Avishai Margalit The Ethics of Memory

ISBN 13: 9780674009417

The Ethics of Memory

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9780674009417: The Ethics of Memory

Much of the intense current interest in collective memory concerns the politics of memory. In a book that asks, "Is there an ethics of memory?" Avishai Margalit addresses a separate, perhaps more pressing, set of concerns.

The idea he pursues is that the past, connecting people to each other, makes possible the kinds of "thick" relations we can call truly ethical. Thick relations, he argues, are those that we have with family and friends, lovers and neighbors, our tribe and our nation--and they are all dependent on shared memories. But we also have "thin" relations with total strangers, people with whom we have nothing in common except our common humanity. A central idea of the ethics of memory is that when radical evil attacks our shared humanity, we ought as human beings to remember the victims.

Margalit's work offers a philosophy for our time, when, in the wake of overwhelming atrocities, memory can seem more crippling than liberating, a force more for revenge than for reconciliation. Morally powerful, deeply learned, and elegantly written, The Ethics of Memory draws on the resources of millennia of Western philosophy and religion to provide us with healing ideas that will engage all of us who care about the nature of our relations to others.

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About the Author:

Avishai Margalit is the Schulman Professor of Philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He is also the George F. Kennan Professor in the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Studies. He writes regularly for the New York Review of Books.

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.

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Avishai Margalit
Editorial: Harvard University Press (2002)
ISBN 10: 067400941X ISBN 13: 9780674009417
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