Learning from History

The Transformations of the topos historia magistra vitae in Modernity

In: Journal of the Philosophy of History
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  • 1 Bordeaux Montaigne University

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In this paper, I would like to show that Koselleck’s thesis on the dissolution of the topos historia magistra vitae in modernity is open to certain objections, to the extent that one finds in modernity a number of practical conceptions of history which are “useful for life”. My own thesis is that the topos of history as the “Guide to Life” is not so much dissolved as rather transformed with modernity, and in a sense which has to be specified. This point of view will be defended with reference to European authors of the nineteenth century (I focus on the examples of Droysen and Nietzsche), though I will add some observations on the twentieth century in the last part of the paper.