[percy-l] Ernest Becker's 1974 Pulitzer Prize winner: The Denial of Death

Karey Perkins karey at kareyperkins.com
Sat Jul 15 17:40:31 EDT 2006

Hi Robert, et al-


I am off-teaching until September 1 and finally have time to wrap this thing
up.  and it needs to be done by then!  So, that's where I'm completely
focused for the next couple of months!  Re: Jaynes, the background of
language origins, etc., that is probably less important to what I'm doing -
except insofar as it relates to what symbol is, and so, what a human being
is.  But I did want to briefly cover them.


Now, a more important question for anyone on the list:  


Did Percy read Ernest Becker's Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Denial of
Death?  It is really fantastic.  I think he would have loved it.  Becker is
cultural anthropologist who covers so much of what Percy was discussing,
though language itself is less central.  But human "symbol-mongering"
ability is important.  He uses a lot of Otto Rank, another student of Freud,
bypassing Jung for the most part (Percy was a member of the Jungian
discussion group) as he considered Jung more esoteric than Rank, and also
more prominent and therefore more widely discussed already.  He discusses at
length Rank's interpretation of Kierkegaard.  He mentions Langer too.
Anyway, so many of his ideas/themes are repeated in Percy - but Percy was
talking about these things way before Becker, I believe.  Becker just says
them so well.  Anyway, his ultimate thesis is (amongst the many points he
makes) that the world is terrifying, the inevitability of death haunts us
all constantly without our conscious realization, and religion is a
psychological necessity to human beings or we become neurotic (or worse).
Psychoanalysis fails because it "doesn't allow a person to find out who he
is and why he is here on earth, why he has to die, and how he can make his
life a triumph" (Becker, 1997, p. 193).  Beautifully worded.  Whether or not
religion has any grounding in actual reality, Becker says, humans must make
the Kierkegaardian leap of faith to the transcendent to find real happiness
and fulfillment.  









From: percy-l-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org
[mailto:percy-l-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of Robert Eckert
Sent: Wednesday, July 12, 2006 2:37 PM
To: Percy-L: Literary and Philosophical Discussion
Subject: Re: [percy-l] consciousness, Julian Jaynes, and Percy


Jaynes should have entitled his book "The Origin of Selfconsciousness....".
Jaynes does not deal with the origin of language, but its
development--specifically with the origin of the concept of "I". -- [eye]


[A related interesting book is "The Alphabet Effect".] 


Consciousness is the naming of all. Selfconsciousness is the naming of "I".


Reread the "Primer" section in LC. The joy of naming of the two-year-old
child is replaced by the pain of selfconsciousness of seven-year-old.



Consciousness is the flashlight that lights the world. Selfconsciousness is
the utterly futile attempt by that flashlight to shine on itself.


[Adam Smith, of all people, also wrote an interesting essay on language




How'd the dissertation go?


Karey Perkins <karey at kareyperkins.com> wrote:

I am reading Julian Jaynes's  The Origin of Consciousness and the Breakdown
of the Bicameral Mind, C 1976, 1990.  He discusses the evolution of




1)  Did Percy read Jaynes?  If so, his opinion?

2)  How might he have responded, in your opinion, if he had read him?

3)  Did Jaynes know of Percy?  He does cite Peirce, ever so briefly, but not
Percy, Langer, or Cassirer.

4)  What is the general consensus of the mind-body and/or semiotic community
on Jaynes?

5)  Has anyone on the list read Jaynes?

6)  How does Jaynes' thoughts stand up today? (16 years after last printing)

7)  What do you think of Jaynes?  What is the value of his book/thoughts?

8)  Any other thoughts?


I do remember Mike Frentz differentiating between the more scientific
approaches to semiotics/consciousness and the more humanistic approaches,
with Jaynes in the former camp and Percy in the latter.. I've heard this
book is an important one - 




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