Existential Action: Criticisms and Hypothetical Responses

Essay completed 7 December 2016

In his 1946 essay “Existentialism is humanism,” Sartre defends existentialism against several recurring criticisms. The most superficial criticism of existentialism asserts that existentialists dwell too much on human degradation while denying the seriousness of human achievement. In essence, this criticism asks why existentialism focuses so much on negative aspects of life, when there is so much to celebrate. Another common criticism Sartre identifies is the charge that existentialism fosters nihilism because it denies objective morality, condemning people to live without meaning. The underlying assumption of this criticism is that a life is only worth living if there is objective morality. Another criticism is that existentialism encourages quietism and discourages solidarity in the face of life’s meaninglessness. These charges assert overall that if objective solutions can never be found in existentialism, “we should have to consider action in this world as quite impossible” (Marino 341-342). Continue reading “Existential Action: Criticisms and Hypothetical Responses”

Can Nietzsche and Western Democracy Be Reconciled?

Essay completed 12 September 2016

Nietzsche’s ideas are unsettling to the modern Western reader, perhaps even more so to his audience in the 21st century than to his audience in the 19th. He excoriates liberalism, altruism, and equality, all central ideals of Western society. The modern democratic citizen might share my initial reaction upon reading Nietzsche’s philosophy for the first time and feel the temptation to reject him as a regressive bully. Passages of On the Genealogy of Morals in which Nietzsche decries “the suffering, deprived, sick [and] ugly” and praises the “noble, the powerful, the masters, [and] the rulers” are antithetical to democratic notions of equality (Nietzsche 121). What can the modern West learn from an ideology that seems to celebrate tyrannical subjugation? Continue reading “Can Nietzsche and Western Democracy Be Reconciled?”

Liberal Democracy and the Paradox of Nietzsche: A Comparative Analysis

Image by Grady Pearson

Essay completed 24 November 2015

It is peculiar to think that Friedrich Nietzsche, perhaps the most influential thinker of the present age, held such contempt for liberal democracy, the leading political ideology of the postmodern world. Is Nietzsche’s argument for renewed spiritual fervor compatible with the postmodern democratic world’s aversion to religious extremism? How can a liberal global society draw so much from democracy’s greatest critic?Perhaps the answer becomes more apparent upon considering the relationship between Nietzsche’s philosophy and democracy. An exploration of Nietzsche’s cold analysis of its characteristics as well as his scathing dissection of its weaknesses reveals the what he finds lacking in democracy. Continue reading “Liberal Democracy and the Paradox of Nietzsche: A Comparative Analysis”