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Comment: Harvard University Press; 2004; 7.01 X 4.57 X 0.63 inches; Paperback; Good+; 240 Pages
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The Ethics of Memory Paperback – April 14, 2004

6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0674013780 ISBN-10: 0674013786

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Plato taught that the search for knowledge is tied up with memory, the effort to recall something we collectively knew. Freud took memory even further, positing that repressed memories are the key to shaping us as individuals and as a society. Margalit, a professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and author of The Decent Society, takes up these issues in respect to an idea of communal memory. Acknowledging that historical religions "can make a bid on moral memory," he instead poses a question: "Is there an ethics of memory?" His answer is a qualified yes, but it's the exegesis that is most compelling. Discussing memory's relation to emotions, morality, ethics and forgiveness, Margalit reads the Bible, writers (such as Wordsworth, Edward Albee and E.M. Forster), myths and other philosophers (Kant and Max Weber) in order to make his finely nuanced argument.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Margalit (philosophy, Hebrew Univ., Jerusalem) maintains that people sometimes have ethical obligations to remember past persons and events, but he is anxious to guard his own thesis from over-expansion. He distinguishes his position from religious doctrines that are bound up with the past, holding that an ethics of memory has secular sense. Further, he does not support traditionalism, that is, the retention of past institutions as a value in itself. He also warns of "moralism," by which he means "the disposition to cast judgments of a moral kind on what is unsuitable to be so judged." To counter moralism, he distinguishes between ethics and morality. The former deals with our relations to those with whom we have special ties; the latter, our obligations to humanity as a whole. Margalit maintains that we have ethical obligations to remember particular people and, more controversially, that a community can have, and ought to have, collective memories. The stricter obligations of morality involve issues of memory only in unusual circumstances. We are, for instance, obligated to remember the evils of the Nazis, since they endeavored to undermine morality altogether. This illuminating study is highly recommended. David Gordon, Bowling Green State Univ., OH
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (March 15, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674013786
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674013780
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.6 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #132,101 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Dr. Jeremy Rosen on June 18, 2003
Format: Hardcover
For someone who loves Philosophy and Judaism this book was a real delight. Margalit draws on Jewish and European cultural sources to examine both the nature of ethics as opposed to morality and the meaning and obligations of memory.
Usually cross cultural afficionados are caught in a philosophical world that has no use for religious traditions or vice versa. Here is a unique opportunity to revel in both.
Regardless of ones political or religious background or inclinations this book will resonate and stimulate.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Sceptique500 on October 28, 2010
Format: Paperback
Memory accompanies us on the temporal path: it explains to us imperfectly how we got where we are and, in so doing, informs our choices. Our actions as individuals or members of a group are all strung along the temporal path: if society or a group is to endure, the past has practical implications for the future. Thus contracts endure, laws apply over time - in limiting our choices the past makes the future - and social life - predictable, hence possible. These are all practical issues, and for the good of society. Their justification is essentially rational and consequential.

Prof MARGALIT, however, asks a different kind of question: to what extent, however, do memories obligate us in a deontological way? Do we "owe" something unconditionally to the past, as an individual or member of a group? The question is difficult: for memories are in the realm of the contingent and particular, not the universal. If we accept that deontological obligations arise from memory, we may need to break with universal obligations, or rank them lower. And this notwithstanding the fact that memory is such a weak link to the past - memory is a place where fiction turns to self-serving myth.

The author attempts to demonstrate that next to (or better, higher than) unconditional obligations of a universal character (he calls this "morals") there are also unconditional obligations within a group (he calls this "ethics") - and if anything, they take priority. The reason being, says Prof. MARGALIT, that relations at the universal level are "thin", while relations at the group level are "thick" - like "blood is thicker than water". Shared memories commit those who hold them to each other in ways that shared humanity does not.
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By ANGELA on February 18, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
great perspective about the dilemmas of memory. Margalit shows that the moral dimensions of memory have not yet been properly thinking
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