Belief or Nonbelief?: A Confrontation

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Overview

One is the beloved author of The Name of the Rose, a celebrated scholar, philosopher, and self-declared secularist; the other is a preeminent clergyman and a respected expert on the New Testament. In this intellectually stimulating dialogue, these two great men, who stand on opposite sides of the church door, discuss some of the most controversial issues of our day: the apocalypse, abortion, women in the clergy, and ethics. Their enlightened, spirited exchange will resonate with...
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Overview

One is the beloved author of The Name of the Rose, a celebrated scholar, philosopher, and self-declared secularist; the other is a preeminent clergyman and a respected expert on the New Testament. In this intellectually stimulating dialogue, these two great men, who stand on opposite sides of the church door, discuss some of the most controversial issues of our day: the apocalypse, abortion, women in the clergy, and ethics. Their enlightened, spirited exchange will resonate with believers and nonbelievers alike.

Author Biography: Umberto Eco is the author of The Name of

the Rose and other novels, as well as numerous nonfiction works, including Kant and the Platypus: Essays on Language and Cognition. He lives in Bologna. Carlo Maria Martini, member of the College of Cardinals at the Vatican, is the Archbishop of Milan.

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Editorial Reviews

Los Angeles Times
...challenging...a conversation between two amazing minds on which we have the luck to eavesdrop...this robust exchange is a joy to read...
Christian Science Monitor
...a model in the wilderness, a kind of religious debate not heard much in America...
Library Journal
This is no contest between debating opponents seeking to score rhetorical knockouts; instead, it's just two thoughtful people who respectfully listen to what the other has to say about faith. The nonbeliever is Eco, renowned semiotician and author of The Name of the Rose. The believer is the Archbishop of Milan. In these letters, originally run in an Italian newspaper, they address topics that divide official Catholic from contemporary secular opinion. First, the cardinal answers Eco's inquiries on hope and apocalyptic expectation, on when life begins, and on why the Church does not ordain women. There are no surprises here, except perhaps in Martini's nuanced "wait and see" response to the last question. Then, in the book's best exchange, Eco replies to the cardinal's question of how those who do not believe in God can be committed to moral absolutes. Would that all "confrontations" between belief and unbelief were so informed and instructive. Recommended for all public libraries.--Steve Young, Montclair State Univ., NJ Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781559704977
  • Publisher: Arcade Publishing
  • Publication date: 1/12/2000
  • Edition description: First English-Language Edition
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 4.75 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Umberto Eco
Umberto Eco is a professor of semiotics at the University of Bologna and the author of Foucault’s Pendulum, The Name of the Rose, and other international bestsellers. He lives in Milan, Italy.

Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini is a member of the College of Cardinals at the Vatican.

Harvey Cox is Thomas Professor of Divinity at Harvard University and the author of The Secular City, Many Mansions, and Fire from Heaven.

Biography

Back in the 1970s, long before the cyberpunk era or the Internet boom, an Italian academic was dissecting the elements of codes, information exchange and mass communication. Umberto Eco, chair of semiotics at the University of Bologna, developed a widely influential theory that continues to inform studies in linguistics, philosophy, anthropology, cultural studies and critical theory.

Most readers, however, had never heard of him before the 1980 publication of The Name of the Rose, a mystery novel set in medieval Italy. Dense with historical and literary allusions, the book was a surprise international hit, selling millions of copies in dozens of languages. Its popularity got an additional boost when it was made into a Hollywood movie starring Sean Connery. Eco followed his first bestseller with another, Foucault's Pendulum, an intellectual thriller that interweaves semiotic theory with a twisty tale of occult texts and world conspiracy.

Since then, Eco has shifted topics and genres with protean agility, producing fiction, academic texts, criticism, humor columns and children's books. As a culture critic, his interests encompass everything from comic books to computer operating systems, and he punctures avant-garde elitism and mass-media vacuity with equal glee.

More recently, Eco has ventured into a new field: ethics. Belief or Nonbelief? is a thoughtful exchange of letters on religion and ethics between Eco and Carlo Maria Martini, the Roman Catholic cardinal of Milan; Five Moral Pieces is a timely exploration of the concept of justice in an increasingly borderless world.

Eco also continues to write books on language, literature and semiotics for both popular and academic audiences. His efforts have netted him a pile of honorary degrees, the French Legion of Honor, and a place among the most widely read and discussed thinkers of our time.

Good To Know

Eco is a professor of semiotics at the University of Bologna, though in 2002 he was at Oxford University as a visiting lecturer. He has also taught at several top universities in the U.S., including Columbia, Harvard, Yale, and Northwestern.

Pressured by his father to become a lawyer, Eco studied law at the University of Turn before abandoning that course (against his father's wishes) and pursuing medieval philosophy and literature.

His studies led naturally to the setting of The Name of the Rose in the medieval period. The original tentative title was Murder in the Abbey.

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    1. Hometown:
      Bologna, Italy
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 5, 1932
    2. Place of Birth:
      Alessandria, Italy
    1. Education:
      Ph.D., University of Turin, 1954

Table of Contents

Introduction Harvey Cox 1

Secular Obsession with the Mew Apocalypse Umberto Eco 17

Hope Puts an End to "The End" Carlo Maria Martini 27

When Does Human Life Begin? Umberto Eco 36

Human Life Is Part of God's Life Carlo Maria Martini 45

Men and Women - According to the Church Umberto Eco 53

The Church Does Mot Fulfill Expectations, It Celebrates Mysteries Carlo Maria Martini 68

Where Does the Layman Find Illumination? Carlo Maria Martini 80

Ethics Are Born in the Presence of the Other Umberto Eco 89

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