of death has been around for thousands of years. The authors are merely trying to re-invent the wheel and are almost succeeding in convincing people that TMT is bona fide psychological branch of science in its own right. That would be acceptable if they were actually correct in their understanding of the fear of death themselves but I do not believe they are, despite their obvious dedication to the subject. I do not doubt their integrity or sincerity as people but I do doubt their understanding of the very theory they present.
2) I strongly doubt that the argument they put forward regarding the fear of death is wholly learned behaviour - Learned behaviour is obviously a factor but not the sole factor. I don't think they have taken into account other possibilities within our genes and so on. They assume because we have no memory between 0-5yrs then the fear wasn't present. I have no memory whatsoever of filling my nappy or feeding several times a day but am positive I did it. So memory or no memory of the fear of death doesn't mean that it wasn't there. They do strangely accept the understanding that we have an instinctual fear of death via freeze, flight or fight response - which is obviously not learned behaviour because it is operated outside of conscious control by the autonomic nervous system but the terror of death they say is not already inherent or passed on via our genes or pre-existing within our brains prior to the age of five. I find that a gross contradiction and serious misjudgement of the evidence and facts that they themselves present.
3) This book is based originally on the The Denial of Death by Dr Ernest Becker. That book won a 1974 Pulitzer Prize but it is very difficult to fathom the reason why. The book is not as groundbreaking or relevant as some would have us believe. It is actually quite mad in that it is too interested in re-writing, re-interpreting, re-imagining, re-inventing i.e offering a completely different version of Freudian psychoanalytical concepts that were never intended by Freud or his colleagues. Dr Becker's skewed psychoanalytical ramblings differ significantly from the mad ramblings of the original Freudian concepts but still he keeps a morbidly keen eye on the human anus and its excretions as well as Freud's sickness for falling in lust with his mother and seeing his father as a sexual rival (Oedipus complex). Becker's book (like this one) offers a seriously warped understanding of the subject of the terror of death and should really never have been published. Though Freud and his wildly mad as a hatter theories was probably still respected by the general public and professional bodies in both science and psychology at that time in the early 1970's. It might be a religious and cultural decision by the authors to focus on Becker's and Freud by proxy as well as William James (consulting friend of Freud) as there is a seemingly religious background connection to all of them. Which is not really important to anything at all unless it skews their understanding of the truth of the terror of death and I believe in this instance that it has damaged their perspective.
3) The arguments relating to the awful treatment of Romanian children in the 1980's and 1990's actually proves we are born with the fear of death rather than disproves it as is their intention! The fear of death is clearly a natural motivating force that we are born with. Put a child of one, two or three in front of a barking and snarling dog and watch the fear arise instantly!
Stating that the fear of death is natural is not the same as saying that it cannot become troublesome or a pathological problem because indeed it can. Little is actually understood about how the fear of death truly affects us and that is quite a mystery as to the reason why that should be. Unfortunately I think that this book adds to the confusion rather than helps clear matters up.
4) I think what we are really seeing in this book is the Freudian psychoanalytical over-obsession with childhood pee, poo and sexuality. Literally too much interest in the anus. These guys actually believe that pee and poo in childhood has some relevance to the terror of death: 'When you pee or poop, the wetness disappears into soft dryness.' That is a direct quote from one of their many weird sentences and utterances on the subject of death and your terror of it. We are not seeing a genuine attempt to look at the facts of the terror of death but rather look through their bias towards it as if before they began their research on the subject they had already decided Freud's work and Becker's updated neo-psychoanalysis would fit the theory if they forced it enough but it is really the application of outdated and quite mad Freudian concepts from a bygone era.
5) Even if they were looking at it from the perspective of psychoanalysis then the likes of Alfred Adler (former Freudian psychoanalyst) could have helped them to understand the terror of death far better than Freud, Otto Rank or Ernest Becker ever could. Adler understood far more than all of them put together and at least had some grasp of motivation and the linear and cyclic movements of opposites that affect choices, decisions and how things change generally.
6) Their ultimate master-theory is to strengthen your ego, build up your self-esteem - but the terror is actually caused by the ego and the ego needs to be dissolved i.e through spirituality i.e. Vedanta.
So my review is fairly scathing - in summary it is Freudian psychobabble and it is a bona fide subject ruined and misinterpreted based on bias and misunderstanding. Science and understanding has moved on since the days of Freud and answers and facts are to be found in all areas, and in all cultures, across professional disciplines and that this book would have been richer for those influences to have crept in. So it is not in the least bit objective, professional or scientific. I really do not think the authors understand what they are talking about ultimately.