Statues, Monuments, & Philosophy


Recent protests against racism have included or prompted the removal of statues and monuments honoring historical figures associated with racist actions and views around the United States and elsewhere around the world

This is not the the first wave of such removals, and Ten-Herng Lai, a Ph.D.. candidate in philosophy at Australian National University, has helpfully compiled a list of writings by philosophers on the topic.

Former site of the statue of 17th-century slave trader and member of Parliament Edward Colston

He says,

Given the recent events, it seems good to show that the philosophical community has been discussing the ethics of monuments/commemorations/racist heritage for some time. Here is a non-exhaustive lit review of some of the recent developments:

Burch-Brown, J. (2017). “Is it Wrong to Topple Statues & Rename Schools?” Journal of Political Theory & Philosophy, 59–86.

Demetriou, D. (Forthcoming). “Ashes of Our Fathers: Racist Monuments and the Tribal Right“. In Ethics Left and Right: The Moral Issues that Divide Us, edited by B. Fisher.

Demetriou, D., & Wingo, A. (2018). “The Ethics of Racist Monuments“. In Palgrave Handbook of Philosophy and Public Policy, edited by D. Boonin.

Frowe, H. (2019). “The Duty to Remove Statues of Wrongdoers“. Journal of Practical Ethics, 7(3).

Lai, T.-H. (Forthcoming). “Political Vandalism as Counter-Speech: A Defense of Defacing and Destroying Tainted Monuments“. European Journal of Philosophy.

Lim, C. (Forthcoming). “Vandalizing Tainted Commemorations“. Philosophy and Public Affairs, Online first.

Nili, S. (2020). “From Charlottesville to the Nobel: Political Leaders and the Morality of Political Honors“. Ethics, 130(3), 415–445.

Schulz, J. (2019). “Must Rhodes Fall? The Significance of Commemoration in the Struggle for Relations of Respect“. Journal of Political Philosophy, 27(2), 166–186.

Timmerman, T. (Forthcoming). “A Case for Removing Confederate Monuments“. In Ethics Left and Right: The Moral Issues that Divide Us, edited by B. Fisher.

Tsai, G. (2016). “The morality of state symbolic power“. Social Theory and Practice, 42(2), 318–342.

Feel free to add other relevant works in the comments.

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