Monday, August 09, 2004

Ernest Becker: The Fragile Fiction

The world of human aspiration is largely fictious, and if we do not understand this we understand nothing about man. It is largely symbolic creation by an ego-controlled animal that permits action in a psychological world, a symbolic-behavioral world removed from the boundness of the present moment, from the immediate stimuli which enslave all lower organisms. Man's freedom is a fabricated freedom, and he pays a price for it. He must at all times defend the utter fragility of his delicately constituted fiction, deny its artificiality. That's why we can speak of "joint theatrical staging," "ritual formulas for social ceremonial," and "enhancing of cultural meaning," with utmost seriousness. There is no cynicism implied here, no derision, nor any pity. We must realize simply that this is how this animal must act if he is to function as this animal. Man's fictions are not superflous creations that could be "put aside" so that the "more serious" business of life could continue.


The most astonishing thing of all, about man's fictions, is not that they have from historice times hung like a flimsy canopy over his social world, but that he should have come to discover them at all. It is one of the most remarkable achievements of thought, of self-scrutiny, that the most anxiety-prone animal of all could come to see through himself and discover the fictional nature of his action world.

Becker, Ernest. "The Fragile Fiction." The Truth About Truth. ed. Walter Truett Anderson. Jeremy P. Tarcher, 1995: 34-35.

Learn More About Becker

No comments: