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Nguyen, C. Thi. Monuments as commitments: How art speaks to groups and how groups think in art
2019, Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 100(4), 971-994
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Added by: Ten-Herng Lai
Abstract: Art can be addressed, not just to individuals, but to groups. Art can even be part of how groups think to themselves – how they keep a grip on their values over time. I focus on monuments as a case study. Monuments, I claim, can function as a commitment to a group value, for the sake of long-term action guidance. Art can function here where charters and mission statements cannot, precisely because of art's powers to capture subtlety and emotion. In particular, art can serve as the vessel for group emotions, by making emotional content sufficiently public so as to be the object of a group commitment. Art enables groups to guide themselves with values too subtle to be codified.

Comment (from this Blueprint): This paper highlights the role monuments can play as groups attempt to speak to itself to solidify its own commitment. As a form of art, it can publicly reinforce the commitments, especially through carrying the emotions, attitudes that cannot be easily expressed in propositions, towards certain individuals or ideals. The commitments can be something great, evil, or mediocre. Also consider the fact that art engages with our emotions rather than our rational capacity.

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