Guest lecturer reflects on uses and abuses of history
April 13, 2017
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Peter Kuryla, associate professor of history at Belmont University, delivered a talk exploring Friedrich Nietzsche’s essay, “On the Uses and Abuses of History for Life,” on Tuesday, April 11, in Schultz East Alcove.
Visiting Professor of Religious Studies and History Patrick Jackson introduced Kuryla to the crowd of approximately 20 students and faculty.
Despite the fact that it has become a celebrated piece of work, when Nietzsche’s essay was published in 1874, “it hit the German intellectual community with a dull thud,” according to Kuryla.
Kuryla made sure to capture the ire with which Nietzsche wrote. Nietzsche at one point in the essay wrote that a majority of people who compose the masses are only useful for three reasons.
“First as blurred copies of great men, presented on bad paper with worn out printing plates, then as the resistance against the great men, and finally as working implements of the great. For the rest, let the devil and statistics carry them off,” Nietzsche wrote.
In the essay, Nietzsche explored the role history has in the lives of humans. It explores different approaches to history and possible results of living an ahistorical life.
Kuryla also said how the essay explores why an overload of history can become an issue in society. Nietzsche characterized this as “indigestible stones of knowledge.”
The essay ends, as did Kuryla’s talk, on a subtler note, which provoked questions about the possibilities of being objective as historians and whether or not complete objectivity should always be the goal.
Objectivity is not a non-position, Kuryla said. Rather, it is a moral position.
“Let’s perhaps not try and always be objective. Let’s see the warmth of human reason,” Kuryla said.
History Major Ariana Sabatini, ’18, attended the lecture.
“I had experienced Nietzsche in one of Jackson’s classes, so I figured the lecture would be relevant to me as a history major,” Sabatini said. “It made me think about things in my comp that could be re-interpreted.”
A discussion took place after the lecture, which involved Kuryla and members of the audience.
“I enjoyed the discussion afterward because I enjoy listening to smart people talk,” Sabatini said.