Heritage and War: Ethical Issues

Bülow, William; Frowe, Helen; Matravers, Derek and Thomas, Joshua Lewis eds. (2023). Heritage and War: Ethical Issues. Oxford Academic.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/oso/9780192862648.001.0001


The destruction of cultural heritage in war is currently attracting considerable attention. ISIS’s campaign of deliberate destruction across the Middle East was met with widespread horror and calls for some kind of international response. The United States attracted criticism for both its accidental damaging of Ancient Babylon in 2015 and its failure to protect the Mosul Museum from looters in 2003. In 2016, the International Criminal Court prosecuted its first case of the destruction of heritage as a war crime. While the destruction of heritage is widely condemned, there has also been condemnation of calls to mobilize our resources for the sake of heritage protection when human beings face threats to life and limb. Such issues are both philosophically rich and personally significant to a wide range of people. And yet they have been largely neglected by academic philosophers. This book makes a substantial contribution to developing this new philosophical territory. The contributors are a mixture of internationally recognized authorities in their fields and early-career researchers working in this area. Their eleven original essays investigate a variety of philosophical and ethical issues arising from the phenomenon of heritage destruction in war, including conflicts between protecting heritage and protecting people, how we ought to respond to heritage that is damaged in war, the nature of the harm caused by such damage, and the morally appropriate treatment of sites of war and conflict that have themselves become heritage sites.

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