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2023 UQ Historical and Philosophical Inquiry Annual Lecture | Dr Sarah Lawrence | The University of Queensland

Thursday, 18 May 2023




Room 206, Steele Building (3), The University of Queensland St Lucia

The University of Queensland's School of Historical and Philosophical Inquiry invites you to join us for our 2023 Annual Lecture delivered by Dr Sarah Lawrence (University of New England).

Empathy is generally agreed to be an important aspect of human relations; some scientists even believe it is the critical factor in our success as an animal. Nevertheless, there is tension in studies of empathy between the theory that empathy is an innate human response, and the idea that it is both relatively new, and culturally relative.

This lecture explores two main questions: firstly, can we identify something that looks like empathy (given that the word is a modern construction) in the Suasoriae of Seneca the Elder, an author from the famously bloodthirsty Roman world whose speakers inhabit a historical character and give a speech from their perspective at a particular point in time? Secondly – and drawing on the work of Thomas A. Kohut – how does it change our understanding of a Roman text, if we read it empathetically? That is, what does it mean to feel like an Ancient Roman?

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