ISBN is

978-0-15-100446-1 / 0151004463

Five Moral Pieces

by Eco, Umberto

Publisher:Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Edition:Hardcover

Language:English

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About the book:

Umberto Eco's Five Moral Pieces are short essays on ethics that "treat of what we ought to do, what we ought not to do, and what we must not do at any cost". Individually they cover such topics as the essential features of fascism, the changing role of the press and its relationship to politics and the social function of intellectuals during war.

"When the Other Appears on the Scene" derives from an exchange of letters with Cardinal Martini and is a response to the Cardinal's question: "What is the basis of the certainty and necessity for moral action of those who, in order to establish the absolute nature of an ethic, do not intend to appeal to metaphysical principles or transcendental values, or even to universally valid categorical imperatives?" Eco's answer is to say that the construction of a naturalistic lay-ethics does not mean that laypersons cannot avail themselves of the inspiring and ethical aspects of religion. If man is an animal he is also an imaginative, poetic animal--someone who aspires to "the construction of narratives capable of providing him with an explanation and a model, an exemplary image". Among the variety of imaginative stories created he also has "the religious, moral and poetic strength to conceive of the model of Christ, of universal love, of forgiveness for enemies, of a life sacrificed that others might be saved". If the story of Christ is only a fiction it is a magnificent fiction, a model imagined and proposed by humans to fulfil human purposes--purposes which include building a community on earth of love, forgiveness and self-sacrifice.

The final essay in this very slim volume "Migration, Tolerance and the Intolerable" is a subtle discussion about the similarities and differences between fundamentalism and integralism; between migration and immigration; about the future of Europe and the blood that is likely to be spilt as a result of The Third World knocking on, and entering Europe's doors. But while the bloodshed may be unavoidable, there is reason to believe (in theory) that racists are on the way to extinction. In international relations we can prepare for the future by "assuming responsibility of deciding what is intolerable and then taking action, ready to pay the price of error".

Every one of these five moral pieces is subtle, nuanced and discriminating. The only criticism one might have is that at just over a hundred small pages it is over all too soon. --Larry Brown

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