Richard Van Deusen presides
Humans manage the terror of death by adhering to culturally constructed beliefs about reality that provide a sense that one is a person of value in a world of meaning, and thus eligible for either literal or symbolic immortality. The quest for immortality underlies some of humankind’s most noble achievements. However, it also engenders some of our most ignominious affectations, including: hostility and disdain for people with different beliefs; indifference to, or contempt for, the natural environment; and, the mindless pursuit of material possessions—which, if unchecked, may render humans the first form of life responsible for their own extinction.
Sheldon Solomon is Professor of Psychology at Skidmore College. His work exploring the effects of the uniquely human awareness of death on individual and social behavior has been supported by the National Science Foundation and the Ernest Becker Foundation and was featured in the award winning documentary film Flight from Death: The Quest for Immortality. He is co-author of In the Wake of 9/11: The Psychology of Terror and The Worm at the Core: On the Role of Death in Life.
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