"Reading at the Roche Limit"

Brook Aidan Rosini


Toward living life

Nietzsche and History

  • need history, but also need to be able to forget the burden of the past in order to live
  • “Each of these three types of history is valid only in one soil and in one climate; in any other it develops into the most devastating weed.”  (102)
  • Monumental History (Foucault’s “Parodic historical sense” against reality/reminiscence)
    • fame in serving later generations as teacher, comforter, admonisher (97)
    • great moments in struggles of individuals form links in one single chain
    • demand for what is great to be eternal
    • conclude that greatness was at least possible at one time and will probably be possible once again – gives courage (98)
    • but all of the most monumental human beings do not hold existence in such high regard, but treat it with “Olympian laughter, or at least with sublime derision; often they went to their graves with a sense of irony.”
    • if monumental view of history prevails over others, then past is damaged – parts of it forgotten, scorned, distorted, fictionalized (100)
    • everything that is great has already been created (101)
    • allows the dead to bury the living (102)
  • Antiquarian History (Foucault’s “Dissociative sense” against identity/continuity)
    • preserve and venerate, look back with loyalty and love on origins through which one becomes what one is – serve life by preserving conditions under which one comes into being (102)
    • should infuse modest, rough, even wretched conditions in which a human being lives with simple and stirring sense of joy and satisfaction (103)
    • limited field of vision – does not perceive most things at all, and things it does see it views too closely and in isolation (104)
    • only criterion of value becomes age: the old is venerable, the new is evil (105)
    • only understands how to preserve life, not how to create it (106)
  • Critical History (Foucault’s “Sacrificial sense” against truth/history as knowledge)
    • strength to shatter and dissolve past by condemning it (106)
    • “at times the very life that requires forgetfulness demands the temporary suspension of this forgetfulness; this is when it is supposed to become absolutely clear precisely how unjust the existence of certain things…really is.” (107)
    • “For since we are, after all, the products of earlier generations, we are also the products of their aberrations, passions, and errors – indeed of their crimes; it is impossible to free ourselves completely from this chain.” (107)
    • struggle against errors of the past creates new habits, second natures, which is dangerous in that we attempt to create a past from which we would have preferred to have been descended
    • one noteworthy consolation: the knowledge that even first natures of past was once a second nature, and every second nature can become a first nature (108)

    Friedrich Nietzsche, “On the Utility and Liability of History for Life.”  From Unfashionable Observations, trans. Richard T. Gray.  Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1998.