Nietzsche V. Durkheim: A Comparison & Contrast On Theories Of Individualism

1802 words - 8 pages

As one of the most important themes throughout the subject of social theory, individualism draws on the personal perspective of a separate personal embodiment within the context of our society. While most studies focus on the big picture aspect of our society and culture, individualism represents the inner meaning that we as singular beings give to life as well as our surrounding societies. Individualism as a theory was first described as a questioning of the 19th Century philosophy focusing on the meaningless of life as presented by such scholars as Kant and Rousseau. This new perspective brought about the establishment of such values and morals that re-instilled meaning into the mundane, ...view middle of the document...

God was the salvation that gave each normal day-to-day life purpose; through all of the suffering, struggles, and tribulations that are constantly associated with life on Earth, God was the light at the end of the tunnel for those who truly believed – the salvation that would ultimately save them from their misery and inevitable death. Once this moral truth began to unravel and the concept of God turned into a crisis of religious faith, Nietzsche called into question the meaning associated with our lives and the purpose behind this worldly suffering. He asks the perplexing question, “did one not finally have to sacrifice everything comforting, holy, healing, all hope, all faith in a concealed harmony, in a future bliss and justice?… To sacrifice God for nothingness – this paradoxical mystery of the ultimate act of cruelty was reserved for the generation which is even now arising” (Beyond, 81). With this, Nietzsche illustrates the longing that people had for a greater purpose behind the everyday suffering of human life, and calls upon an explanation for such hardship. In this sense, Nietzsche further explains that as human beings, we much put our values into a greater power in order to comprehend what true life can actually hold – he proposes that religions as a whole are illusions we need as a race in order to have a set of values to live by. Religion, in this sense, acts as a guide to the way individuals must live - a universal set of laws – and without a God to rely upon, these laws crumble, which makes living by them not only impossible, but also meaningless. Nietzsche emphasizes that with the death of God comes a void of certainties and puts man in the center of the universe – a notion that most are not able to process or understand completely. Considering this, Nietzsche detests organized religions and attunes their false moralities as the source of the ills within our society, “morality is in Europe today a herd-animal morality” (Beyond, 125).
In his explanation of this lack of moral truth within religious institutions, Nietzsche proposes that with the affirmation of self-guidance, or living life in one’s own image instead of that of a higher power’s can we as humans be salvaged from this crisis of faith. Individualism, Nietzsche illustrates, would become a guide to help people make life on Earth their own design and a sense of ‘life is yours for the making’ becomes quite relevant. His general theory for individualism is inspired mostly by the negative dominant morality that took hold of Europe for so long, which became the catalyst for the meaningless of the human existence. Society obstructs man to think for himself, and thus provides people with a false dichotomy of morality in order to control them further away from individuality, and ultimately self-realization. Considering this, Nietzsche encourages heavily the revitalization of critical thinking as a general guideline for how individuals should live their lives; with being critical...

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