The Ethics of Memory

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Harvard University Press, 2002 - Philosophy - 227 pages
14 Reviews

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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Review: The Ethics of Memory

User Review  - Meryll Levine Page - Goodreads

This book is rich and thoughtful but needs to be read in small bursts of concentration. Read full review

Review: The Ethics of Memory

User Review  - Goodreads

This book is rich and thoughtful but needs to be read in small bursts of concentration. Read full review


Intensive Care
Past Continuous
The Kernel
Emotions Recollected
A Moral Witness
Forgiving and Forgetting

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About the author (2002)

Avishai Margalit's most recent book (with Ian Buruma) is "Occidentalism: The West in the Eyes of Its Enemies" (Penguin). His other books include "The Ethics of Memory" and "The Decent Society." A professor emeritus of philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Margalit is a member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities.

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