The Moral Demands of Memory

The Moral Demands of Memory
  • By Jeffrey Blustein

  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press

    Online Publication Date:June 2012

    Online ISBN:9780511818615

    Hardback ISBN:9780521883306

    Paperback ISBN:9780521709729

  • Book DOI:

    Subjects: Ethics

There is considerable contemporary interest in memory, both within the academy and in the public sphere. Little has been written by moral philosophers on the subject, however. In this timely book, Jeffrey Blustein explores the moral aspects and implications of memory, both personal and collective. He provides a systematic and philosophically rigorous account of a morality of memory, focusing on the value of memory, its relationship to identity, and the responsibilities associated with memory.


Jeffrey Blustein's marvelous The Moral Demands of Memory is the first systematic book-length philosophical discussion of a number of interconnected questions: what is the nature of personal and collective memory? What are their roles in honoring the past and repairing historical injustice? Are there any obligations to remember, and why? How is memory related to personal and collective identity? Blustein's wide-ranging discussion also addresses the issue of collective shame, the social function of myth, the role of ritual in remembering, and the nature as well as moral significance of bearing witness. These are philosophically and humanly matters of genuine importance, and Blustein's sophisticated analysis significantly advances the discussion about them.
--Charles L. Griswold, Boston University

This is the book to read on the ethics of memory – individual and collective. Drawing on a wide range of recent work, its in-depth analyses range from taking responsibility for one’s own past and for historic injustices to remembering the “dear departed” and bearing witness. Blustein’s nuanced explorations of non-consequentialist arguments throughout (a highlight) are, amazingly, very pragmatically helpful. An outstanding work -- I love this book!
--Claudia Card, Emma Goldman Professor of Philosophy, University of Wisconsin

Blustein builds a nuanced, comprehensive, and ultimately moving view of remembrance and obligations to remember. Drawing on remarkably diverse literatures and sustaining a continuous philosophical argument, this book travels from the nature and uses of memory, through history and injustice, to our obligations, individually and collectively, to remember, memorialize, and bear witness. A singular contribution to a topic little addressed by academic philosophers and a richly detailed meditation on questions that touch our personal and political lives.
--Margaret Urban Walker, Lincoln Professor of Ethics, Arizona State University

"The book's agenda is expansive...unified by a line of argument that reflects on connections amongst memory, identity, and responsibility, and also by a focus on the value of the moral and affectional attitudes of love, acknowledgement, caring, and respect that remembering can express, in balance with more consequentialist considerations...Blustein's book is difficult to encapsulate and rewarding to engage."
--Sue Campbell, Dalhousie University, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

"Blustein offers an important new book that raises profound questions about the nature and extent of one's duty to outstanding book, which is written in a clear, nontechnical style and should be readily accessibly to any serious reader...Essential"
-H. Oberdiek, Swarthmore College, Choice

“In The Moral Demands of Memory, Jeffrey Blustein intelligently examines and answers many of the questions the literatures on historical injustice and apologies raise, and by doing he greatly advances our understanding of the moral demands of memory…Blustein eschews simple formulas and instead accepts the complexity of his topic. Blustein treats his subject with considerable care; this well-written book patiently and intelligently enhances our understanding of the moral demands of memory.”
Jeff Spinner-Halev, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Social Theory and Practice


Choice Magazine Outstanding Academic Title, 2008