Sociology as a Life or Death Issue
Denial of Death:
Through religion - offers immortality, promise of better times to come, security of spirits who look over us,
provides meaning/purpose. Religion can become
Determinism: belief that everything happens the way it does because it was destined to happen in
just that way.
Determinists believe forces larger than us control life, not us
o Trying to stay young - cosmetic surgery, diet, exercise, vitamins, makeup, etc. Form of
Voluntarism: belief that we alone control our destiny.
Voluntarist's believe we can overcome forces larger than us, decide for ourselves
o People worry less about death because they delude themselves into thinking they can cheat it
o Denial of death is a trap - makes it more difficult to figure out how to live well and be happy
Ex. Religion creates restrictions, striving to be youthful occupies all efforts/time
o Be aware of death, helps focus on achieving meaningful life (YOLO)
o We are meaning-creating machines. Faced with ambiguity in any social setting, we instantly start investing
imaginative energy to define the situation and figure out what is expected of us and others. We abhor
uncertainty, so we always strive to make social reality meaningful.
We have created an institution devoted to helping us discover what the good life is: system of higher
o Sociological approach to improving human welfare is based on idea that relations we have with other people
create opportunities for us to think and at but also set limits on our thoughts and actions.
o Emile Durkeim's study of suicide:
High rates of psychological distress often do not result in high suicide rate, while low rates sometimes
Rate and type of suicide that predominates in a society tells us something fundamentally important
about the state of the society as a whole.
Probability that your state of mind will lead you to suicide is influenced by the social relations in which
you are embedded - particularly your social solidarity: