My thanks are due to Patrick Shaw for having read and commented upon this article.
Ethical Responsibility and Historical Biography
Article first published online: 28 JUN 2008
Journal of Applied Philosophy
Volume 6, Issue 1, pages 17–30, March 1989
How to Cite
GRIFFIN, N. (1989), Ethical Responsibility and Historical Biography. Journal of Applied Philosophy, 6: 17–30. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-5930.1989.tb00375.x
- Issue published online: 28 JUN 2008
- Article first published online: 28 JUN 2008
ABSTRACT Lately, the demand for historical biography has remained strong, fresh works appearing with increased regularity. My concern is with the subjects of these efforts—the dead figures whose lives and natures form the bulk of the contents. The ethics of the professional historian provide writers of historical biography with some guidelines, but are these sound, substantial and enduring enough to ensure the just treatment of the subjects? My contention is that they are not, and I set out tentatively in this brief essay to speculate on some grounds upon which a fuller sense of ethical responsibility, respect and commitment may be built. The major difficulty in attempting this exercise rests with the actual nature of the subject towards whom any duty or responsibility is to be felt, and it is on ambiguity respecting this issue that any serious conclusions may risk shipwreck. Alternatively, if any sense of ethical concern is thought demonstrable in this context, it may rest upon premises that are fundamentally egoistic in nature.