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« Two Enduring Plots | Main | Spinning Yeats »

Love and Morality

In many ways, Ian McEwan's ENDURING LOVE is a morality play, one even pretty close to the medieval roots of morality plays. Back then, these dramas were made up of a handful of characters, each standing in for a distinct perspective or virtue. The plot involved some sort of temptation and the counsels of the various virtues, all wrestling out right from wrong, often against a background of "love" (whether divine or human). The central character learns to do the right thing because of a love for God or his fellow humans or his spouse or some such.

Love. Many consider it the basis of ethics in Western thought. Love draws you out of yourself. Love leads you to noble acts. Love leads you to selflessness. Love inspires you to care about your fellow humans. Love enlarges your capacity for wisdom. And so forth.

Of course, we'll talk more about these things in reference to the novel; but I thought it would be interesting for you to watch a clip of McEwan being interviewed by Richard Dawkins. Here, McEwan repeatedly touches on the subject of ethics, of how humans should treat each other--and the "question" of love. I think you'll see a tension in the video between Dawkins' rather tightly-held certainty and McEwan's embrace of nuance, despite holding to the same principles as Dawkins.

This is a raw, unedited video; but it offers you a glimpse into McEwan himself--not only his thought but his "way of being" in the world. (As always, we have a low bandwidth for our site, so let the video load a bit before you launch into it. It's about 35 minutes long.)


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