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In praise of forgetting: historical memory and its ironies

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A leading contrarian thinker explores the ethical paradox at the heart of history's wounds The conventional wisdom about historical memory is summed up in George Santayana's celebrated phrase, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Today, the consensus that it is moral to remember, immoral to forget, is nearly absolute. And yet is this right? David Rieff, an independent writer who has reported on bloody conflicts in Africa, the Balkans, and Central Asia, insists that things are not so simple. He poses hard questions about whether remembrance ever truly has, or indeed ever could, "inoculate" the present against repeating the crimes of the past. He argues that rubbing raw historical wounds—whether self-inflicted or imposed by outside forces—neither remedies injustice nor confers reconciliation. If he is right, then historical memory is not a moral imperative but rather a moral option—sometimes called for, sometimes not. Collective remembrance can be toxic. Sometimes, Rieff concludes, it may be more moral to forget. Ranging widely across some of the defining conflicts of modern times—the Irish Troubles and the Easter Uprising of 1916, the white settlement of Australia, the American Civil War, the Balkan wars, the Holocaust, and 9/11—Rieff presents a pellucid examination of the uses and abuses of historical memory. His contentious, brilliant, and elegant essay is an indispensable work of moral philosophy.

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9780300182798
9780300186666
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Grouped Work ID6e51ee8e-6aa0-3bc9-9d0a-028df36eea93
Grouping Titlein praise of forgetting historical memory and its ironies
Grouping Authordavid rieff
Grouping Categorybook
Grouping LanguageEnglish (eng)
Last Grouping Update2020-10-23 02:39:32AM
Last Indexed2020-10-22 02:52:54AM
Novelist Primary ISBNnone

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display_description

A leading contrarian thinker explores the ethical paradox at the heart of history's wounds
The conventional wisdom about historical memory is summed up in George Santayana's celebrated phrase, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." Today, the consensus that it is moral to remember, immoral to forget, is nearly absolute. And yet is this right?
David Rieff, an independent writer who has reported on bloody conflicts in Africa, the Balkans, and Central Asia, insists that things are not so simple. He poses hard questions about whether remembrance ever truly has, or indeed ever could, "inoculate" the present against repeating the crimes of the past. He argues that rubbing raw historical wounds—whether self-inflicted or imposed by outside forces—neither remedies injustice nor confers reconciliation. If he is right, then historical memory is not a moral imperative but rather a moral option—sometimes called for, sometimes not. Collective remembrance can be toxic. Sometimes, Rieff concludes, it may be more moral to forget.

Ranging widely across some of the defining conflicts of modern times—the Irish Troubles and the Easter Uprising of 1916, the white settlement of Australia, the American Civil War, the Balkan wars, the Holocaust, and 9/11—Rieff presents a pellucid examination of the uses and abuses of historical memory. His contentious, brilliant, and elegant essay is an indispensable work of moral philosophy.

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subject_facetCollective memory -- Philosophy
Ethics
History -- Philosophy
title_displayIn praise of forgetting : historical memory and its ironies
title_fullIn Praise of Forgetting Historical Memory and Its Ironies
In praise of forgetting : historical memory and its ironies / David Rieff
title_shortIn praise of forgetting
title_subhistorical memory and its ironies
topic_facetCollective memory
Essays
Ethics
History
Nonfiction
Philosophy
Sociology