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Chong-Ming Lim. Vandalizing tainted commemorations
2020, Philosophy and Public Affairs, 1-32
Added by: Björn Freter
Abstract: What should we do about “tainted” public commemorations? Recent events have highlighted the urgency of reaching a consensus on this question. However, existing discussions appear to be dominated by two naïve opposing views – to remove or preserve them. My aims in this essay are two-fold. First, I argue that the two views are not naïve, but undergirded by concerns with securing self-respect and with the character of our engagement with the past. Second, I offer a qualified defence of vandalising tainted commemorations. The defence comprises two parts. I consider two prominent suggestions – to install counter-commemorations and to add contextualising plaques – and argue that they are typically beset with difficulties. I then argue that in some circumstances, constrained vandalism is a response to tainted commemorations which effectively adjudicates the demands of the two opposing views

Comment: Lim’s paper represents one of the best attempts to charitably understand the view of those who support preservation, and furthermore constructively engages with them to the extent where a reasonable yet striking solution is proposed. Encouraged to be read with Lim, C.-M. (2020), “Transforming problematic commemorations through vandalism”, Journal of Global Ethics, 16(3): 414–421, where Lim defends the feasibility of his radical solution.

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