The Denial of Death is a 1973 book by American cultural anthropologist Ernest Becker (1924-1974). The author builds on the works of Søren Kierkegaard, Sigmund Freud, Norman O. Brown, and Otto Rank to discuss the psychological and philosophical implications of how people and cultures have reacted to the concept of death. It was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction in 1974, two months after the author’s death. It is the main work responsible for the development of terror management theory.
The 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 biology, and a symbolic world of human meaning.
Frantz Omar Fanon (1925 – 1961), also known as Ibrahim Frantz Fanon, was a French West Indian psychiatrist and political philosopher from the French colony of Martinique (today a French department), whose works are influential in the fields of post-colonial studies, critical theory and Marxism. As well as being an intellectual, Fanon was a political radical, Pan-Africanist, and Marxist humanist concerned with the psychopathology of colonization and the human, social, and cultural consequences of decolonization.
In the course of his work as a physician and psychiatrist, Fanon supported the Algerian War of Independence from France and was a member of the Algerian National Liberation Front. For more than five decades, the life and works of Frantz Fanon have inspired national liberation movements and other radical political organizations in Palestine, Sri Lanka, South Africa, and the United States. He formulated a model for community psychology, believing that many mental health patients would do better if they were integrated into their family and community instead of being treated with institutionalized care. He also helped found the field of institutional psychotherapy while working at Saint-Alban under Francois Tosquelles and Jean Oury. In What Fanon Said: A Philosophical Introduction To His Life And Thought, Lewis R. Gordon remarked that Fanon’s contributions to the history of ideas are manifold. He is influential not only because of the originality of his thought but also because of the astuteness of his criticisms. He developed a profound social existential analysis of antiblack racism, which led him to identify conditions of skewed rationality and reason in contemporary discourses on the human being.
Fanon published numerous books, including The Wretched of the Earth (1961). This influential work focuses on what he believes is the necessary role of violence by activists in conducting decolonization struggles.
Man’s Search for Meaning is a 1946 book by Viktor Frankl chronicling his experiences as a prisoner in Nazi concentration camps during World War II, and describing his psychotherapeutic method, which involved identifying a purpose in life to feel positively about, and then immersively imagining that outcome. According to Frankl, the way a prisoner imagined the future affected his longevity. The book intends to answer the question “How was everyday life in a concentration camp reflected in the mind of the average prisoner?” Part One constitutes Frankl’s analysis of his experiences in the concentration camps, while Part Two introduces his ideas of meaning and his theory called logotherapy.
Logotherapy was developed by neurologist and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl. It is considered the “Third Viennese School of Psychotherapy” along with Freud’s psychoanalysis and Adler’s individual psychology. Logotherapy is based on an existential analysis focusing on Kierkegaard’s will to meaning as opposed to Adler’s Nietzschean doctrine of will to power or Freud’s will to pleasure. Rather than power or pleasure, logotherapy is founded upon the belief that striving to find meaning in life is the primary, most powerful motivating and driving force in humans.
Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939) was an Austrian neurologist and the founder of psychoanalysis, a clinical method for treating psychopathology through dialogue between a patient and a psychoanalyst. In creating psychoanalysis, Freud developed therapeutic techniques such as the use of free association and discovered transference, establishing its central role in the analytic process. Freud’s redefinition of sexuality to include its infantile forms led him to formulate the Oedipus complex as the central tenet of psychoanalytical theory. His analysis of dreams as wish-fulfillments provided him with models for the clinical analysis of symptom formation and the underlying mechanisms of repression. On this basis, Freud elaborated his theory of the unconscious and went on to develop a model of psychic structure comprising id, ego and super-ego. Freud postulated the existence of libido, a sexualised energy with which mental processes and structures are invested and which generates erotic attachments, and a death drive, the source of compulsive repetition, hate, aggression and neurotic guilt. In his later works, Freud developed a wide-ranging interpretation and critique of religion and culture.
Clark Leonard Hull (1884 – 1952) was an American psychologist who sought to explain learning and motivation by scientific laws of behavior. Hull is known for his debates with Edward C. Tolman. He is also known for his work in drive theory.
Hull spent the mature part of his career at Yale University, where he was recruited by the president and former-psychologist, James Rowland Angell. He performed research demonstrating that his theories could predict behavior. His most significant works were the Mathematico-Deductive Theory of Rote Learning (1940), and Principles of Behavior (1943), which established his analysis of animal learning and conditioning as the dominant learning theory of its time. Hull’s model is expressed in biological terms: Organisms suffer deprivation; deprivation creates needs; needs activate drives; drives activate behavior; behavior is goal-directed; achieving the goal has survival value.
He is perhaps best known for the “goal gradient” effect or hypothesis, wherein organisms spend disproportionate amounts of effort in the final stages of attainment of the object of drives. Due to the lack of popularity of behaviorism in modern contexts, it is little referenced today or bracketed as obsolete. Nonetheless, a Review of General Psychology survey, published in 2002, ranked Hull as the 21st most cited psychologist of the 20th century.
