Opinion note: …And if there was also a duty to forget, how would we think about history then?
Is remembrance an absolute moral duty or is it better thought of in more ethically constricted pragmatic and empirical terms? This essay argues that both individuals and societies should strive for remembrance where possible, but accept that there are times and places where more forgetting is the only safe choice to make. One may hope that at some point in the future the need to remember will sweep away a prudential decision to forget, but while we are within our moral rights to hope that, in a given case, forgetting itself will outlive its usefulness, conflating our wishes with teleological certainties is an exercise in hubris, not morality. But on no account should memory be thought of as a categorical imperative.