26 Jan 2017 | CHC meeting with Tyson Retz
January 26, 2017
14:30-16:45, room t.b.a.
Dr. Tyson Retz (University of Melbourne) will present a paper on The History and Function of Empathy in Historical Studies. A Philosophical Approach.
The History and Function of Empathy in Historical Studies
The idea that empathy has a place in historical method is rarely met with indifference. Most prominently, the concept has arisen in discussion of the ways that school history students should be inducted into the history discipline. History educationalists who were seeking to establish a conceptual basis for the school subject applied the term to R.G. Collingwood’s doctrine of re-enactment, but failed to observe that empathy belonged to a philosophy of history that Collingwood rejected. The thesis examines the traditions of historical thought from which empathy emerged and explains how it was central to history defining itself as an autonomous discipline in the nineteenth century. It suggests that history relied on an empathy-dependent theory of interpretation that in the new century became unacceptable. Yet while the concept itself may be discarded, the historical context that empathy has been used to illuminate is one that all historians and history students must identify. I shed light on the nature of this context in order to clarify empathy’s role in historical understanding.