“Historicity and narrativity in nietzsche”

This paper identifies and explains three of the philosophically substantial senses in which Nietzsche writes of the historical character of things and argues that, according to Nietzsche, recognizing these three distinct senses is necessary to understand subjectivity. I refer to these three senses as “general historicity,” “special historicity,” and “narrativity.” According to general historicity, history is the continuity of powerful transindividual processes that shape or determine present conditions or events. According to special historicity, certain things are constituted by meanings only available through historical appeals; the human abilities to interpret, organize, remember, and forget allow for a continuation of the past into the present and a protention of the future such that diachronic patterns take on significance and constitute the character of things. These two forms of historicity, according to Nietzsche, provoke a “self-contradiction in the form of time” that can be resolved by satisfying three constraints: “active forgetting,” “retroactive force,” and the absence of “revenge against time.” Narrativity, which offers a metahistorical account of the self-relation that emerges in relation to general and special historicity, satisfies these constraints. History in the sense of narrativity comprises the actualizing of historical agency by integrating historical contributions in a way that itself takes the form of stories. Narrativity, that is, is the historical form of the active mediation of historical contributions; it thus clarifies the ways in which human subjectivity is both determined and determining, and how these two elements are inextricable from one another.
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