Contemporary Philosophy

number of similarities and differences may be noted. This paper compares and contrasts these two approaches by considering the publications of four different authors.

Comparison of Existentialism and Critical Theory

According to Descartes (1639), what people grow up believing may not actually be true. This philosopher identified the same issue as he saw how easy it was to identify reasons for doubt in his own beliefs. Since the senses deceive human beings once in a while, Descartes argues that it was unwise of him to believe that the opinions he acquired through his senses were indeed true, considering the fact that senses cannot be trusted entirely. On the contrary, this philosopher does not argue that the senses should not be trusted entirely. He only seems to question the “objective” knowledge as he states, “Yet although the senses sometimes deceive us about objects that are very small or distant, that doesn’t apply to my belief that I am here, sitting by the fire, wearing a winter dressing-gown, holding this piece of paper in my hands…”  Descartes (1639). Therefore, it is evident that Descartes feels like knowledge is indeed biased, especially when it is “objective”. This is because the more distant knowledge was not acquired by the individual but rather his senses at the time, as well as the influence of the environment may have led to the beliefs.

Kierkegaard and Nietzsche are the philosophers who focused on existentialism. Kierkegaard argues that universal reason such as science and technology forces one to submit, hence losing the freedom required to enable for an experience that will lead to the formation of knowledge. According to de Silentio (1843), Kierkgaard analyses how Abraham’s story from the Bible goes against what human beings have come to believe. Here, the “objective” knowledge is also questioned just as was the case with Descartes. Abraham acts based on this knowledge as is noted in the excerpt below “Why then did Abraham do it? For God’s sake, and (in complete identity with this) for his own sake. He did it for God’s sake because God required this proof of his faith…” Religion has an impact on Abraham as it forces him to submit. This is noted by how he acts out faith, despite knowing that it was wrong to kill a fellow human being. He still went ahead and prepared his son, whom he claimed to love more than himself as requested in the bible.

Marx is also another philosopher who makes argument on knowledge. He states that without struggle, knowledge will not be acquired (Pozner, 1992). Basically, he agrees with the argument that one must actively participate in a struggle before knowledge is achieved. He also supports Kierkegaard’s view that it is unfortunate that people today simply believe in religion which is an “objective” knowledge. It has not been acquired in the first hand, but rather, human beings found those before them believing in religion and the stories it showcases. In this article, it is stated, ““Undoubtedly,” it will be said, “religious, moral, philosophical, and juridical ideas have been modified in the course of historical development. But religion, morality, philosophy, political science, and law, constantly survived this change.”.” (Pozner, 1992) Marx strongly believes in the idea that knowledge should be actively acquired, instead of simply believing in what they have come across as “objective” knowledge. A reason behind this suggestion is that the “objective knowledge cannot be proven to be true compared to the acquired knowledge which one struggles through. A result of the later is that the knowledge will be based on experienced truths, hence one can be sure that the knowledge itself is true.

According to Nietzsche (2004)Nietzsche also agrees with the other philosophers that knowledge can only be proven to be true when one actively participates in its occurrence. Most beliefs that human beings have today are false. This is because they only acquired them from others and did not actively participate. Nietzsche states that he does not agree with objective knowledge. “The disciplining of the human animal into an agent that has a sense of responsibility (Verantwortlichkeit) for its words and deeds has not taken place through gentle methods, but through the harsh and cruel measures of coercion and punishment.” (Nietzsche, 2004) because it not“our trying to ‘understand objective knowledge’ but rather our trying to ‘understand knowledge objectively,” Human beings are not ready to start looking deeper into the meanings that we have come to acquire.


I agree with the arguments made by these philosophers. This is because mostly, human beings have come to believe what they are taught, instead of trying to figure it out for themselves. Most of the learnt knowledge will always be challenged with doubts as to why it came to be so. Therefore, it would be preferable if the human beings would learn how to find their own truths instead of relying on the beliefs they have acquired.


De Silentio, J. (1843). Fear and Trembling.

Descartes, R. (1639). Meditations on First Philosophy.

Nietzsche, F. (2004). Critique of Morality.

Pozner, V. (1992). The Communist Manifesto.