The Importance of Aesthetics in Controversies over ‘Tainted Monuments’

Practical information
05 June 2023

ENS, Institut Jean Nicod, 29 rue d'Ulm, 75005 Paris


Contemporary debates between "removalists" and "preservationists" of monuments (Joanna Burch-Brown 2017 ; Helen Frowe 2019 ; Travis Timmerman 2020 ; T. H. Lai 2020 ; Benjamin Cohen Rossi 2020, among many others) tend to focus entirely on the moral and political-philosophical dimensions of these structures. And aestheticians who have turned their attention to these debates have largely treated monuments as akin to speech acts (Nguyen 2019, Liao and Friedell 2022). Thus, these discussions have tended to ignore their status as material works of public commemorative art. As seen through the lens of art, however, some crucial but neglected dimensions of value emerge : aesthetic, artistic, historical, age and sense of place value. In this paper I offer a values-balancing framework for adjudicating monumental controversies and suggest that in some cases these considerations about the works qua artworks are powerful enough to tip the balance toward preservation or removal. 

SublimAE (the Sublime and Aesthetic Experiences) seminar, in connection with SublimAE ANR project, will focus on the interdisciplinary study of Aesthetic Experiences with an eye to the sublime by bringing together philosophy, psychology, and social sciences. We will explore, on the one hand, how the experience of the sublime connects to other similar or contrast experiences (the beautiful, terrible beauty, awe, wonder, the uncanny, …), and, on the other hand, the impact these experiences, and more specifically aesthetic ones, have on our representation of the self. The seminar will feature presentations by members of the project, as well as by invited speakers.

Venue : Institut Jean Nicod meeting room

Contact : Margherita ArcangeliJérôme Dokic

For the full programme click here.