Year of Graduation


Level of Access

Restricted Access Thesis

Embargo Period


Department or Program

Government and Legal Studies

First Advisor

Paul Franco


This thesis explores the notion of human greatness and great politics in the political thought of Friedrich Nietzsche. Throughout his life, Nietzsche concerned himself both with the meaning and significance of the great human being, this figure’s relationship to the many, and how human greatness could be reawakened in democratic modernity. Through a diverse series of artful and philosophic engagements with this theme, Nietzsche generated a number of visions of human greatness, ranging from a more communitarian view in his early period to a rarified notion of the singular value-legislating philosopher-ruler in his latter period. Engaging his philosophy from a cultural viewpoint, I argue that Nietzsche’s philosophical and political reflections on human greatness are both compatible with and a benefit to liberal democracy. I begin to demonstrate this first by exploring Nietzsche’s critique of modernity, which takes as its central diagnosis the loss of human greatness and a growing nihilism. In my second chapter, I move into a close analysis of key texts like Schopenhauer as Educator in order to trace his early positive vision charting the path back towards human greatness. Finally, in the third chapter, I engage Nietzsche’s latter vision of human greatness as set out in works like Beyond Good and Evil. This vision, and especially the relationship it depicts between the people and the great philosopher, is carefully considered. Ultimately, I argue that a thoughtful, responsible engagement with Nietzsche’s positive philosophic and cultural project provides us with a salutary, non-coercive, democracy-compatible means of transforming human life.


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