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Fabiano Longoni, Ethics and decision-making. Philosophical-theological and experiential perspectives

Natalino Bonazza

Fabiano Longoni , Etica e decisione. Prospettive filosofico-teologiche ed esperienziali (Ethics and decision-making. Philosophical-theological and experiential perspectives ), Venice, Marcianum Press, 2007. What is fashionable is too often seen as topical. At times the former even takes on sensationalist overtones when in fact all it does is uphold common beliefs. In the end we tend to conform to the style of a certain kind of journalism. There is however another way of understanding what is going on today, namely probing, or better still, patiently penetrating what is intelligently experienced in order to uncover its truth and meaning so that it can become a source for all that makes life a great gift and a promising reality. In this sense Fabiano Longoni's essay is very topical for it succeeds in meeting a fundamental need that is deeply felt today, namely the need to closely understand the decision-making process, highlight its importance and positively illustrate its anthropological and social implications by reconstituting a set of fundamental categories that define the good life and how the common good can be achieved. Starting first from three telling quotes, the author looks at the process of decision-making by adopting a contrastive approach that highlights the embarrassing paradox found in Buridan's ass. The latter is named after philosopher Jean Buridan (1290-1358), who imagined a situation in which an ass, placed exactly half way between two stacks of hay, will starve to death because it cannot make any rational decision about which one to eat. The fable epitomises the impasse in which individuals and groups find themselves when they are unable to decide on a given course of action. Paradoxically today this situation is intensified by the existing plethora of news, analyses and media. It is also apparently justified by the illusion of freedom that comes from the belief that the condition of not-choosing is even better than choosing since it is neither limiting nor determined by a chosen path. Such a "widespread illness" that affects so many in the younger generations is not exactly invisible. If we could overcome the paradox of Buridan's ass we might indeed be able to deal with the educational emergency that has become one of the most urgent challenges of our times. As we proceed along the way proposed by the author, we see that the topic gain content and depth. The book's first two chapters offer "an anthropology born from action" in which the relationship between truth and freedom, relationship and responsibility, is articulated. From the theological perspective laid out in chapters three and four, humanity's dramatic condition is defined; but so are the origins of the decision that finds in Christ its true fulfilment and the basis of never-ending comparison. Chapter five provides an initial synthesis because it documents the social implications caused by tension over truth, showing the need to bring knowledge, wisdom and action back into the one concrete process of decision-making. In chapter six the bases and timing for decision-making are vetted by looking at what some of today's thinkers and writers have to say, followed in the next chapter by a reassessment of business as a context where decisions are made. Finally, the topic's social nature informs the last chapter, showing that ethics shape every context and aspect of human action. The book reaches its broader goal as the title would suggest. A better synthetic understanding of the topic would have probably benefited from a final reassessment, but the book's extensive and remarkable bibliography offers a possibility for further study and reflection. In this book Longoni has achieved a valuable multidisciplinary and culturally interesting convergence. This has enabled him to focus on a key element in the basic experience that enables humans to put themselves on the line. The text is a fruitful example of what Pope Benedict XVI told Catholics when he visited Genoa (Italy) on 18 May 2008. On that occasion the Holy Father urged "adults and young people" to "foster a thought-out faith that can engage in profound dialogue with all." In addition to correcting some misprints for any future edition, we suggest that Saint Bonaventure of Bagnoregio (1217/1221 -1274) be cited. The ancient saying "Habere Deum est haberi a Deo," cited on p. 91 of the book, is taken from his Breviloquium V 1.

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