Nietzsche and Kierkegaard are both great contributors in existentialism. Although they both fit into the category which is defined as a philosophical movement concerning the individual and how he assumes whole responsibility for his actions, their theories are quite different. They have similarities in how they arrived to their conclusions, though. Both men were raised in Christian homes, however their views on God and Christianity are very different. Nietzsche rejects Christianity and his belief of a God while Kierkgaard claims to be Christian, yet how he sees God is different in his work.
Nietzsche believes that Christianity negates the meaning of life and death. He has two points to back up his claim (Nietzsche). He believes that the idea of a God and morals cannot apply to the world today. His writings are extremely advanced for his time as they can apply to today’s conditions. Nietzsche thinks that the Christian viewpoint of life is a sign of weakness, as this shows an inability to conform to worldly human life. It is easier to understand the viewpoints of Nietzsche by first going through what he thinks of Christianity. In order to create a meaningful life, he encourages people to create their own values, ones that matter to them. These set of values that one can create form himself will be those that benefit the self. This kind of “Will To Power” places humans in the place of God, to create life around himself and take full responsibility of everything that happens to him. By having the ability to recreate and dictate one’s own life, they should determine good and evil on their own, without needing religion to tell them right from wrong (Nietzsche).
Kierkegaard claims to be a devout Christian, although his viewpoint focuses on other Christians (Kierkegaard 58). He criticizes them and says that there are not a lot of “real” Christians left in the world. In his writings, it can be seen that he is in search of a true Christian. However, a true Christian, from what he thinks, may not necessarily fit into his description. He has a long list of things that someone of the faith ought to do. However, some of these traits can fit almost any human being of any faith, even someone who is an Atheist. His description of someone who is truly Christian, and someone who can make individual life more meaningful is to focus on himself and how he can be better. He goes over different accounts in the Bible and compares how each person has their own ethical battles (Kierkegaard 55).
Nietzsche and Kierkegaard essentially have the same idea. However, they differ in their beliefs. Luther was a pastor in the Christian church, and he was one of the main contributors to the Protestant reformation. He believed in Bible-Based faith and in accepting Jesus Christ as one’s only way to salvation. His belief does not focus on the self, and instead, focuses on Christ. By accepting Him as someone’s savior, this can make individual life better by knowing eternal life or life after death.
Borgmann’s account challenges these individualistic ways of life because they do not focus on the individual. With technology and communication, you have to be conscious of other users and of other people whom you share technology with (Borgmann 44). Mobile phones, computers and all things that fall under the category of communication are all shared spaces. With these creations, a person cannot be fully individualistic or focus on themselves.
Furthermore, with technology comes a set of rules or morals. You need to be conscious of other people when using these forms of technology. Borgmann does not limit technology to be things like computers and other machines of communication. He also includes the stove, and normal kitchen appliances. In his writing, he talks about the stove in the family bringing more than just warmth. He believes that technology is in the center of all human interactions (Borgmann 45).
Technology challenges individualism because it encourages social interaction. A person cannot just focus on himself and how he creates the world because technology is moving life a lot faster. It challenges creation all together, giving people the ability to create things that are outside of themselves, whereas Nietzsche speaks of creating the individual from the inside.
His thinking challenges Kierkegaard’s philosophy of striving to make life better individualistically as a Christian because Borgmann thinks that technology makes it better (Wood 22). You cannot have “anguish” or suffering anymore as compared to before because you have technology, things life television and computers, to make life easier (Kierkegaard 59). Although his writings date back a couple of decades, this can be applied to modern times where technology is not merely a tool. It is part of people, therefore taking away their individualism. It encourages social interaction, even though being “social” is defined differently today. Borgman directly addresses how technology interferes with the study of liberal democratic individualism. He states that individuals cannot judge for themselves what is good or bad, because technology is a culture, which is common and collective (Wood 23). It does not focus on the self.
Borgmann, Albert. Technology and the character of contemporary life: A philosophical inquiry. University of Chicago Press, 1987.
Kierkegaard, Soren. Fear and trembling and the sickness unto death. Princeton University Press, 2013.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. The gay science: With a prelude in rhymes and an appendix of songs. Random House Digital, Inc., 2010.
Wood, David. "Albert Borgmann on taming technology: an interview." Christ Century (2003): 22-25.