Cultivating practical wisdom in the restoration of cultural artifacts
Ullman, Catherine J.
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DaVinci's Mona Lisa, an 1860's "Volcano hearse" and a Confederate battle flag are just three examples of cultural artifacts which may require restoration because they are worn, dirty, damaged or structurally deteriorated. Although questions about restoration are frequently discussed in the realms of history, anthropology, and art conservation, the topic of restoration and preservation has had little discussion in the realm of philosophy. What little philosophy of restoration and preservation does exist specifically concerns restoration and preservation practices for works of art. The main debate in the philosophical literature is between the purist and the integrationist, each of which offers a universal, rule-based solution governing how artworks should be restored. I reject both of these solutions and, instead, offer my own agent-based solution called the Phronetic Method, which is grounded in Aristotle's notion of phronesis. The Phronetic Method is also shown to be easily extendable to the broader category of cultural artifacts. A case study in which a successful restoration was accomplished using something akin to the Phronetic Method is offered in support of this solution.