Given how evil slavery was isn't it inappropriate that we (Americans) have

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Given how evil slavery was isn't it inappropriate that we (Americans) have portraits of pro-slavery politicians on our money?

You raise a question which is particularly relevant where I live in Kentucky, since the town of Lexington is full of statues of Confederate soldiers, who were presumably defending slavery. Yet the former slave market has only a small plaque commemorating it. Should any civilized person have always realized that slavery was wrong, even it was legal? And should we as a consequence take a critical attitude to the moral stature of those who did not refuse to have slaves?

I am not sure that we should. After all, there are many issues on which apparently good people do not appreciate the full ethical ramifications of what they do. To take an example, I think that one day our society will be amazed that it was prepared to slaughter and consume animals, especially in the mechanized ways in which this miserable process often takes place. Does that mean that all contemporary carnivores are insensitive and immoral brutes? Not at all, some of my best friends are carnivores and apart from their proclivity to eat animals, everything else is working very well in their moral sphere.

The same thing could be said about former slave owners. Indeed, we might go further and say that important historical figures were often very flawed and yet it is worth celebrating their contribution to our country despite this. To take another example, I have no doubt both that Heidegger was a great philosopher and an unrepentant Nazi. Should the latter interfere in our celebration of his philosophical status? No, there is a difference between being great and being nice. Life would be simpler if this difference did not exist but it does.

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