Teaching History on the Scale of the Anthropocene: Three Ethical Challenges
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionRetz, T. (2022) Teaching History on the Scale of the Anthropocene: Three Ethical Challenges. Historical Encounters Journal, 9 (2), 7-17. 10.52289/hej9.202
The Anthropocene strikes at the heart of the principle that making moral judgements involves a rich understanding of historical context. This article elaborates three subsequent challenges for history educators. First, locating human beings in geological time requires us to upscale our temporal conceptions of the human while downscaling our existential conceptions of the human. Second, we must make sense of a humanity that has combined an overwhelming power with a frightening loss of control, reviving the question of whether historical agents are to be morally judged by reference to their purposes and intentions. Third, history educators must be on guard against conceptions of the future that dispense with important notions of human and political agency. The challenges amount to a need to rethink the categories of scale employed by history educators to situate and explain human experience in time and space.