Ernest Becker (September 27, 1924 - March 6, 1974) was an American cultural anthropologist and interdisciplinary thinker and writer. Becker was not afraid to ask ultimate questions, nor was he willing to accept the limitations incurred by the social sciences in their quest for truth through the scientific method. This willingness to cross boundaries and challenge the status quo cost him his position and acceptance by the academic community in his lifetime. However, he was posthumously awarded a Pulitzer Prize for non-fiction in 1974, for his The Denial of Death.
The thesis of his work was that individuals live in terror of their own mortality and thus seek to find ways to deny it. He recognized that human beings differ from animals in having a spiritual aspect as well as a physical body. He also understood that the fear of death is not really about fear of the death of one's physical body, but rather about the fear that one's inner aspects, the mental and spiritual functions that seeks meaning, will cease to exist. Becker suggested that a significant function of culture is to provide successful ways to engage in death denial.
New World Encyclopedia
The Ernest Becker Foundation (EBF) seeks to illuminate how the unconscious denial of mortality profoundly influences human behavior, giving rise to acts of hate and violence as well as noble, altruistic striving. The goal of the Foundation is to foster a deeper understanding of our creative, heroic, often destructive quest to ensure immortality. To achieve this understanding, the EBF supports relevant dialogue, education, scholarship, and practical applications.
We are devoted to multidisciplinary inquiries into human behavior, with a particular focus on our brutality toward one another. Drawing on Becker's writings, especially The Birth and Death of Meaning(1971), his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Denial of Death (1973) and Escape From Evil (1975), and now also The Ernest Becker Reader, the EBF supports research and application at the interfaces of science, the humanities, human spiritual commitments and social action.
Ernest Becker Foundation
Ernest Becker - The Denial of Death (Professor Sheldon Solomon)