Who Owns Up to the Past? Heritage and Historical Injustice

Journal of the American Philosophical Association 4 (1):87-104 (2018)
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‘Heritage’ is a concept that often carries significant normative weight in moral and political argument. In this article, I present and critique a prevalent conception according to which heritage must have a positive valence. I argue that this view of heritage leads to two moral problems: Disowning Injustice and Embracing Injustice. In response, I argue for an alternative conception of heritage that promises superior moral and political consequences. In particular, this alternative jettisons the traditional focus on heritage as a primarily positive relationship to the past, and thus offers resources for coming to terms with histories of injustice.

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Erich Hatala Matthes
Wellesley College


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