The Principles of Psychology is an 1890 book about psychology by William James, an American philosopher and psychologist who trained to be a physician before going into psychology. There are four methods from James’ book: stream of consciousness (James’ most famous psychological metaphor); emotion (later known as the James–Lange theory); habit (human habits are constantly formed to achieve certain results); and will (through James’ personal experiences in life).
Carl Gustav Jung (1875 – 1961) was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst who founded analytical psychology. Jung’s work was influential in the fields of psychiatry, anthropology, archaeology, literature, philosophy, and religious studies. Jung worked as a research scientist at the famous Burghölzli hospital, under Eugen Bleuler. During this time, he came to the attention of Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis. The two men conducted a lengthy correspondence and collaborated, for a while, on a joint vision of human psychology.
Man and His Symbols is the last work undertaken by Carl Jung before his death in 1961. First published in 1964, it is divided into five parts, four of which were written by associates of Jung: Marie-Louise von Franz, Joseph L. Henderson, Aniela Jaffé, and Jolande Jacobi. The book, which contains numerous illustrations, seeks to provide a clear explanation of Jung’s complex theories for a wide non-specialist readership.
Memories, Dreams, Reflections is a partially autobiographical book by Swiss psychologist Carl Jung and an associate, Aniela Jaffé. First published in German in 1962, an English translation appeared in 1963. Memories, Dreams, Reflections details Jung’s childhood, his personal life, and his exploration of the psyche.
Jacques Marie Émile Lacan (1901 – 1981) was a French psychoanalyst and psychiatrist who has been called “the most controversial psycho-analyst since Freud”. Giving yearly seminars in Paris from 1953 to 1981, Lacan influenced many leading French intellectuals in the 1960s and the 1970s, especially those associated with post-structuralism. His ideas had a significant impact on post-structuralism, critical theory, linguistics, 20th-century French philosophy, film theory, and clinical psychoanalysis. Brilliant and innovative, Jacques Lacan’s work lies at the epicenter of modern thought about otherness, subjectivity, sexual difference, the drives, the law, and enjoyment.
In The Divided Self (1960), Laing contrasted the experience of the “ontologically secure” person with that of a person who “cannot take the realness, aliveness, autonomy and identity of himself and others for granted” and who consequently contrives strategies to avoid “losing his self”. Laing explains how we all exist in the world as beings, defined by others who carry a model of us in their heads, just as we carry models of them in our heads. In later writings he often takes this to deeper levels, laboriously spelling out how “A knows that B knows that A knows that B knows…”! Our feelings and motivations derive very much from this condition of “being in the world” in the sense of existing for others, who exist for us. Without this we suffer “ontological insecurity”, a condition often expressed in terms of “being dead” by people who are clearly still physically alive.
This watershed work aimed to make madness comprehensible, and in doing so revolutionized the way we perceive mental illness. Using case studies of patients he had worked with, psychiatrist R. D. Laing argued that psychosis is not a medical condition, but an outcome of the ‘divided self’, or the tension between the two personas within us: one our authentic, private identity, and the other the false, ‘sane’ self that we present to the world. Laing’s radical approach to insanity offered a rich existential analysis of personal alienation and made him a cult figure in the 1960s, yet his work was most significant for its humane attitude, which put the patient back at the centre of treatment.
Religions, Values, and Peak Experiences is a 1964 book about psychology by Abraham Maslow. Maslow addressed the motivational significance of peak experiences in a series of lectures in the early 1960s and later published these ideas in book form.
In contrast with the preoccupation of Freudian psychopathology, Maslow insisted on a “psychology of the higher life” which was to attend to the question “of what the human being should grow toward.” In his work, Maslow described the experience of one’s life as meaningful as being based on a feeling of fulfillment and significance.
Maslow’s theory of “peak-experiences” has been compared to William James’ “healthy-minded” religion. Maslow hypothesized a negative relationship between adherence to conventional religious beliefs and the ability to experience peak moments.
In Religions, Values, and Peak Experiences, Maslow stated that the peak experience is “felt as a self-validating, self-justifying moment which carries its own intrinsic value with it.” Furthermore, the person is the “creative center of his (or her) own activities.”
Rollo Reese May (1909 – 1994) was an American existential psychologist and author of the influential book Love and Will (1969). He is often associated with humanistic psychology, existentialist philosophy and, alongside Viktor Frankl, was a major proponent of existential psychotherapy. The philosopher and theologian Paul Tillich was a close friend who had a significant influence on his work. As well as Love and Will, May’s works also include The Meaning of Anxiety (1950) and, titled in honor of Tillich’s The Courage to Be, The Courage to Create (1975).
