Existentialism has been accused of being unjustly anthropocentric
Existentialism has been accused of being unjustly anthropocentric (i.e., takes for granted – and abuses – the human centric point of view). Take for example the following quotations: Kierkegaard: “The possibility of this sickness [despair] is man’s superiority over the animal” (qtd. in Marino, p.43) Nietzsche: “[B]ut it is only fair to add that it was on the soil of this essentially dangerous form of human existence, the priestly form, that man first became an interesting animal, that only here did the human soul in a higher sense acquire depth and become evil – and these are the two basic respects in which man has hitherto been superior to other beasts” (qtd. in Marino, p. 120) Write a response that discusses the significance of the Other (e.g., non-human animal, plant, mineral, etc.), or, what Heidegger might call non-Dasein[?]) to existentialist philosophy. (Feel free to use all of the Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Heidegger in the Marino text.)
Existentialism is often criticized for being anthropocentric, or centered solely on human beings, and neglecting the significance of non-human others, including animals, plants, and minerals. However, some existentialist thinkers, including Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Heidegger, recognize the importance of the Other and its role in shaping human existence.
Kierkegaard’s notion of despair as a sickness that is unique to humans implies that there is something distinct about human existence that sets us apart from other animals. However, this distinction is not a source of superiority but rather of responsibility. Kierkegaard argues that humans have a duty to be self-aware and to strive for authenticity in their lives, which is a way of recognizing and responding to the Other.
Similarly, Nietzsche’s idea of the “interesting animal” suggests that human beings are not inherently superior to other animals but rather possess unique qualities that make us capable of good and evil. Nietzsche’s critique of the priestly form of existence, which he sees as stifling human potential, implies that humans have a responsibility to embrace their capacity for creativity and self-overcoming, which is also a way of engaging with the Other.
Heidegger’s philosophy, which emphasizes the role of language and culture in shaping human existence, also recognizes the significance of the Other. Heidegger argues that language is not merely a tool for communication but a way of revealing the world and our place in it. This means that our understanding of the world is always shaped by our interactions with other beings, including non-human others.
Heidegger’s concept of Dasein, which refers to human existence, can be contrasted with the non-Dasein or the realm of objects and things. However, Heidegger does not see this distinction as a hierarchy but rather as a necessary condition for human existence. He argues that our encounters with non-human others, including tools, animals, and landscapes, reveal aspects of the world that are hidden from us when we focus solely on our own concerns.
In conclusion, although existentialism has been accused of neglecting the significance of the Other, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Heidegger all recognize the importance of non-human others to human existence. Their work suggests that our interactions with the Other are a source of responsibility, creativity, and self-understanding, and that we have a duty to engage with the world in a way that recognizes its diversity and richness.