M. de Wilde
- Modifying the Past: Nietzschean Approaches to History
- Volume | Issue number
- 7 | 2
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Law (FdR)
- Paul Scholten Centre for Jurisprudence (PSC)
In the course of the nineteenth century, the new scientific approach to history turned the past into a passive object of knowledge. This approach betrayed a strategy of domination, as it endowed certain interpretations of history with an aura of objectivity, while delegitimizing others as myth. On the contrary, Nietzsche asserted the formative powers of the present, and he argued that the historian had to actively re-create the past and turn it into a meaningful historical narrative. In his view, the meaning of the past depended on the will to transform the present itself. Since the beginning of the twentieth century, other theorists and writers, such as Croce, Péguy, and later Borges, attempted to reconceptualise the relation between the past and the present. Similarly to Nietzsche, they claimed that historians actively re-create and modify the past. This claim was also shared by Benjamin and Foucault, who emphasized the historians' duty to modify the past by seeking to revive subjugated historical knowledges. The aim of this article is to connect the writings of all these authors in a constellation that points to a shared conviction: that history is not objectively given, but constantly re-created and modified in the present.
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