“Monumentalizing Nature” by Levi Tenen (Kettering University)
There has been much recent discussion of monuments. Such discussions focus primarily on artefactual monuments. Interestingly, however, the first entity designated as a U.S. national monument was a natural entity: Devil’s Tower. I seek to provide a philosophical analysis of this, and other, natural entities that are designated as monuments. I argue that many of them are genuine monuments but that, in virtue of being so, are subject to three concerns: first, they treat natural entities inappropriately; second, they give rise to a problematic form of ecotourism; and third, they invite a particular kind of political controversy. Forming a contrast, I then argue that designated wilderness areas are a sort of countermonument and that, in virtue of how they differ from monuments, avoid the three previous worries. In this way, my discussion provides a philosophical diagnosis of how The Antiquities Act and The Wilderness Act differ in their approach to the natural environment.