Existentialism is a philosophical movement that emphasizes individual existence, freedom, and choice. Two of the most influential thinkers in this movement are Friedrich Nietzsche and Søren Kierkegaard. Both Nietzsche and Kierkegaard made significant contributions to existentialism that continue to influence modern philosophy and culture at large.

Nietzsche’s Contribution to Existentialism

Friedrich Nietzsche was a German philosopher, poet, and cultural critic who lived from 1844 to 1900. He is best known for his concept of the Übermensch, or “superman,” as well as his rejection of traditional morality and religion. Nietzsche believed that individuals had the power to create their own values and meaning in life.

One of Nietzsche’s most significant contributions to existentialism was his rejection of traditional notions of objective truth. He argued that truth was subjective and relative, depending on an individual’s perspective and experiences. This idea helped lay the groundwork for contemporary existentialist thought, which emphasizes personal experience over external authority.

Nietzsche also believed that individuals should embrace their own individuality rather than conforming to societal norms. He argued that conformity stifled creativity and prevented individuals from reaching their full potential. This idea has become a central tenet of modern existentialism, which emphasizes authenticity and individual freedom.

Kierkegaard’s Contribution to Existentialism

Søren Kierkegaard was a Danish philosopher who lived from 1813 to 1855. He is considered one of the founders of existentialism due to his emphasis on individual choice and subjective experience.

Kierkegaard believed that individuals could only find meaning in life through personal reflection and introspection. He argued that true freedom came from recognizing one’s limitations and embracing them rather than trying to escape them.

One of Kierkegaard’s most significant contributions to existentialism was his concept of the “leap of faith.” He believed that individuals had to take a leap of faith to fully embrace their own existence and find meaning in life. This idea has become a central tenet of modern existentialism, which emphasizes individual choice and personal responsibility.

Kierkegaard also rejected traditional notions of objective truth, arguing that individuals had to create their own values and meaning in life. He believed that individuals should reject societal norms and embrace their own uniqueness to find true fulfillment and happiness.

Conclusion

Nietzsche and Kierkegaard both made significant contributions to existentialism through their emphasis on individual experience, subjective truth, and personal responsibility. Nietzsche’s rejection of traditional morality and religion helped lay the groundwork for contemporary existentialist thought, while Kierkegaard’s emphasis on personal reflection and the “leap of faith” has become a central tenet of modern existentialism. Together, these two thinkers have helped shape modern philosophy and culture at large.