Glimpses of a Book #1

Turning Back The Clock 

by Umberto Eco


Ⅰ. WAR, PEACE, AND OTHER MATTERS : The Loss of Privacy

“… the very concept of deformity is deformed, and everything becomes beautiful, even ugliness, as long as it is elevated to the glory of the TV screen.” (P.86)


I. WAR, PEACE, AND OTHER MATTERS : On Political Correctness

“The point here is that politically correct decisions can represent a way of avoiding unresolved social problems, disguising them with a more polite use of language. If we stop calling people in wheelchairs handicapped or even disabled (they are differently abled) but fail to build them access ramps to public areas, we have clearly – and hypocritically – got rid of the word but not of the problem.” (P.90)



“Therefore choosing the wrong name leads to the choice of the wrong remedy. The belief that you can defeat a terrorist enemy through the roundups normally used against resistance groups is an illusion, but the belief that you can defeat hit-and-run fighters with the methods that should be used for terrorists is equally mistaken. We ought to use the technical terms when necessary, without yielding to passions or blackmail.” (P.223)


IV. THE RETURN OF THE CRUSADES : Negotiating in a Multiethnic Society

“If, as some say, there are no facts in the world but only interpretations, negotiation would be impossible, because there would be no criterion that would enable us to decide whether my interpretation is better than yours or not. We can compare and discuss interpretations precisely because we can weigh them against the facts they are intended to interpret.” (P.248)

“We negotiate because, if everyone stuck to his own interpretation of the facts, we would go on ad infinitum. We negotiate to bring our diverging interpretations to a point of convergence, if only a partial one, that enables us to deal with a Fact – a thing that is there and is difficult to get rid of.” (P.248)

“But the Oughtness, in the case in point, clashes with a Fact, which, like all Facts, is not a matter of discussion. Faced with a fact like a volcanic eruption or an avalanche, we don’t make judgements on its merits, we seek a solution.” (P.250)

“We all aspire to the best, but we have all learned that sometimes the best is the enemy of good, that by negotiating we must choose the lesser of two evils.” (P.252)


V. THE SUMMA AND THE REST : Those Who Don’t Believe in God Believe in Everything

“Science does not hold that what is new is therefore right. On the contrary, it is based on the principle of “fallibilism”…, according to which science progresses by continually correcting itself, disproving its hypotheses by trial and error, admitting its mistakes, and considering that an experiment that doesn’t work is not a failure but worth as much as a successful one, because it proves that a certain line of research was wrong and we should either change direction or start from scratch. … This way of thinking is the opposite of all forms of fundamentalism, all literal interpretations of holy writ – which are also open to continuous reinterpretation – and all dogmatic certainty in one’s own ideas. Science is that good “philosophy”, in the everyday and Socratic sense of the term, that ought to be taught in schools.” (P.303)

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