Philosophy and Public Affairs Discussion: Chong-Ming Lim's 'Vandalizing tainted commemorations'

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle (Specialist Publication)


Chong-Ming Lim argues that vandalizing statues is a middle path between the extremes of removal and preservation. Lim’s fascinating paper contributes to understanding of a controversial and high-profile topic in contemporary international public debate. He is attentive to the arguments on different sides, and devotes much of the paper to generously spelling out opposing views. Lim finds reasonableness in many directions and writes in a conciliatory spirit, while nonetheless defending what many will see as a radical conclusion. It is a thought-provoking piece of scholarship, and a privilege to engage with. Nevertheless, I shall offer an alternative analysis of the ethics of vandalising statues, and arrive at a different conclusion. If expressive vandalism is sometimes right, it is not because it charts a middle path between extremes of preservation and removal, but because it is appropriately radical. Oppression can call for self-assertion, and expressive vandalism may sometimes be appropriately self-assertive. However there is an inherent ethical ambiguity in acts of expressive or political vandalism. I explain this inherent ethical ambiguity by reference to the Buddhist precept against harsh speech.
Original languageEnglish
Specialist publicationPEA Soup (Philosophy, Ethics, Academic blog)
Publication statusPublished - 7 Dec 2020


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