DO NOT PRESS … OOPS

The toppling of statues of persons whose stature has been recently reversed raises the interesting but unpalatable possibility that the same could happen to those we’ve just recently pedestaled. For example, imagine a hundred years from now it’s been decided that George Floyd was a pedophile. Since his only positive claim to fame was his having been murdered, it’s not like there’s grounds to let the good outweigh the bad. It’s what his murder symbolised, and for that purpose any racially motivated police-authored murder will do.

True, we can cross that bridge when we come to it. But my query is about how we should think about this however-unlikely hypothetical now. Should we allow it to temper our lionisation of the man to ameliorate any possible embarrassment in the future? Or should we, as I say, cross that bridge only if we come to it?

I’m told only an asshole would raise gratuitously offensive questions like this. But I’m not sure this one is entirely gratuitous. What it shows is that even our most heartfelt moral judgments are the product of the information available to us at the time. So one way to preserve a judgment that’s particularly precious to us is to refuse to revisit the historical narrative that underpins it.

“Truth and Reconciliation Commissions” are especially sensitive to this dialectic. And so sometimes the ampersand has to be reinterpreted as the exclusive or. I’m okay with that, provided the commissioners themselves are. And provided acknowledging this interpretation is not made public. So yes, there are certain blog entires that ought to remain in draft. Note to self: Do not press … Oh shit!           



Categories: Everything You Wanted to Know About What's Going On in the World But Were Afraid to Ask, Social and Political Philosophy

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1 reply

  1. Paul says, “…even our most heartfelt moral judgments are the product of the information available to us at the time. So one way to preserve a judgment that’s particularly precious to us is to refuse to revisit the historical narrative that underpins it.”

    These observations reminded me of the first paragraph to an essay I’m working on:

    “Do you ever wonder what future generations will look like? Look in a mirror. You are the future generations of those who lived before you. And do you ever wonder what future future generations will think of you and your ilk? Well, since you are a future generation, and since, cf Hume, the future resembles the past, what you think of your fore-bearers might give you a little insight into what future future generations will think of you. So while you are looking at the face of future generations in your mirror, you might spend a little time reflecting on your attitude toward past generations by looking at your face in their mirror.”

    Like

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