Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Dorsey Grice, Sam McFarland, James Spiceland

Degree Program

Department of Psychology

Degree Type

Master of Arts


The meaning and importance of death in existential psychology are investigated. Four major theorists are presented, i.e. Kierkegaard, Heidegger, Rank, and Binswanger Their interpretation of death in man's personal development, although with different perspectives, nevertheless is seen as having a basic common theme: It is necessary for the person to free himself from the chains of conformity in order to become an individual. By realizing one's potentialities one also must realize and understand one's finitude. Thus by facing death one may actively and courageously move through the anxiety of this life in the shadow of death.

These theories are focused on the classic schizophrenic case of Ellen West. The case is presented in light of Binswanger's existential analysis. It involves the meaning of the struggle of life and death. Particular emphasis is placed upon Ellen's decision to take her own life. Existentialists view her suicide as an enrichment of her own personal being, in that it constitutes an active concern for her self-authenticity. Ellen's decision is also seen as a longing for immortality and a desire to go "beyond" her individuality.


Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Theory and Philosophy