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Durham University

Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (IMEMS)


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Publication details for Professor Geoffrey Scarre

Scarre, Geoffrey (2012). Speaking of the dead. Mortality 17(1): 36-50.

Author(s) from Durham


Many people think that the reputations of the dead should be treated with respect, though this position is hard to defend if dead people are not only unconscious of what is said about them but also non-existent. In this paper, I examine first some unsuccessful arguments for holding that the dead are wronged by slander or denigration and ask what kind of civilised values are at issue when we speak about dead people. Subsequently I propose an alternative account which identifies the ante-mortem person as the real subject of posthumous slander. One important implication of this view is that moral status does not decline with time, so that failing to respect a dead person's good name is equally wrong whether she is long-dead or only recently deceased.