A collection of thought-provoking essays from one of the world's leading writers and intellectuals ponders current issues, including spirituality, war, disenchantment, traditions, facism, and customs, and draws from past experiences that have had a profound impact on the world today. 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.
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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.
Five Moral Pieces
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.
Review | Five Moral Pieces by Umberto Eco
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Not book club. Embracing the web of multi-culturalism that has become a fact of contemporary life from New York to New Delhi, Eco argues that we are more connected to people of other traditions and customs than ever before, making tolerance the ultimate value in today's world.
What good, he asks in a talk delivered during the Gulf War, does war do in a world where the flow of goods, services, and information is unstoppable, and the enemy is always behind the lines? What makes news today, who decides how it will be presented and how does the way it is disseminated contribute to the widespread disillusionment with politics in general?
In one of the most personal of the essays, Eco recalls experiencing liberation from fascism in Italy as a boy, and examines the various historical forms of fascism, always with an eye toward such ugly manifestations today. And finally, in an intensely personal open letter to an Italian Cardinal, Eco reflects on a question underlying all the reflections in the book - what does it mean to be moral or ethical when one doesn't believe in God? As thoughtful and subtle as they are pragmatic and relevant, these essays present one of the world's most important thinkers at the height of his critical powers.
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