Stones and Lives: The Ethics of Protecting Heritage in War

Workshop on Helen Frowe and Derek Matraver's new book
American College of Greece, Athens
22-23 May 2024
Co-hosted by SCEWP, the Open University and the American College of Greece
This two-day interdisciplinary workshop will bring together philosophers and heritage researchers to discuss 
Helen Frowe and Derek Matravers’ Stones and Lives: The Ethics of Protecting Heritage in War (in press, OUP).
Helen Frowe (Philosophy, Stockholm University)
Derek Matravers (Philosophy, Open University)
Fredrick Rosén (Nordic Centre for Cultural Heritage and Armed Conflict)
Cécile Fabre (Philosophy, Oxford University)
Andreas Carlsson (Philosophy, Inland Norwegian University)
Ammar Azzouz (Geography and the Environment, Oxford University)
Gerald Lang (Philosophy, Leeds University)
Roger O’Keefe (Law, University of Boccini)
Shuk Ying Chan (Political Science, University College, London)
Daniel Schwartz (Political Science, Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

The destruction of heritage in war has attracted considerable attention in recent years, due in no small part to ISIS’s campaign of destruction across the Middle East and, in 2012, the International Criminal Court’s first prosecution of heritage destruction as a war crime. Regular armed forces have been criticised for both failing to protect and damaging heritage sites. In response, heritage organisations urge the better implementation of existing international laws on heritage protection in war. This book argues that any such law or policy will require combatants to choose between safeguarding heritage and safeguarding other goods, including human life. It thus challenges the view, repeatedly expressed by heritage professionals, that the choice between protecting heritage and protecting lives is a false dichotomy. Existing international law not only implies such choices but also, more worryingly, gives no indication of how they should be resolved.

Drawing on contemporary work on the ethics of war, this book develops an account of the permissible protection of heritage in war. It argues that heritage is not morally special; rather, heritage is one of many goods that contribute to individuals’ lives going well and that we routinely trade off against each other. By drawing on these more familiar dilemmas, we can make progress on how to balance the protection of heritage against risks to human life. Amongst other things, the book considers the different ways in which heritage might contribute to individual flourishing, the role of consent in justifying the imposition of risk on combatants and civilians, the permissibility of forcefully defending heritage and what, if anything, could compensate for the loss of heritage in war.

The workshop is open to all and free to attend. However numbers are limited, so participants must register in advance using the form below. The workshop papers will engage directly with the manuscript, which will be made available to all registered participants. All enquiries to [email protected]