For centuries people have debated the nature of the human self. Running beneath these various arguments lie three certainties - we are born, reproduce sexually, and die. The models of spirituality which dominate the Western tradition have claimed that it is possible to transcend these aspects of human physicality by ascribing to human beings alternative traits, such as consciousness, mind and reason. By locating the essence of human life outside its basic physical features, mortality itself has come to be viewed as a problem, for it appears to render human life both meaningless and absurd. Complex connections have then been made between the key features of life: sex is linked with death, and birth becomes the event that introduces the child to the world of decay - and ultimately to death itself.
This fascinating book exposes the way in which the preoccupation with transcendence in both religious and secular thinking has distorted our sense of what it is to be human. At the same time, Sex and Death offers an alternative approach to the debate, based on an acceptance of mortality that emphasizes the depth and profundity possible in human life. It is an argument which will be essential reading for students of philosophy or religion, as well as the general reader interested in these debates.
Beverley Clack is Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies and Philosophy at Oxford Brookes University. She is also the author of The Philosophy of Religion: An Introduction (Polity, 1998), with Brian R. Clack.
Acknowledgments. Introduction. Chapter 1: Transcending Mortality: Plato's Philosophy and Augustine's Theology. Chapter 2: Transcending the Void: Sex and Death in Sartre and Beauvoir's Existentialism. Chapter 3: Eros, Thanatos and the Human Self: Sigmund Freud. Chapter 4 : Sex and Death in a Meaningless Universe: The Marquis de Sade. . Chapter 5: Living in Accordance with Nature: Seneca. Conclusion: Sex, Death, and the Meaningful Life. Notes. References and Bibliography. Index.