Sociology Index

Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre

Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre (1905 – 1980) was a French philosopher, playwright, novelist, screenwriter, political activist, biographer, and literary critic. Jean-Paul Sartre was one of the key figures in the philosophy of existentialism and phenomenology, and one of the leading figures in 20th-century French philosophy and Marxism. Jean-Paul Sartre's work has also influenced sociology, critical theory, post-colonial theory, and literary studies, and continues to influence these disciplines.

Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre was awarded the 1964 Nobel Prize in Literature despite attempting to refuse it, saying that he always declined official honors and that "a writer should not allow himself to be turned into an institution."

Jean-Paul Sartre went to Cuba in the 1960s to meet Fidel Castro and spoke with Ernesto "Che" Guevara. After Guevara's death, Jean-Paul Sartre would declare him to be "not only an intellectual but also the most complete human being of our age" - Khwaja Masud (9 October 2006). "Remembering Che Guevara" - The News International. Sartre would also compliment Guevara by professing that "he lived his words, spoke his own actions and his story and the story of the world ran parallel".

Jean-Paul Sartre was also noted for his open relationship with prominent feminist and fellow existentialist philosopher and writer Simone de Beauvoir. Together, Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir challenged the cultural and social assumptions and expectations of their upbringings, which they considered bourgeois, in both lifestyles and thought.

The conflict between oppressive, spiritually destructive conformity (mauvaise foi, literally, 'bad faith') and an "authentic" way of "being" became the dominant theme of Sartre's early work, a theme embodied in his principal philosophical work Being and Nothingness (L'Être et le Néant, 1943). Sartre's introduction to his philosophy is his work Existentialism Is a Humanism (L'existentialisme est un humanisme, 1946), originally presented as a lecture.

Jean-Paul Sartre held that the Soviet Union was a "revolutionary" state working for the betterment of humanity and could be criticized only for failing to live up to its own ideals, but that critics had to take in mind that the Soviet state needed to defend itself against a hostile world; by contrast Sartre held that the failures of "bourgeois" states were due to their innate shortcomings.

The Swiss journalist François Bondy wrote that, based on a reading of Sartre's numerous essays, speeches and interviews "a simple basic pattern never fails to emerge: social change must be comprehensive and revolutionary" and the parties that promote the revolutionary charges "may be criticized, but only by those who completely identify themselves with its purpose, its struggle and its road to power", deeming Sartre's position to be existentialist.

Jean-Paul Sartre also took inspiration from phenomenologist epistemology, explained by Franz Adler in this way: "Man chooses and makes himself by acting. Any action implies the judgment that he is right under the circumstances not only for the actor, but also for everybody else in similar circumstances."

This indifference of "things in themselves" (closely linked with the later notion of "being-in-itself" in his Being and Nothingness) has the effect of highlighting all the more the freedom Roquentin has to perceive and act in the world; everywhere he looks, he finds situations imbued with meanings which bear the stamp of his existence. Hence the "nausea" referred to in the title of the book; all that he encounters in his everyday life is suffused with a pervasive, even horrible, taste—specifically, his freedom.

The book takes the term from Friedrich Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra, where it is used in the context of the often nauseating quality of existence. No matter how much Roquentin longs for something else or something different, he cannot get away from this harrowing evidence of his engagement with the world.

The first period of Jean-Paul Sartre's career, defined in large part by Being and Nothingness (1943), gave way to a second period—when the world was perceived as split into communist and capitalist blocs—of highly publicized political involvement. Jean-Paul Sartre tended to glorify the Resistance after the war as the uncompromising expression of morality in action, and recalled that the résistants were a "band of brothers" who had enjoyed "real freedom" in a way that did not exist before nor after the war. Jean-Paul Sartre was "merciless" in attacking anyone who had collaborated or remained passive during the German occupation; for instance, criticizing Camus for signing an appeal to spare the collaborationist writer Robert Brasillach from being executed.

In 1945, after the war ended, Sartre moved to an apartment on the rue Bonaparte, where he was to produce most of his subsequent work and where he lived until 1962. It was from there that he helped establish a quarterly literary and political review, Les Temps modernes (Modern Times), in part to popularize his thought. He ceased teaching and devoted his time to writing and political activism. He would draw on his war experiences for his great trilogy of novels, Les Chemins de la Liberté (The Roads to Freedom).