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Darwin's Worms: On Life Stories and Death…
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Darwin's Worms: On Life Stories and Death Stories

by Adam Phillips

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I can't recommend this book highly enough. There are three discrete sections. The first is a meditation on suffering and life in general. Phillips explores the question of our relationship to suffering through the lenses of Freud and Darwin (two seemingly incompatible figure who, remarkably and through Phillips' perspective, have very similar outlooks). The second explores Darwin's fascination with worms but it's really a proxy for an exploration on our place in the world...the place of "higher" sentient beings.
The third is an exploration of, in effect, death. And our ambivalent reactions to death. To be clear, Phillips doesn't examine, say, our relationship to the dying or even our own physical death, but the role of the reality of death, transience, and impermanence play in our ability to fully live. In short, it's a remarkable and remarkably challenging set of expositions.

"When Darwin writes about his talented worms, or Freud writes about his shrewd, wayward death instinct, they are presenting us with new kinds of heroic nature. And by doing so they ask us, ultimately, to imagine ourselves, to describe ourselves from nature's point of view; but in the full knowledge that nature, by (their) definition, doesn't have one. They want us, in short, not to be unduly dismayed by our mortality - to live with our own deaths."

Adam Phillips. Darwin's Worms On Life Stories And Death Stories (Kindle Locations 1129-1131). Kindle Edition. ( )
  JerryColonna | Jan 1, 2012 |
The author (a British psychotherapist) outlines the beliefs of Darwin and Freud in “the permanence only of change and uncertainty; that the only life is the life of the body, so that death, in whatever form it takes, is a piece with life.” He calls others to give up their attempts at permanence, by releasing their beliefs either in God or in the perfectability of man, and instead embrace the transience of life and nature. Using Darwin’s fondness for worms and Freud’s disdain for biography, he advocates a healthy optimism in life and embracing of death as nothing more (or less) than the final piece of a puzzle which ultimately has no solution. ( )
  MiserableLibrarian | Dec 26, 2007 |
A startlingly original psychoanalytic writer takes on death, loss, and the telling of life stories through an exploration of Darwin and Freud. Adam Phillips has been called "the psychotherapist of the floating world" and "the closest thing we have to a philosopher of happiness." His style is epigrammatic; his intelligence, electric. His new book, Darwin's Worms, uses the biographical details of Darwin's and Freud's lives to examine endings-suffering, mortality, extinction, and death. Both Freud and Darwin were interested in how destruction conserves life. They took their inspiration from fossils or from half-remembered dreams. Each told a story that has altered our perception of our lives. For Darwin, Phillips explains, "the story to tell was how species can drift towards extinction; for Freud, the story was how the individual tended to, and tended towards his own death." In each case, it is a death story that uniquely illuminates the life story.

"[Adam Phillips is] one of the most original inheritors of Freud's legacy. Darwin's Worms is the latest example of Phillips' wonderful ability to tackle weighty subjects in elegant, brief essays, linking evolution and psychoanalysis through the themes of loss and death." -Los Angeles Times
  antimuzak | Nov 19, 2005 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0465056768, Paperback)

Adam Phillips has been called "the psychotherapist of the floating world" and "the closest thing we have to a philosopher of happiness." His style is epigrammatic; his intelligence, electric. His new book, Darwin's Worms, uses the biographical details of Darwin's and Freud's lives to examine endings-suffering, mortality, extinction, and death. Both Freud and Darwin were interested in how destruction conserves life. They took their inspiration from fossils or from half-remembered dreams. Each told a story that has altered our perception of our lives. For Darwin, Phillips explains, "the story to tell was how species can drift towards extinction; for Freud, the story was how the individual tended to, and tended towards his own death." In each case, it is a death story that uniquely illuminates the life story.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:51:33 -0400)

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