Escape from Evil

Posted by on Apr 26, 2007 in Blog, Philosophy, Review | 0 comments

Escape From Evil was written by Ernest Becker, the Pulitzer prize winning author of “The Denial of Death,” and is seemingly an interesting book. I haven’t really read much of the book, but was compelled by it to write a review. I’m not going to read it since I don’t have much time to read books that won’t have a direct impact on me. This book can have a direct impact on anyone though. The book is about sociology, ritual, anthropology, and the immortality ideology.

The idea of the book is that we, as humans, because we are conscious of our death, that we try to do whatever we can so that we are immortal. Now this is not the most accurate synopsis of the book since i haven’t read it, but it gives you an idea of what the book is about.

Two excerpts from the introduction struck out at me, and I’m going to list them here. Afterwards, I’m going to type up the chapter titles so you can have more of an idea of what the book is about. I may decide to read this book in its entirety in the future, but as of now, I have like 20 other library books that have more of a precedence than this one despite that it is seemingly a fascinating read.

“What will come of my life. . . . Is there any meaning in my life that the inevitable death awaiting me does not destroy?” – Leo Tolstoy, A Confession, 1882.

This is mankind’s age-old dilemma in the face of death: it is the meaning of the thing that is of paramount importance; what man really fears is not so much extinction, but extinction with insignificance. Man wants to know that his life has somehow counted, if not for himself, then at least for a larger scheme of things, that it has left a trace, a trace that has meaning, its effects must remain alive in eternity in some way. Or, if there is to be a “final” tally of the scurrying of man on earth – a “judgment day” – then this trace of one’s life must enter that tally and put on record who one was and that what one did was significant.

The other thing that I wanted to quote is pretty much a summary of the book. People fear being insignificant, and so in trying to be significant, they wreak havoc along the way.

In seeking to avoid evil, man is responsible for bringing more evil into the world than organisms could ever do merely by exercising their digestive tracts. It is man’s ingenuity, rather than his animal nature, that has given his fellow creatures such a bitter earthly fate.

And here is the chapter listing.

Introduction. The Human Condition: Between Appetite and Ingenuity
1. The Primitive World: Ritual as Practical Technics
2. The Primitive World: Economics as Expiation and Power
3. The Origin of Inequality
4. The Evolution of Inequality
5. The New historical Forms of Immortality Power
6. Money: The New Universal Immortality Ideology
7. The Basic Dynamic of Human Evil
8. The Nature of Social Evil
9. Social Theory: The Merger of Marx and Freud
10. Retrospect and Conclusion: What Is the Heroic Society?

And one last quote from the conclusion that I’m currently reading.

For all organisms, then, opposing and obliterating power is evil – it threatens to stop experience. But men are truly sorry creatures because they have made death conscious. They can see evil in anything that wounds them, causes ill health, or even deprives them of pleasure. Consciousness means too that they have to be preoccupied with evil even in the absence of any immediate danger; their lives become a meditation on evil and a planned venture for controlling it and forestalling it.

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