Rollo May is an existential analyst who deservedly enjoys a reputation among both general and critical readers as an accessible and insightful social and psychological theorist. Freedom’s characteristics, fruits, and problems; destiny’s reality; death; and therapy’s place in the confrontation between freedom and destiny are examined. Poets, social critics, artists, and other thinkers are invoked appropriately to support May’s theory of freedom and destiny’s interdependence.
Ulric Gustav Neisser (1928 – 2012) was a German-born American psychologist and member of the US National Academy of Sciences. He has been referred to as the “father of cognitive psychology.” Neisser researched and wrote about perception and memory. He posited that a person’s mental processes could be measured and subsequently analyzed. In 1967, Neisser published Cognitive Psychology, which he later said was considered an attack on behaviorist psychological paradigms. Cognitive Psychology brought Neisser instant fame and recognition in the field of psychology.
While Cognitive Psychology was considered unconventional, it was Neisser’s Cognition and Reality that contained some of his most controversial ideas. A main theme in Cognition and Reality is Neisser’s advocacy for experiments on perception occurring in natural (“ecologically valid”) settings. Neisser postulated that memory is, largely, reconstructed and not a snapshot of the moment. Neisser illustrated this during one of his highly publicized studies on people’s memories of the Challenger explosion. In his later career, he summed up current research on human intelligence and edited the first major scholarly monograph on the Flynn effect. A Review of General Psychology survey, published in 2002, ranked Neisser as the 32nd most cited psychologist of the 20th century.
Ivan Petrovich Pavlov (1849 – 1936) was a Russian physiologist known primarily for his work in classical conditioning. From his childhood days Pavlov demonstrated intellectual curiosity along with an unusual energy which he referred to as “the instinct for research”. Inspired by the progressive ideas which D. I. Pisarev, the most eminent of the Russian literary critics of the 1860s, and I. M. Sechenov, the father of Russian physiology, were spreading, Pavlov abandoned his religious career and devoted his life to science. In 1870, he enrolled in the physics and mathematics department at the University of Saint Petersburg in order to study natural science.
Pavlov won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1904, becoming the first Russian Nobel laureate. A survey in the Review of General Psychology, published in 2002, ranked Pavlov as the 24th most cited psychologist of the 20th century. Pavlov’s principles of classical conditioning have been found to operate across a variety of behavior therapies and in experimental and clinical settings, such as educational classrooms and even reducing phobias with systematic desensitization.
Jean Piaget (1896 – 1980) was a Swiss psychologist known for his work on child development. Piaget’s theory of cognitive development and epistemological view are together called “genetic epistemology”. According to Ernst von Glasersfeld, Jean Piaget was “the great pioneer of the constructivist theory of knowing.” However, his ideas did not become widely popularized until the 1960’s. This then led to the emergence of the study of development as a major sub-discipline in psychology. By the end of the 20th century, Piaget was second only to B. F. Skinner as the most cited psychologist of that era
This book deals with the origins of intelligence in children and contains original observations on young children, novel experiments, brilliant in their simplicity, which the author describes in detail. Piaget divides the growth of intelligence into six sequential stages: the use of reflexes; the first acquired adaptations and primary circular reaction; secondary circular reactions and the child’s procedures for prolonging spectacles interesting to him.
Verbal Behavior is a 1957 book by psychologist B. F. Skinner, in which he inspects human behavior, describing what is traditionally called linguistics. Verbal Behavior is almost entirely theoretical, involving little experimental research in the work itself. It was an outgrowth of a series of lectures first presented at the University of Minnesota in the early 1940s and developed further in his summer lectures at Columbia and William James lectures at Harvard in the decade before the book’s publication. A growing body of research and applications based on Verbal Behavior has occurred since its original publication, particularly in the past decade.
The Myth of Mental Illness: Foundations of a Theory of Personal Conduct is a 1961 book by the psychiatrist Thomas Szasz, in which the author criticizes psychiatry and argues against the concept of mental illness. It received much publicity, and has become a classic, well known as an argument against the tendency of psychiatrists to label people who are “disabled by living” as “mentally ill”.
Szasz argues that it does not make sense to classify psychological problems as diseases or illnesses and that speaking of “mental illness” involves a logical or conceptual error. In his view, the term “mental illness” is an inappropriate metaphor and there are no true illnesses of the mind. His position has been characterized as involving a rigid distinction between the physical and the mental.
The legitimacy of psychiatry is questioned by Szasz, who compares it to alchemy and astrology, and argues that it offends the values of autonomy and liberty. Szasz believes that the concept of mental illness is not only logically absurd but has harmful consequences: instead of treating cases of ethical or legal deviation as occasions when a person should be taught personal responsibility, attempts are made to “cure” the deviants, for example by giving them tranquilizers. Psychotherapy is regarded by Szasz as useful not to help people recover from illnesses, but to help them “learn about themselves, others, and life.”