History, Value, and Irreplaceability

Erich Hatala Matthes

"This is the final accepted version of the following article: "History, Value, and Irreplaceability," Ethics, Vol. 124, No. 1 (October 2013): 35-64, which can be accessed in its final form here:
http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/671389"

Abstract

It is often assumed that there is a necessary relationship between historical value and irreplaceability, and that this is an essential feature of historical value’s distinctive character. Contrary to this assumption, I argue that it is a merely contingent fact that some historically valuable things are irreplaceable, and that irreplaceability is not a distinctive feature of historical value at all. Rather, historically significant objects, from heirlooms to artifacts, offer us an otherwise impossible connection with the past, a value that persists even in the face of suitable replacements.