Similarities Between Kierkegaard and Nietzsche

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Different philosophers have answered the question of what it means to be human in different ways. It is difficult to find a consensus on the aspect of being human due to the different schools of thought that have emerged related to the question. Kierkegaard was a Christian existentialist and Nietzsche an atheist (Soccio, 2013). Their fundamental schools of thought were highly differentiated. Despite the differences in their core beliefs, Kierkegaard and Nietzsche both tried to put aside the fundamental differences in their core beliefs and tried bringing out an understanding of what it means to exist.

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One way in which Kierkegaard and Nietzsche were similar was their understanding of the human being as an intermediary being. Kierkegaard believed that the human being was in a stage between what he was and what he will become (Soccio, 2013). According to Kierkegaard, the bane of human existence is his position as a transitory being between the temporary and the eternal. From Kierkegaard's point of view, human existence was an amalgam of two distinct forms that are fundamentally incompatible. Kierkegaard's view of existence is that it is not a final stage, but a constant strive towards another end. Similarly, Nietzsche views the human being as a bridge and not an end (Soccio, 2013). The most important thing for man according to Nietzsche is his potentiality that involves striving for something different other than what he is now.

Kierkegaard and Nietzsche were unable to escape the bias that affects individuals in trying to explain the reason for human existence. Kierkegaards personal life was tumultuous in a way that his experiences shaped most of his perceptions of the world and his writing reflected the desire to make amends for some of his non-conformist actions. Nietzsche on the other hand was biased against religion and failed to provide a clear perspective of his existential point of view that did not support religion. However, both Kierkegaard and Nietzsche provide sound arguments with their recognition of the inability of an individual to remain neutral in the philosophical explanation of the existence of humankind.

The Pragmatist, William James

According to William James, the most important aspect of a human being is their perception of the universe. James attributes human beings perceptions of the universe as the chief motivation for their actions (Soccio, 2013). James is of the opinion that temperament is the main factor that determines the ideals of a philosopher. However, temperament is not conventionally acknowledged as a determining factor in philosophy. In relation to this, James provides to categories of temperament. The two types of temperament in James perspective are tender-minded and tough-minded (Soccio, 2013). The tender-minded is inclined toward a philosophy that is rational, religious, dogmatic, idealistic, and optimistic. On the other hand, the tough-minded agree with a philosophy that is empirical, irreligious, skeptical, materialistic, and pessimistic (Soccio, 2013). Here lies the problem with philosophy, according to James. Philosophers and generally thinkers, look to satisfy only one side of the temperament in explaining the truth about phenomena and making decisions. James proposes pragmatism as a solution to the dilemma since pragmatism is able to encompass both temperaments.


Pragmatism is a useful way of explaining the beliefs that can be shown to be useful. In addition, pragmatism provides an acceptable basis to call useful beliefs as true. James however, does not satisfy the arguments why there is a need to do away with the abstract, objective existence of truth. James is of the opinion that there can be no difference anywhere that doesn't make a difference elsewhere (Soccio, 2013). The main purpose of philosophy should be to identify the difference it would make to individuals if one world formula was true as opposed to another world formula (Rorty, 1982).

James argument would be more valid with the omission of discussion on abstract truth. It is undeniable that philosophy should exist on a pragmatist's theory of truth that is applicable and useful; James has not backed up his argument with the impact of the actual existence of abstract truth. James only provides a guide on how to determine the actual truths and implement the applicable ones (Rorty, 1982). James does not provide a reason to justify that pragmatism is applicable to anything else other than aspects that are applicable to human practice and activity. James assertions about the abstract truths are an overextension and do not hold valid the grounds of pragmatism. This point can be observed from the anecdote that James provides of the squirrel and the man. James assertion that the between the man and the squirrel is a representation of the truth as indeterminate unless qualified as practical, is a misrepresentation of the ambiguity of the situation.

Pragmatism from James point of view is a useful way of discerning the truth. It takes a middle approach that employs the tender minded and tough-minded temperaments as categorized by James. However, James argument is not sufficient in explain the abstract truths. Abstract truths are not always practical and applicable to human life and considering them under the ideals of pragmatism is a misrepresentation of the features of abstract truths.


Rorty, R. (1982). Consequences of pragmatism: Essays, 1972-1980. U of Minnesota Press.Soccio, D. J. (2013). Archetypes of wisdom: An introduction to philosophy. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning.

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