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Summer Westmoreland


Period 2


Ghaddis wrote about history through the metaphor of maturity; history grows

similar to how humans grow and mature. It starts out as a very subjective, a very

personal way of thinking. I apply my beliefs to a historical fact and from there “raise” it

in a way that it becomes more. The fact is told to other people who make it

intersubjective, changing the “I believe” into “We believe.” “Development is not a linear

ladder but a fluid and flowing affair” (Theory of Development) and in order to better

understand history and its perspectives, we must learn to move just as fluidly.

Modernity and Romanticism

There is the prime example of an historical perspective, that of Modernity, the

movement away from the previous ways of thinking. Modern thinkers seek out

“environments that promise us adventure… transformation of ourselves and the world.”

(Introduction- Modernity) Modernity challenges us to throw aside our previous

conceptions of the world and take up new ideologies.

With this stepping off of cliffs take of viewing the world, there are of course

people who will fear the unknown and cling to the ways of old. The neoconservatives

especially believed modernity to be a “seducer” and that “the modern movement disrupts

the unity of culture.” (Introduction- Modernity) And yet, it is through the acceptance of

modernity that cultures become further unified. Were we to stick to what we know as

familiar, we would never grow and mature, our views would remain constantly narrow.

We would miss the holistic scope of the world.

Romanticism is similarly “seductive.” “They both wish to break up the nature of

the given,” (The Lasting Effects of Romanticism) they both want to be free of the

constraints of set rules. This perspective emphasizes “not knowledge of values, but their

creation.” (The Lasting Effects of Romanticism) Nothing exists outside of the human

mind, so say romanticists. History does not exist until someone chooses to create it, to

represent it on a page as an artist represents an image upon a canvas. There is “no pattern

to which you must submit yourself” (The Lasting Effects of Romanticism) and therefore

we are able to create history as we see fit.

History is created through romantic principles. Historians who dictate what really

happened in a certain event create it. While they have an original template to which they

must adhere when presenting evidence to prove their claims, these facts of evidence are

open to interpretation. History is completely biased but thanks to romanticism, this

freedom to express is allowable. History, if one were to consider it as a science, “can

reproduce only a lifeless political State.” (The Lasting Effects of Romanticism) In a way,

history oversimplifies humanity, classifying events into timelines and giving a

generalization of a few individuals who have been deemed important to history. And yet

there is no other way to represent history but through generalizations.

The Will to Power

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) seems to best apply these ideas of romanticism

and modernity. He saw Christianity- and religion in general- as a restrictive social order

that prevented progress and separated humanity into their religious groups. He believed

that religion should be thrown out, a very modern way of thinking, so that there would be

few reasons to discriminate. By casting off social orders, he believes humans can

become a more superior species.

The concept of the will to power is that “our fundamental drive for power… is

stronger then the will to survive.” (Nietzsche- The Birth of Tragedy) Power struggles of

oppression and liberation are placed above basic survival instincts, as martyrs rather

obviously show; even the primal urge to procreate is less than the urge to power, “as

monks willingly give up sex for the sake of a greater cause” (Nietzsche- The Birth of

Tragedy) Nietzsche “is more interested in the sublimated will to power” (Nietzsche- The

Birth of Tragedy) rather than the violence typically associated with such power plays. He

believes that were this concept to be turned inward, were people concerned with mastery

over self as opposed to mastery over others, they would then represent a more refined

form of power. Through this refined power, humanity- which Nietzsche theorized to be a

“transition, not a destination” (Nietzsche- the Birth of Tragedy)- could move on to the
destination of “overman” which “we started toward when we first reigned in our animal


Following the romantic ideals of a modern era, “Nietzsche is critical of the very

idea of objective truth.” (Nietzsche- the Birth of Tragedy) Like the romantic belief that

there is no pattern to follow in life, Nietzsche believes that there is no one truth that every

one has to agree on. History, however, cannot become history until it is widely accept as

a truth.


These perspectives of history- and of life in general- encourage a development of

an integrative, holistic society. An analysis of history developed through these ideologies

provides progress in understanding, allows us to view what has been in a way that was

not considered before. If we can apply modernism and romanticism to how we view

history, then it should be just as easy to apply it to the way we live our lives. Perhaps one

day we can transition as Nietzsche said we would and become the Overmen we were

meant to become.