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The Structure of Evil: An Essay on the Unification of the Science of Man

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30 review for The Structure of Evil: An Essay on the Unification of the Science of Man

  1. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    To me, Ernest Becker is a seldom seen giant, a thinker of the highest order, a tragically under-read, under-appreciated source of vital understanding in a world overfull with trivia. It’s not that he deserves to be as well known as Freud or Kant. It’s that the world needs him to be so well known. Every time I read him I copy down page upon page of quotes. Sometimes a mere phrase will send me off, utterly compelled, to write an essay. I am convinced that no one can dismiss him unless they are thr To me, Ernest Becker is a seldom seen giant, a thinker of the highest order, a tragically under-read, under-appreciated source of vital understanding in a world overfull with trivia. It’s not that he deserves to be as well known as Freud or Kant. It’s that the world needs him to be so well known. Every time I read him I copy down page upon page of quotes. Sometimes a mere phrase will send me off, utterly compelled, to write an essay. I am convinced that no one can dismiss him unless they are threatened by the truth he invariably reveals. The fact that he lived only a half century is an inestimably loss for mankind. “Man is the only animal who is not ‘built into’ his world instinctually. An animal with an instinctive set of responses suffers limitations because its world is already ‘ready-made’ for it. Evolution has built up the proper response patterns and sealed the animal firmly into its adaptational mold. Man alone among the animals gradually develops his own perceptual response world by means of imaginative guiding concepts. He is actually in this way, continually creating his own reality.” Homo poeta - man, the creator of meaning. Thus the problem of man. How to live. How to understand. When all the while he is trapped in the reality of his own creation. “Every thinker reaches beyond his competence by the very act of thought.” Because our position in existence is utterly contingent upon the forces that we are born into, because, “…society can function as a huge drama of the creation of meaning, which continues on under its own complex momentum”, because, “in the unity of the world of the mind the whole precedes the part,” Becker stresses the necessity of taking a historical account of man’s ‘problem’ in order to shed some light on our present plight and perspective. Like the Ghost of Anthropology Past, he takes us on a dazzling tour through the readings and misreadings of centuries of great thinkers, enlightening us by first, revealing the ‘Copernican shift’ in the human sciences as the necessity to treat science as a means and man as an end (something we are still not doing), and second, to delineate the social science equivalent of physical science’s superordinating law of gravity. How audaciously ambitious. And, I’d say, unless you take the ride that is this book, you may find a way to dismiss or depreciate the answer that Becker eventually gives. We, as a society, compulsively fail to understand how we are now following science as blindly as our ancestors, a millennium ago, followed God. In both cases we are slaves to the securities and gratifications the meanings we derive from these superordinating forces provide us. Capitalists have replaced the church as the intermediary power. “when a country is run on the principle of a blind and wishful national lottery, held daily in Wall Street, the stakes for the lottery may be nothing less than the end of the world–and this, whether the people who are playing know it or not.” “the problem of investing meaning in a narrow segment of the total environmental field in order to facilitate some kind of control, some kind of self-assertion–‘fetishizing of the field’, a clumsy but intense attempt to pinpoint some manageable locus of activity, when one is swimming in a sea of meaninglessness.” Understanding this helps one understand that man has no business investigating or claiming knowledge to anything before he understands himself. That is to say, whether it is science or God, such an aspiration can be nothing more than another means to reveal to ourselves something of the ultimate mystery: Ourselves! Thus we should warily shun anything but our human being as such an end. “To be aware of a man therefore, means in particular to perceive his wholeness as a person determined by the spirit; it means to perceive the dynamic center which stamps his every utterance, action and attitude with the recognizable sign of uniqueness. Such an awareness is impossible, however, if and so long as the other is the separated object of my contemplation or even observation, for this wholeness and its center do not let themselves be known to contemplation or observation;” says Martin Buber. “In other words,” Becker adds, “man is an infinite unknowable whom we destroy and make finite, by objectifying him in social roles, by using him as a role-playing source of cues to our own uncritical cultural performance.” Is this not more or less what Derrida taught us about language and what Einstein taught us about physical phenomena? All that we do is a means to elicit returns of meaning from the arbitrary world that is our culture. This is how Becker concludes that self-esteem is the superordinating force of man. “like the principle of gravity, our principle must explain apparently contradictory phenomena: it explains the most disparate life styles as variations around the single theme of self-esteem maintenance. Just as gravity explains both the northward course of the Rhine and the southward course of the Rhone, so the principle of self-esteem maintenance ‘explains’ both schizophrenia and depression, sadism and masochism, hypersexuality and homosexuality, passivity and aggressivity, and so on.” Ultimately what Becker is proposing is a wake-up call, to understand that ‘evil’ is all that keeps us impoverished of understanding and fulfillment, and the primary ‘evil’ is the combination of our willingness to be certain–whether in God, in science or elsewhere–and our willingness to forsake the ultimate mystery of our own being. Becker’s ‘evil’, I’d say, is remarkably, indistinguishable to all that Siddhārtha Gautama meant by ignorance. Indeed his urge, to use the power of science to free man from his ignorance is just as consistent, especially in light of the fact that the scientific method’s paradigmatic maxim ‘Nullius in verba’, ‘on the word of no one’ i.e. ‘see for yourself’, can be attributed to the Buddha some 2,000 years before the birth of science.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Nicolas Name

    This is not his best work. If new to Becker, I would recommend The Denial of Death or Escape from Evil. This book, in comparison to the others, is mostly forgettable.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jayalexn

  4. 5 out of 5

    Tommy Schmitz

  5. 4 out of 5

    César Benedicto

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jussara

  7. 4 out of 5

    Alberto Ibarra

  8. 4 out of 5

    Lex Gore

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tim

  10. 5 out of 5

    Chris Huzinec

  11. 5 out of 5

    Blindvisionary

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ксения Чистопольская

  13. 4 out of 5

    Gk68

  14. 5 out of 5

  15. 4 out of 5

    Eduardo Moraes

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mac

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kate

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jason

  19. 5 out of 5

    Nico Badeaux

  20. 4 out of 5

    Adrian

  21. 4 out of 5

    Chris Rose

  22. 4 out of 5

    Muhamed Ehab

  23. 4 out of 5

    John Allen

  24. 4 out of 5

    Luiz

  25. 4 out of 5

    Hills

  26. 5 out of 5

    Reuben

  27. 4 out of 5

    Larry West

  28. 4 out of 5

    Josh Fritz

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kevin R

  30. 4 out of 5

    Tommy Schmitz

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