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Grotjahn, M. (1960). The Meaning of Death: Edited by Herman Feifel. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., Inc., 1959. 351 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 29:406-407.

(1960). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 29:406-407

The Meaning of Death: Edited by Herman Feifel. New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., Inc., 1959. 351 pp.

Review by:
Martin Grotjahn

This book is any reviewer's delight, since it comes with its own excellently written critique in the final chapter, a summary and evaluation by Gardner Murphy. The ambivalence and escapism of modern Western man and his attitude toward death are taken as starting points. Carl G. Jung begins the collective effort to describe the relation between the 'soul and death'. He does so with Nestorian fondness for broad generalization. He is followed by Charles Wahl in The Fear of Death, against which man defends himself with magic feelings of omnipotence. Paul Tillich uses the interpretative approach to theology in his essay, The Eternal Now, while Walter Kaufmann brings up Existentialism, which sees in death the quintessence of life.

Part Two offers clinical and other evidence but does not penetrate beneath some statistical data leading to a rather vague conceptualization. Discussion of Death Concept in Cultural and Religious Fields is opened by Frederick J. Hoffman with a sensitive interpretation of the treatment of death in the literature of the twentieth century. Arnold Hutschnecker speaks about his experience in the care of the dying patient who often appears ready to die. The strong and mighty fear death most. He advises, 'Do not let hope die; treat these patients as if "they have been what they ought to be" (Goethe)'. The wish to kill and the wish to be killed decreases with age, whereas the wish to die increases. August M. Kasper does not plead for the physician to become a metaphysician, but pleads against desensitization and against the cynical doctor whose conversation will horrify the squeamish, hurt the mourner, titillate the silly, and annoy almost everyone. The prospect of this desensitization may draw men into the study of medicine; it is something laymen envy. Whereas the scientist is interested in death, the doctor is against it.

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