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All philosophy has now fallen forfeit to history.

Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All Too Human, 1878

IN THE MODERN WORLD, as Nietzsche suggests, history is the only legitimate scene for speculation about life—the place where the truth about life will sooner or later be told. But the study of history can never lead to the development of a metaphysics of humanness. Not only would such a theory never be adequate to its subject, but it would betray the harsh empiricism implicit in looking at history in a modern way, that is, with no preconceptions about what one will find. The study of history leads not to a successful theory of what’s necessary to being human but at best to a “successful” attitude to life—a “philosophical” reconciliation with it by way of skeptical, ironic contemplation of its vicissitudes. Yet this seemingly detached, superior attitude masks an inner sense of hopelessness and

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