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on February 9, 2016
Friedrich Nietzsche's early work on the value of studying history balances between a pure, theoretical understanding and the then-contemporary understanding of history. When this was published in 1874, Germany was proud of its historical understanding of itself and the thorough education it provided to the general populace. According to Nietzsche, the predominant theory was Hegel's dialectic, where the World Spirit moves humanity through many stages of conflict, gradually improving human welfare to a culmination. Many considered late 1800s Germany to be the pinnacle of human development, an assessment Nietzsche did not share. So he spends the last half of this essay analyzing and debunking the importance of historical education to German society. He has a rather blistering attack on Hegel and people who follow his theories.

The earlier part of the essay is more theoretical, discussing how history can impact the way people live. He develops a tension between living historically and living unhistorically. Those who live purely with a historical understanding can gain benefits by seeing past figures as role models and past situations as successes or failures to be imitated or avoided. The problem is that a purely historical understanding eliminates the possibility of original thinking and creative actions. Many people look back to ancient Greece as a model of rational thought and activity, though clearly the Greeks didn't look for such role models in their history. So living historically is a two-edged sword. Living unhistorically allows one to forget the past and have that originality and creativity that is necessary for life to advance and improve, though such activities require a great deal of personal fortitude. This is also a two-edged sword.

Then he goes into how the current age is all about following the Hegelian dialectic and being satisfied with the status quo that rather than moving forward to greater things. His argument is entertainingly written but has less relevance today than it did in his time. The first half of the essay is more valuable and interesting now though it is less colorfully written.

This book was on my shelf of "books to be read and then kept or gotten rid of." While it does have some merits, I can't see myself rereading it ever nor do I see myself loaning it out to anyone. So it's going in the donation box.
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on November 28, 2015
Want a book to spend the rest of your life thinking about from time to time? This is a good one.
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on April 20, 2015
He writes with personality and emotion. He's biting and can even be humorous in a certain light. There is room for criticism, but overall I love this text. It's a great criticism of the people around me (probably of me as well)
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on February 5, 2015
great book
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on December 9, 2014
Nietzsche's writing has a certain emotional quality that draws me in and makes me consider his viewpoint emotionally. He may be a little difficult to understand initially but trust me, he's worth spending your time on.
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on July 26, 2014
Bought as a gift for my college-age grandson. I've heard this guy Nietzsche is good, though he could have made his name easier to spell.
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on July 24, 2014
An important consideration of the impact of Historicism. Nietzsche makes a clear case for the positive and negative aspects of the rise of historical consciousness and how men should behave in light of Post-Hegelian ideas.

I cannot speak to the quality of the translation, but the prose is accessible and the small size of the book makes it easy to carry around.
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on August 5, 2013
this book is very interesting for Philosophy class. This book is about how Friedrich Nietzsche discusses his approach to philosophy. Nietzsche seeks to discover about how he came about and where is God. Nietzsche calls himself a "substance."
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on March 14, 2012
Oh god this was fun. Nietzsche's confrontational writing style is such a breath of fresh air compared to so much of pre-20th century German philosophical writing. There are a lot of really good observations crammed into this small piece. The recognition that people often fetishize the past as a way of condemning the skills and talents of their own time, the ways that Christian millenarian beliefs stifle personal creativity and expression. But my favorite thing about this text is how he shows that a hyper-awareness of history more often then not leads to malaise and inaction rather then to some overly contrived idea of wisdom and fulfillment, (Dostoevsky's Underground Man, anyone?) If nothing else, its got more exclamation marks than any other philosophic text I've ever read. Highly recommended.
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on January 2, 2001
This book is different than Nietzsche's well-known major works. It does not explicitly examine the nature of morality, the master/slave relationship, or related questions. Instead, it questions the relationship of historical knowledge to life in the present. By "present", Nietzsche does not mean some specific century or decade, but rather the present we perpetually find ourselves in as human beings.
Nietzsche asks: given that we always live in such a present, why do we want or need historical knowledge? Animals live without a historical sense: they do not reflect on the past or contemplate their future -- they simply live from moment to moment in the eternal present that humans perpetually avoid. And generally, Nietzsche notes, animals seem happier than human beings: more spontaneous, more cheerful, less given to morbid and resentful states of mind.
Given these differences, should humans abandon the study of history and try to live in the present like animals? No, says Nietzsche, this relation to history is the true source of human uniqueness and achievement. The question is not "Should we study history?" but rather, "What history should we study, and in what amount?" The answer, says Nietzsche, is history that gives us a proper appreciation of life's difficulties and the struggles that have preceded us, but which nonetheless spurs us to creative action in the present. We should never study history for history's sake; rather, we should study it with a view to understanding and surpassing our present.
This is a short, powerful volume, dense with ideas but astoundingly clear.
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