Nietzsche's historiography: history and culture in the second Untimely Meditation Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Nix, Nacona J.
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Political Science
  • This thesis analyzes Friedrich Nietzsche's response to the growing professionalization of history in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. I begin by exploring traditional historians' attempts to answer the question of why we read and write about the past. In doing so, I highlight postmodernist objections to positivistic history and enumerate the various social and political uses to which contemporary histories are put. I then turn to the second Untimely Meditation to evaluate Nietzsche's claim that the products of the scientific pursuit of history overwhelm weak minds and prevent future generations from undertaking projects of cultural reform and renewal. I argue that while Nietzsche's description of the deleterious effects of German historicism contains much that is recognizable in twenty-first century liberal democracies, his historiography condones a cavalier attitude toward historical truth that privileges mythmaking and culture above science and politics. I conclude by suggesting how modern academic history could better serve the needs of a democratic citizenry.
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  • Lienesch, Michael
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  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
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