Introduction The Humanities in Deconstruction
Burckhardt’s extraordinary essay published in an edition of 1,000 copies was hard to sell and he received no royalties. Nietzsche, who joined Burckhardt at the University of Basel in 1868, greatly admired the work, although they were never friends. It was one of the few modern books Nietzsche recommended. Burckhardt, a conservative antimodernist, emphasized the individual person as the starting point of historical study. For Burckhardt history provided the means to study the relation of contemporary culture to the cultures of the past, and in The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy he registers the different ways in which the Renaissance first gave the highest value to individuality. He believed that the early signs of “the modern European Spirit” could be seen in Florence. It was a historical vantage point for him to observe the declining fate of the individual who had become increasingly domesticated and commodified in modern society, thus dimming the creative energies that had first come to fruition in ancient Greece and were rediscovered and extended during the Renaissance. He saw the rise of capitalism, self-interest, and national wars and warned of the coming struggle between freedom and the all-powerful State. Yet though a humanist in the old sense of the word, he was not an idealist in his descriptions of Greek civilization, demonstrating how Athenians were victims of their democracy.
KeywordsExcavation Stake Alan Metaphor
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