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Berninger, Anja. Commemorating Public Figures–In Favour of a Fictionalist Position
2020, Journal of Applied Philosophy
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Added by: Ten-Herng Lai
Abstract: In this article, I discuss the commemoration of public figures such as Nelson Mandela and Yitzhak Rabin. In many cases, our commemoration of such figures is based on the admiration we feel for them. However, closer inspection reveals that most (if not all) of those we currently honour do not qualify as fitting objects of admiration. Yet, we may still have the strong intuition that we ought to continue commemorating them in this way. I highlight two problems that arise here: the problem that the expressed admiration does not seem appropriate with respect to the object and the problem that continued commemorative practices lead to rationality issues. In response to these issues, I suggest taking a fictionalist position with respect to commemoration. This crucially involves sharply distinguishing between commemorative and other discourses, as well as understanding the objects of our commemorative practices as fictional objects.

Comment (from this Blueprint): This is a persuasive article arguing for a somewhat counter-intutive conclusion. The fictionalist approach, that what we honour is not the historical figure, but some idealised version of them, seems to capture what we actually do in the real world, even if we think we are not doing this. Do compare the position on eliminativism with Frowe's paper.

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