Journal of Practical Ethics 7 (3):1-31 (2019)
AbstractThis paper argues that public statues of persons typically express a positive evaluative attitude towards the subject. It also argues that states have duties to repudiate their own historical wrongdoing, and to condemn other people’s serious wrongdoing. Both duties are incompatible with retaining public statues of people who perpetrated serious rights violations. Hence, a person’s being a serious rights violator is a sufficient condition for a state’s having a duty to remove a public statue of that person. I argue that this applies no less in the case of the ‘morally ambiguous’ wrongdoer, who both accomplishes significant goods and perpetrates serious rights violations. The duty to remove a statue is a defeasible duty: like most duties, it can be defeated by lesser-evil considerations. If removing a statue would, for example, spark a violent riot that would risk unjust harm to lots of people, the duty to remove could be outweighed by the duty not to foreseeably cause unjust harm. This would provide a lesser-evil justification for keeping the statue. But it matters that the duty to remove is outweighed, rather than negated, by these consequences. Unlike when a duty is negated, one still owes something in cases of outweighing. And it especially matters that it is outweighed by the predicted consequences of wrongful behaviour by others.
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References found in this work
A Case for Removing Confederate Monuments.Travis Timmerman - 2020 - In Bob Fischer (ed.), Ethics, Left and Right: The Moral Issues that Divide Us. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 513-522.
Is It Wrong to Topple Statues and Rename Schools?Joanna Burch-Brown - 2017 - Journal of Political Theory and Philosophy 1 (1):59-88.
Citations of this work
Political Vandalism as Counter‐Speech: A Defense of Defacing and Destroying Tainted Monuments.Ten‐Herng Lai - 2020 - European Journal of Philosophy 28 (3):602-616.
Objectionable Commemorations, Historical Value, and Repudiatory Honouring.Ten-Herng Lai - forthcoming - Australasian Journal of Philosophy:1-11.
How Statues Speak.David Friedell & Shen-yi Liao - forthcoming - The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism.
Fans, Crimes and Misdemeanors: Fandom and the Ethics of Love.Alfred Archer - 2021 - The Journal of Ethics 25 (4):543-566.
Questioning the Assumptions of Moralism, Universalism, and Interpretive Dominance in Racist Monument Debates.Dan Demetriou - 2022 - Public Affairs Quarterly 36 (3):233-255.
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