The book ‘War within Man’ was written by Erich Fromm. It examines the origin of the destructive nature of man. To express his ideas about man’s tendencies to destroy, Fromm compares and contrasts two types of orientations in people. He calls one orientation necrophilia and the other biophilia. The term necrophilia is used to refer to love of the dead while biophilia refers to love of life. Moreover, the writer uses such metaphors as, “Wolf and Sheep” to refer to man’s beliefs which depends on different perception of human nature.
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The main ideas in this book are concerned with destructive nature of a man in contrast to more constructive orientation of life. The destructive nature is examined by using different assumptions. Necrophilia is connected with all that is bad, ranging from death, decay to destruction of life. These people become more lively when they talk about the dead, sickness and sufferings. The writer has used Hitler as an example of necrophilia. The writer asserts that one of Hitler’s soldiers who survived the First World War reported that he had seen Hitler in a trance gazing at corpses. He was unwilling to move away from dead bodies because he was fascinated by them. Another characteristic of necrophilia is that people’s thoughts are always in the past and not in the present. They are very sentimental and always dwell on their past. Necrophilia people are characterized by obsession with using force to kill, deprive people of their freedom or make them comply with their demands. These lovers of death perceive force as a way of life and consider it to be the biggest achievement of a man to destroy life rather that preserve or creating it. Sadism is another characteristic inherent from necrophilia. Though some necrophilia people may not kill, they may have an obsession with the idea of full control over others in order to see their victims totally helpless. This trait is usually seen in people who fill pride humiliating and torturing others. Being sadists, necrophilia people are able to turn living creatures into objects of their sadistic and uncontrolled desires. Although there is a difference between those who use force to kill and the others who use it to torture, both belong to the same necrophilia orientation. The approach adopted by necrophilia towards life is very mechanical and always view organic forms of life as inorganic. The motivation to transform organic forms of life into inorganic is manifestation of the uncertainty in life. Necrophilia people are afraid of uncertainties. To conquer it they try to make life more certain by initiating death, since it is the only certain thing.
Biophilia, contrary to necrophilia, loves life and inherently long to preserve and sustain it. Animals fight ruthlessly to escape death; grass cracks stones in search of light and strength to survive; in the same way a man can do all in his power to preserve life. This fact shows that biophilia’s basic aim is to preserve and protect life regardless of any species. Another major characteristic of biophilia is the tendency to integrate into different forms. Organisms such as animals and men reproduce by fusion of reproductive cells. Emotionally men and animals tend to associate and form unions with others of their kind. Biophilia’s basic principles are concerned with any process that preserves and protects life.
This book is both objective and subjective. The writer alludes to Sigmund’s theory of death instincts. According to the writer of this book the primary potentiality of a man is life favoring, although a secondary one emerges due to poor or underdeveloped primary potentiality. This assertion is based on Sigmund’s death theory that describes human life as being influenced by two instincts. The theory describes the two instincts as Eros-life preserving and Thanatos-life destructive. Biophilia people are guided by Eros and that is why they are oriented towards preserving life (Fromm, 9). On the other hand, necrophilia people are guided by Thanatos; this instinct makes them more destructive by nature. Based on such comparisons of credited sources, book’s objectivity is undeniable. Although this is just a theory, it has received substantial acceptance in scientific fields, though not without criticism. There are passages in this book in which the writer expresses his opinions based on not scientific and verifiable sources. For instance, he describes an incident when Hitler was spotted by one of his soldiers because he was in a kind of trance. He was looking at corpses and was unwilling to move or look away. The writer concludes that Hitler was a necrophilia who was fascinated by death and corpses and was living in his past actions-killings. Hitler may have been necrophilia due to many of his actions, but this particular instance is not verifiable at all as no one can certainly tell what was on his mind. He could as well have been remorseful for these killings or the soldier who reported the incident could have been biased. This example is one of the many others where the book is subjective.
This piece of writing is effective in trying to explain struggles between two psychological aspects that people go through. The book gives useful insights into two types of people whose characteristics it is hard to understand without knowing more about their nature. Although its claims to gain further acceptance, more researches are required in order portray life from a holistic perspective, rather than only from a psychological point of view. The motives behind the current global trend to manufacture nuclear weapons cannot be evaluated only from a psychological point of view, but rather from many other points e.g. political, scientific and others. It is very true that these two orientations (necrophilia and basophilic) may vary in their manifestations in different people due to differences of people’s personalities and circumstances within which they live. Even two genetically unconnected people have totally similar characteristics and vice versa. Not only psychological motivation, but also human culture may lead to manifestation of destructive thoughts and actions of people. The world’s culture, also in highly developed countries is characterized by alcoholism and drug addiction. These aspects of human culture can motivate people to seek more pleasure in different sources, including life destroying ones. Psychological and other aspects of human nature can therefore play a part in shaping orientations people are likely to adopt. This assumption discredits the overemphasis the writer puts on psychology as almost the only course for the life destructive orientations.
This book was written because of the paradoxes that existed in people’s lives. It was an attempt to create an understanding of complex lives of people. The fact that there were people on extremes, necrophilia and basophilic, was a puzzle. The book’s target was to elicit reactions of psychologists and sociologists, so that they could advance their studies on paradoxes. Conducting more researches, they could help the world to better understand this issue. I would recommend this book especially to leaders of different spheres whose understanding of the existence of two orientations can help to deal with atrocities that may originate from necrophilia or create an environment to prevent their occurrence.
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