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Five Moral Pieces Hardcover – November 5, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

This slim book covers a lot of territory in a little over a hundred pages. Its five essays address everything from warfare to faith to the media, and Umberto Eco insists that they are all linked: "Despite the variety of their themes, they are all ethical in nature, that is to say, they treat of what we ought to do, what we ought not to do, and what we must not do at any cost." Several of his views are provocative. In listing the characteristics of what he calls "Ur-Fascism," for instance, Eco describes many of the beliefs held by modern-day conservatives. He also remarks: "Europe will become a multiracial continent--or a 'colored' one, if you prefer. That's how it will be, whether you like it or not. This meeting (or clash) of cultures could lead to bloodshed, and I believe to a certain extent it will." Fans of Eco's bestselling novels won't necessarily be drawn to Five Moral Pieces, though readers who have enjoyed his nonfiction will want to explore this small collection. --John Miller

From Publishers Weekly

Most famous for his complex, erudite novels, semiotician and literary theorist Eco (Foucault's Pendulum, etc.) devotes these occasional essays primarily to the quest for tolerance in an intolerant world and to the intellectual responsibility of individuals to confront difficult moral problems directly. Eco observes, for example, that war contradicts "the very reasons for which it is waged" in a world where telecommunications technology and constant migration render traditional rationalizations for war (e.g., the defense of borders) obsolete. In the end, he argues, war cannot be defended, for, in addition to its manifold evils, it is a wasteful enterprise, squandering lives and resources. In another essay, Eco contends that ethical principles can indeed be articulated apart from any grounding in religious faith, though a natural ethic and a religious ethic may share common ground. Examining the reporting techniques of several Italian newspapers, he asserts that they share a moral responsibility to inform rather than to titillate with gossip and advertising. In the collection's most eloquent essay, Eco sketches the universal elements of fascism (such as "the cult of tradition" and a "suspicion of intellectual life"), emphasizing that such elements persist even today and can appear in the most innocent guises. Finally, he reveals the complex bond linking migration, with the resulting impact of one culture on another, and intolerance, concluding that the only solution is to teach tolerance from birth. Eco's fans will enjoy his perspective on these issues, but aside from his worthy reflections on fascism, these pieces neither ask new questions nor reach startling conclusions; some are even quite simplistic (e.g., "War is a waste").

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Harcourt; 1st U.S. ed edition (November 5, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151004463
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151004461
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.4 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,349,119 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Umberto Eco (born 5 January 1932) is an Italian novelist, medievalist, semiotician, philosopher, and literary critic.

He is the author of several bestselling novels, The Name of The Rose, Foucault's Pendulum, The Island of The Day Before, and Baudolino. His collections of essays include Five Moral Pieces, Kant and the Platypus, Serendipities, Travels In Hyperreality, and How To Travel With a Salmon and Other Essays.

He has also written academic texts and children's books.


Photography (c) Università Reggio Calabria

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By sbissell3 on June 1, 2003
Format: Paperback
These are five essays previously written by Eco for various publications. Most of them are of interest to those who study European politics and cultural life. If you are not interested in the Italian press or post WWII Facism in Europe and are not familiar with some of the well known players, parts of these essays will make no sense to you.
However, the first essay, "Reflections on War," is worth the price. This essay was written about the first "gulf" war in Kuwait. Reading in now in a post-Iraq war frame is even more interesting. Eco predicts the neo-conservative view that active imposition of democracy by the developed nations will begin to occur in the middle east and elsewhere and he gives some brillant insight into this thinking.
The other essays have thoughts worth reading even if the topics are not your cup of tea. Like all of Eco's work, this is highly readable and not at all obtuse.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Ali Hanafi on March 7, 2002
Format: Hardcover
While the book is on the pricey side, it contains some extremely relevant thought pieces for our world today.
The essays are meant to provoke further thinking on the subjects rather than provide any pat answers.
The essays on immigration and intolerance and the characteristics of fascism are particularly worth reading.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Tein N. on May 27, 2011
Format: Paperback
Had to read these essays in college for an English class and the message within them stay with me still.

This is not the insight of American and it's not about American politics or history so there may be very obscure references that you may not know about but they do not cloud the message at all, so worry not. These are essays about, you guessed it, morality and ethics from the perspective of a well-respected intellectual.
Don't expect anything more than essays and you'll be fine. A bit of forewarning on my part for anyone looking to buy this.

The price is a bit steep at nearly $13 for a book that you can read in one sitting frankly. I wouldn't recommend buying it for the price, you can pick it up used for far cheaper. Mind you, I'm not saying this to cheapen the writing but in this day and age, $13 for a tiny collection of essays is ridiculous.

But this is one of those books that you'll always keep around and drag out now and then to give it a quick read, to reflect upon his well-constructed and brilliant arguments about things like compassion, history, and war. And why morality is a universal concept that is rational and with a reach that encompasses the world.

One of my favorite little 'books' by a very great mind.
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