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ABSTRACT

Nietzsche is generally regarded as a severe critic of historical method and scholarship; this view has influenced much of contemporary discussions about the role and nature of historical scholarship. In this article I argue that this view is seriously mistaken (to a large degree because of the somewhat misleading nature of Vom Nutzen und Nachtheil der Historie für das Leben). I do so by examining what he actually says about understanding history and historical method, as well as his relation to the founders of modern German historiography (Wolf, Niebuhr, Ranke, and Mommsen). I show, contrary to most expectations, that Nietzsche knew these historians well and that he fundamentally affirmed their view of historical method. What he primarily objected to among his contemporaries was that historical scholarship was often regarded as a goal in itself, rather than as a means, and consequently that history was placed above philosophy. In fact, a historical approach was essential for Nietzsche's whole understanding of philosophy, and his own philosophical project.