Moral Imagination: What Do We Wish to See?
Soviet Sports Palace vs. European Convention Center vs. Historic Jewish Cemetery
Andrius Kulikauskas, Vilnius Gediminas Technical University
Public dialogue, semiotics, Vilnius
We consider how a specific symbol (image, word, etc.) can become the answer to a complicated social question representing many distinct concerns, concepts and points of view. We pay particular attention to the role of moral imagination in expanding the scope of interests, the motives for participating and the opportunities for solutions. Notably, we analyze the hierarchy of interests at play in Vilnius regarding the future of the decrepit Soviet-era Sports Palace. EU and Lithuanian government funds are available to remake it as a convention center. This would be the most straightforward outcome. However, the Soviets constructed the Sports Palace in the middle of Vilnius's oldest Jewish cemetery.
This becomes an issue of sensitivity to what we imagine, what is actually the case, what we will ultimately see, and what that image might imply, symbolize, sanction, condemn or have us imagine anew. Will local Lithuanians and European tourists be celebrating, drinking and urinating over the remains of Lithuania's Jews? What remains are left and do the facts actually matter? The Lithuanian government came to agreement with the Jewish Community of Lithuania and with London-based rabbis which allowed reconstruction to proceed. But opposition has arisen among Jews locally and internationally.
Reconstruction might be halted if that was the wish of ethnic Lithuanians. Indeed, Lithuania lacks a national symbol of empathy for the loss of Lithuania's Jews to the Holocaust. The castle of Gediminas, the main symbol of Vilnius, might inspire such empathy, with its view across the Neris river. We may ask, two hundred years from now, what do we wish to see? A Soviet Sports Palace, a European convention center, or a historic Jewish cemetery? The answer may depend on Lithuania confronting the active role that its leaders played in 1941 for the sake of a Lithuania without Jews. Complicating the debate is the heritage status accorded to the Sports Palace and the feelings of those who seek a symbol which sanctions Soviet Lithuanian culture; the tendency of developers to overreach; and the cultivation by Lithuania's government of local Jewish leaders who favor compromise and wish to avoid any anti-semitic backlash.
We present a semiotic analysis of this debate. Four levels of knowledge are given by a signified along with Peirce's three kinds of signs. We define six qualities of signs (malleable, modifiable, mobile, memorable, meaningful, motivated) in terms of pairs of these four levels. We then explore how moral imagination expands freedom by allowing us to empathize with others and choose to serve them rather than ourselves. Our moral imagination may have our conscious grow more responsible for our unconscious, that is, our prejudices. A sign may thereby enrich our self-identity with a solution that summarizes a hierarchy of concerns.
Visual heritage in a creative city
Andrius Kulikauskas, email@example.com, +370 607 27 665, http://www.ms.lt
Lecturer, Vilnius Gediminas Technical University
Andrius Kulikauskas seeks a comprehensive philosophy to know everything and apply that knowledge usefully. Currently, he is investigating, how do people behave? and how should they behave? He is trying to describe how the conscious mind adds concerns, concepts and events to the unconscious mind. As a visual artist, he has illustrated his philosophical ideas with exhibits in Vilnius and Chicago. He runs monthly workshops to help people investigate their questions. His ultimate goal is to establish a culture of independent thinkers. His perspective on culture is informed by his upbringing in California as a Lithuanian nationalist, as well as his empathy for Lithuanian Jewish heritage, what remains of it after the Holocaust.