A Nietzschean Lesson on the Use and Abuse of History

Aug 29, 2017 | 09:00 GMT

Friedrich Nietzsche's observations about the misuse of history to sow chaos in the present hold as true today as they did in the 19th century when he wrote them.

Putting history in the right perspective, Frederich Nietzsche argued, is the only correct approach to take when applying its lessons to the present.


The Third Reich. The Bolshevik Revolution. The American Civil War. The Spanish Inquisition. This is heavy, heavy history. Yet in the words of some actors, some of the darkest days of our historical memory seem to take on a weightless form in the today's angst-ridden political discourse. While jarring to observe, this kind of historical levity is to be expected whenever the world moves through a major inflection point. Mimicking history is a far easier strategy to pursue than trying to understand and innovate yourself out of the deeper problems of the present. At the same time, history is just as important to internalize in tense times like these. How else will current and future generations learn from and avoid the mistakes of their past? It is this very dilemma of how to responsibly treat history that German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche tried to tackle in an essay titled "On...

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