F. Nietzsche, S. Kierkegaard.
Years between 1871 and 1914 represent a great turmoil in the world of ideas. During this time men were thinking audacious thoughts, composers were producing adventurous pieces of music, and painters were painting revolutionary masterpieces. All these new ideas challenged and brought into question traditional for those times assumptions such as confidence in human reason, faith in science and mechanical models of the universe, belief in human goodness, and convictions about individual and social progress.
Many historians describe this sudden change from intellectual and cultural certainty to uncertainty as a crisis of revolutionary proportions or in other words, crisis of cultural values. The roots of such an intellectual crisis may be found in two earlier cross-European movements.
From the Enlightenment, which took place in the late 19th century Europeans had inherited a tradition of rationalism, toleration, and cosmopolitanism as well as a strong admiration for science and progress.
On the contrary, from Romanticism the society inherited an emphasis on feelings, imagination, national identity, and the autonomy of the artistic experience.
With the advent of the 20th century, the distinctive elements from both traditions of thought had blended with each other, and when they interacted with contemporary historical events, they developed a new pattern of ideas with a particularly notable feature. As a result of this process, the intellectual norms and guidelines upon which man had depended for previous centuries disappeared, with a two-fold result. On one hand, there was a tremendous sense of freedom and infinite possibilities leading to a radical experimentation and new innovative ideas that impulse the development of modernism.
On the other hand, such controversial developments contributed to the men’s perception of insecurity and anxiety, which led many people to embrace such radically conservative ideas as Fascism and Nazism. In my opinion, the most radical of all attacks of that time on traditional ideas and values came from the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900). He not only questioned such widely held ideas as democracy, nationalism, science, and progress, but he also dared to attack Christianity by proclaiming the "death of God".
According to Nietzsche, human life is considered to be absolutely irrational and is only characterized by cruelty, injustice, uncertainty and absurdity. He also asserted that there are no eternal and absolute values in the world, no standards of good and evil. On the contrary, the humankind creates its own moral values. In the past, we invented religion (i.e. Christianity) and then proclaimed the absolute values to follow. In other words, man created God. But, if the humankind created God, it can also eliminate Him, when there is no longer a feasible need for Him.
Nietzsche argued for human liberation based on the spontaneous, irrational and instinctual side of man’s nature. In his opinion, “liberated man” can create his own values and achieve self-mastery, thus becoming a sort of superman. The superman is a new kind of man – a masterful aristocrat of a man – who challenges the accepted morality norms and sets his own individual standards. He does not repress his instincts, but rather asserts them. He destroys old values and alleges his prerogative as master. He dares to be himself, because he is not like other people. The traditional definitions of good and evil are no more meaningful for him. He does not allow his own individuality to be suffocated. He makes his own values, those that flow from his very being.
Nietzsche was not alone in attacking Christianity during the 19th century. Especially, when European…