AMADOR by Fernando Savater


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A sometimes touching but ultimately banal discourse by a father to his son, offering advice on how to get along in life. A bestseller in Savater's native Spain, this is a monologue to the author's son (whose name provides the book's title) on the question of ethics, which he defines as the freedom to choose and to realize what one is choosing. Like philosophers through the centuries, he asks how human beings, as moral agents, are to have a good life. The answer, he says, lies in making good decisions: recognizing that which we should truly want (i.e., that which is truly for our good) and then choosing it. The author advises his son on how he should treat others, that is, to put himself in their place -- to have ""sympathetic justice"" or compassion for them. Like any good parent, especially one interested in ethics, Savater discusses sexual ethics, stating that much of the fuss made over so-called sexual immorality stems from innate human fear of pleasure. He then turns to political philosophy, writing that in a democracy, all citizens are politicians, directly or indirectly. The answer here, as it is in much of the volume, is to be accountable -- but accountable primarily to oneself. In a brief epilogue, he tells the youth not to take the treatise too seriously. He should be interested in how to live the best possible life, but he must also know how to laugh and, above all, to make his own decisions. Savater draws examples from a wide variety of sources, from Aristotle to Citizen Kane. At the end of each chapter he provides a minilibrary of quotations from authors like Spinoza, Shakespeare, and John Stuart Mill. Almost all the ground covered has been better treated by others. The father/son conceit is reminiscent of St. Augustine's familiar ""De Magistro,"" of whose style Savater's will remind the reader.

Pub Date: June 7th, 1994
Page count: 160pp
Publisher: Henry Holt