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Bringing Back Bamiyan's Buddhas

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Bamiyan's Buddhas, long the treasured centrepiece of Afghanistan's material culture, were blown up by the Taliban in 2001. Since then controversy has arisen regarding whether — and, if so, how — the sculptures might be resurrected. One option — possible in principle because of careful 20th century survey work — would be to reconstruct exact replicas. I argue this would be a mistake. Reconstructing the sculptures, though it might serve useful ends, is inappropriate on aesthetic, moral, and metaphysical grounds. I then consider restoration, arguing that it is appropriate on these same grounds. Unlike reconstruction, restoration stands to (partly) resuscitate the artistic, cultural, and historical value that now lies, inaccessible, in piles of rubble. And while restoration stands to achieve this worthy end, it would contribute as well to the economic and political well-being of Afghani citizens. In short, I argue that restoring — and thereby resurrecting — Bamiyan's Buddhas, both metaphysically possible and morally appropriate, is a win-win proposition. Afghanistan deserves our support to make this happen.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: James Janowski, Department of Philosophy, Hampden-Sydney College, PO Box 42, Hampden-Sydney, VA 23943, USA., Email: [email protected]

Publication date: 2011-02-01

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