Jan-Michal Ong Jun
Class of 2020
As Friedrich Nietzsche once put it in the Untimely Meditations, “looking to the past impels [historical men] towards the future and fires their courage to go on living and their hope that what they want will still happen.” It is truly a shame that many individuals have continued to profoundly misunderstand the academic discipline of history – perceiving it to be no more than the study of past periods, objects, individuals, and cultural practices which are no longer of any consequence to the present. But I rebel against such a thought – deeper reflection would reveal that individuals can never live, act, and think in a vacuum; they are always embedded within history, and employ history for their own purposes, whether they realize it or no
While I spent a large part of my Yale-NUS career strongly believing that I’d major in literature, I became acquainted with intellectual history and the history of ideas, and my life has never been the same since. My academic interests primarily lie in the history of thought in modern Europe, especially in the works of seminal writers such as Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, and Tolstoy. I also have a fondness for what Nietzsche calls “monumental history,” that is, to study the lives and times of great men, be it in the political sphere like Napoleon, or in the realm of literature and the arts like Goethe. I hope to write my capstone on the conceptualizations and representations of superior men in nineteenth-century Europe.