When I was a little one, my parents had some large fights about some guides my father stole from the marvelous library of the university he attended on the G.I. Bill. They were being 10 certain volumes of Harper’s Bazaar from the 19th century. Expanding up, I pored by way of all of them and discovered them intriguing. My dad died when I was 20, so I last but not least broached with my mother the thought of returning the guides. She did her purse-mouthed point and reported, “I’ll believe about it,” which was her conventional way of not working with one thing. I experimented with conversing to her about it various moments more than the decades and realized she was worried of it reflecting terribly on her, because she hadn’t persuaded him not to retain them.
My mother died 4 many years ago, and I explained to my sister I desired to return the volumes. She lives in Mom’s property and so has physical regulate of them. She insists that Dad advised her that he was awarded them for an essay he wrote. I do not question Father told her this, but she won’t figure out it was a lie. I have pointed out to her that the volumes are not sequential, which tends to make no perception for this sort of an award. I explained to her my memories of the fights our mom and dad had about it, and she refuses to believe that me.
I truly feel this good guilt that individuals textbooks, which could assist someone’s scholarly study, are just sitting down on a shelf. I really don’t know no matter whether I should really do a thing or just enable it go. Name Withheld
The theft of shared home — a class that includes library textbooks — is especially unlucky. It can leave a whole local community worse off. So I comprehend your sense of guilt. It should be galling, too, that your sister refuses to facial area the awkward reality and resists your decent impulse to get these issues back again wherever they belong. There’s a lesson right here about the human inclination to align what we consider to be legitimate with what we’d like to be legitimate. We may well balk at replacing an enchanting story about a prizewinning essay with a disenchanting one about library larceny. Our cherished lies will not bend to new evidence we bind them with really hard handles.
Still, you might uncover some reassurance in the reality that the entire operate of this magazine is digitally accessible in several libraries, nearly certainly such as the a person you mention. (I just appeared at the very first problem, which appeared in 1867, as a result of the library web-site of the university where I instruct. It costs alone “A repository of trend, enjoyment and instruction” — fairly like my classroom when stuffed with students.) And students who need access to the real webpages can find actual physical copies in storage somewhere. A further uncomfortable fact: Libraries have generally picked bound periodicals like these for deaccessioning, a process that often finishes in their destruction. You cannot be self-assured that the library would even settle for their return.
Kwame Anthony Appiah teaches philosophy at N.Y.U. His textbooks involve “Cosmopolitanism,” “The Honor Code” and “The Lies That Bind: Rethinking Identity.” To post a question: Send an e-mail to email@example.com or send mail to The Ethicist, The New York Situations Magazine, 620 Eighth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10018. (Include a daytime telephone quantity.)