Empathy, Intergenerational Justice, and the Ethics of History

Taynna Marino (Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Poland)
29.04.2024, 16h (Finnish time)
Tellus Horizon and Zoom

Event information



Venue location

Online via Zoom (passcode: 821469)



Visit event

Add event to calendar


Intergenerational justice has been an increasingly pressing topic for historians interested in discussing whether practicing history entails a responsibility towards past and future injustices. Do historians owe something to the dead who were victims of past injustices? Do historians owe something to future generations who may (or may not) exist? On the one hand, some arguments have been raised about certain virtues or skills that historians should practice to engage with the past and foster responsibility. On the other hand, there is a lot of skepticism among historians and other scholars around the assumption that historical engagement with the past could foster justice and contribute to the flourishing of future generations. Empathy, understood as a virtue or skill related to emotional sharing and understanding of historical subjects (humans and nonhumans), has played a crucial role in these discussions both for those who affirm or deny that historians’ engagement with the past can lead to a sense of responsibility towards history and historians’ responsive behavior in their own time. In this presentation, I will theoretically examine the relationship between empathy and historians’ responsibility in addressing past injustices (wars, slavery, colonialism, genocides, ecocides, anthropogenic ecological catastrophes) and their implications for both present and future generations. I will question whether historians should empathize in order to be ethically responsible or whether empathy can stand in the way of justice and produce even more epistemic gaps. Finally, I will discuss some of the limits and possibilities of empathy as an ethical imperative to make sense of the past and address claims of justice in history.


Taynna Marino is a PhD candidate in History at Adam Mickiewicz University (Poznań, Poland). She currently investigates notions of empathy across cultures, species, and generations in contemporary historical theory. Her research interests revolve around the epistemological and ethical discussions on the limits of anthropocentrism and Eurocentrism in a transdisciplinary dialogue with theory and philosophy of history, indigenous knowledges, animal studies, and environmental ethics. Her recent publications include the article “The Role of Empathy in Bridging Indigenous and Western Knowledges: Dominick LaCapra and Ailton Krenak” and the edited volume “History Beyond the Human” (authored by Ewa Domańska and co-edited with Julio Bentivoglio).

Last updated: 22.4.2024