Talk:The Denial of Death

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Removed the following:

There is now a movie based on this book called Flight from Death: The Quest for Immortality [1]to be available on DVD August or September 2005.

This can be stuck back in when it is actually released. -- Karada 23:32, 17 Jun 2005 (UTC)


Added a criticism section but can't seem to get the ref tag to work. Please correct if you know how. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 23:58, 4 October 2007 (UTC)

Why was the criticism section removed? Putting it back unless there is a reasonable explanation. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 00:02, 7 October 2007 (UTC)

I have removed the criticism section. An article this small does not need its own criticism section, please rework it into the main article. Also I don't believe a college essay is a good reference for wikipedia and the other references had little to do with this book. TimL 03:48, 20 October 2007 (UTC)

TimL: Why should the size of an article determine whether or not it has a criticism section? To me it's the ideas held within that matter.

I can see your argument against using a college paper, but I disagree with the idea that the other references had little to do with the book. From Denial of Death:

"Societies are standardized systems of death denial that give structure to rituals of heroic transcendence."

The UCLA paper specifically addresses this key concept as well as others stated throughout the book. Thoughts? 19:45, 31 October 2007 (UTC)

Unsourced, original research like an essay[edit]

I removed the following unsourced, original research which reads like an essay( Kiefer.Wolfowitz 08:49, 10 July 2011 (UTC)):

The basic premise of The Denial of Death is that human civilization is ultimately an elaborate, symbolic defense mechanism against the knowledge of our mortality, which in turn acts as the emotional and intellectual response to our basic survival mechanism. Becker argues that a basic duality in human life exists between the physical world of objects and a symbolic world of human meaning. Thus, since man has a dualistic nature consisting of a physical self and a symbolic self, man is able to transcend the dilemma of mortality through heroism, a concept involving his symbolic half. By embarking on what Becker refers to as an "immortality project" (or causa sui), in which he creates or becomes part of something which he feels will last forever, man feels he has "become" heroic and, henceforth, part of something eternal; something that will never die, compared to his physical body that will die one day. This, in turn, gives man the feeling that his life has meaning; a purpose; significance in the grand scheme of things.

From this premise, mental illness is most insightfully extrapolated as a bogging down in one's hero system(s). When someone is experiencing depression, their causa sui (or heroism project) is failing, and they are being consistently reminded of their mortality and insignificance as a result. Schizophrenia is a step further than depression in which one's causa sui is falling apart, making it impossible to engender sufficient defense mechanisms against their mortality; henceforth, the schizophrenic has to create their own reality or "world" in which they are better heroes. Becker argues that the conflict between immortality projects which contradict each other (particularly in religion) is the wellspring for the destruction and misery in our world caused by wars, bigotry, genocide, racism, nationalism, and so forth, since an immortality project which contradicts others indirectly suggests that the others are wrong.

Another theme running throughout the book is that humanity's traditional "hero-systems" i.e. religion, are no longer convincing in the age of reason; science is attempting to solve the problem of man, something that Becker feels it can never do. The book states that we need new convincing "illusions" that enable us to feel heroic in the grand scheme of things, i.e. immortal. 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 man's innate motivations, namely death, can help to bring about a better world.

Becker's work has had a wider cultural impact beyond the fields of psychology and philosophy. The book made an appearance in Woody Allen's film Annie Hall, when the death-obsessed character Alvy Singer buys it for his girlfriend, Annie Hall. It was referred to by Spalding Gray in his work, It's a Slippery Slope[1]. Bill Clinton quoted it in his autobiography; he also included it as one of twenty one titles in his list of favourite books[2].

Wikipedia is a work in progress. You should have simply added a tag stating that this section lacked references, not erase the whole section altogether. That was counter productive for the progress of this article because that section constituted the bulk of the entire page, now the article is lacking any information about the book's contents. 21:49, 4 July 2012 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk)

Agreed, it seems far more prudent to seek out references rather than simply remove significant content from the article. I'll put it back for now. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:32, 4 November 2012 (UTC)

Impact and the entire article[edit]

The Impact section desperately needs expansion. I don't have the expertise to expand it, but someone who does, should.

I also note that someone said on this talk page they deleted pretty much the entire article because it "reads like an essay" but the deleted material seems to be back again. Perhaps this matter should be discussed by those who have an interest in the article. Guyovski (talk) 16:29, 17 June 2012 (UTC)

Unsourced material may be deleted by any editor, and should not be re-inserted until there are citations that may be verified. Delete anything unsourced with my blessings. Kiefer.Wolfowitz 18:18, 17 June 2012 (UTC)
Okay, as per a discussion on the talk page of User:Kiefer.Wolfowitz, I've "been bold" and deleted the entire "Analysis" section because that was the best I could do. That edit should not be reverted unless the material can be sourced. While I don't share Kiefer.Wolfowitz's perspective on issues such as pseudoscience, nobody was going to do anything about this article unless I went ahead and did it, so I did the best I could. I encourage other editors to dig for sources that provide a summary of the book's content. Guyovski (talk) 20:43, 17 June 2012 (UTC)

Sex, gender, and relationships[edit]

This new section added recently (w/ subsections on Women and on Homsexuality) gives prominence to topics not specifically highlighted in The Denial of Death. I'll let this stand for now, as I realize this has probably been added in good faith. Nonetheless, it reflects the prominence of "identity politics" in today's cultural and political scene. And therefore using it as section headings in this article is a reflection of a current bias that has gained prominence since the book was published in 1973...and so was not the focus of Becker's magnum opus. I am rereading sections of the The Denial of Death now to see if I missed something along these lines, before I edit. Christian Roess (talk) 16:09, 27 December 2015 (UTC)


  1. ^ Gray, Spalding (Revised ed. (1997)). It's a Slippery Slope. USA, New York: Farrar Straus & Giroux Inc. ISBN 978-0374525231.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  2. ^ Clinton Presidential Library and Museum. "Biography — William J. Clinton". Retrieved 2009-08-05.