Would Nietzsche would say that history is the judge of greatness, in the sense that his "higher types" have power over its course, and narrative considered as a whole?

That should be clear and obvious enough. I think it's fairly attractive because it sits well with a blanket dismissal of the fascist nation-state as necessarily (unavoidably) belonging to the untermensch. e.g. Mussolini, I think, could never have subdued that entire narrative, if only because its revolt is not against the social historical whole.

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    I don't know much Nietzche, but I suspect he'd say the judge of greatness is the great man, the man with the most will-to-power; that if one is driven enough, he needn't care about history's, or anyone else's, judgment of greatness except his own.
    – Dan Bron
    Aug 21, 2016 at 13:39
  • i don't mean history can "judge" anyone, but that it's there that those with a trait strong will to power will overwhelm weaker types. idk, kinda a dorky question, i keep asking those
    – user6917
    Aug 21, 2016 at 16:12
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    It's not obvious to me that Nietzscne would say that history is the judge of greatness. History could get it wrong, even in the long run, and there may be forms of greatness that lie outside of history as most people would construe "history." You might want to consider replacimg your question with this one: "Did Nietzsche consider history to be the judge of greatness?" Or you could simply ask if history is the judge of greatness without mentioning Nietzsche. Your reference to him is superfluous. Aug 21, 2016 at 16:13

1 Answer 1


In Ecce Homo, "Why I am so clever", Nietzsche gave his formula for greatness:

My formula for human greatness is amor fati: that you do not want anything to be different, not forwards, not backwards, not for all eternity. Not just to tolerate necessity, still less to conceal it – all idealism is hypocrisy towards necessity – but to love it ... [EH Clever 10, Cambridge]

It’s not obvious from this, or from Nietzsche’s writing on the ubermensch in Thus Spoke Zarathutra, that the judgment of history plays any role in Nietzsche’s conception of human greatness.

That said, several excepts from Ecce Homo indicate that Nietzsche believed (hoped?) he had altered the course and narrative of history, considered as a whole, in exposing the lies of Christian morality. He believed he would be seen by history as a “destiny”:

I know my lot. One day my name will be connected with the memory of something tremendous, – a crisis such as the earth has never seen, the deepest collision of conscience, a decision made against everything that has been believed, demanded, held sacred so far. I am not a human being, I am dynamite. [...] My lot would have it that I am the first decent human being, that I know myself as opposing the hypocrisy of millennia ... I was the first to discover the truth because I was the first to see – to smell – lies for what they are ... My genius is in my nostrils ... [...] ... I am a bearer of glad tidings as no one ever was before ... [...] ... all hope had disappeared until I came along. [EH Destiny 1]

Have I been understood? – I have not said anything that I would not have said five years ago through the mouth of Zarathustra. – The uncovering of Christian morality is an event without equal, a real catastrophe. Anyone who knows about this is a force majeure, a destiny, – he splits the history of humanity into two parts. Some live before him, some live after him ... [EH Destiny 8]

However, being seen by history as a “destiny” does not equate to being judged by history as being “great," let alone "great" based on Nietzsche’s own formula for, or conception of, greatness. It is less a matter of judging than recording.

It’s not obvious how exactly "history" judges "greatness" or that Nietzsche would have attached any weight whatsoever to "history's judgment". Nor is it obvious that “lower types” could not also have power over the course and narrative of history considered as a whole.

Based on the above, I don't see the answer to your question as sitting well with a blanket dismissal of the fascist nation-state, although Nietzsche did write directly and in disparaging terms about the Germany and German nationalism of his time. He seemed to see the handwriting on the wall.

  • doesn't he attach some weight to history's judgement in the second quote?
    – user6917
    Aug 22, 2016 at 16:44
  • @MATHEMETICIAN I made a few edits. Changed "He believed (hoped?) he would be judged by history as a “destiny”" to "He believed he would be seen by history as a "destiny"". It is not so much a matter of judging as recording. Also changed "However, being judged by history as a “destiny” does not equate ... " to "However, being seen by history as a “destiny” does not equate ..." Thanks. Aug 22, 2016 at 18:09

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