Jean Paul Sartre

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Jean Paul Sartre

Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-1980) was one of several popularizers of the philosophy of existentialism. Sartre's version of existentialism (different in minor components from those of his contemporaries, and modern existentialists) taught (consistent with his atheism) that life has no external meaning at all and that the moral obligation of every person was to find or define subjective meaning of their own life (lest life be altogether meaningless).[1] Sartre did not solve the issue of the absence of objective meaning under an atheist worldview (see: Atheism and meaninglessness).[2] His philosophy was also considered subversive enough that J. Edgar Hoover, the head of the FBI at the time, ended up spying on both Sartre himself and his associate Albert Camus to see if they had any ties to the Communist party as well as whether they were planning any subversive actions in society, especially in light of the assassination of John F. Kennedy where Sartre was suspected of being the possible "second shooter".[3]

The term 'existentialism' itself was popularized by many other individuals, but resisted by Sartre himself. Sartre was also a Communist, and was known to be in bed with the KGB,[4] although he himself viewed his motives and beliefs as closer to anarchism. He was also responsible for the claim that the executed Bolivian Marxist revolutionary/terrorist, Ernesto "Che" Guevara, was "the most complete human being of our time," as well as ensuring that French communist/terrorist and fellow member of Guevara's cadre, Régis Debray, was released from his prison sentence 27 years early (having earlier been sentenced to thirty years in prison). He also promoted the Baader-Meinhof Gang.[4] When returning from a visit to the People's Republic of China under Mao Zedong, he also praised Mao's cultural revolution by saying "For the Maoists…everywhere revolutionary violence is born among the masses it is immediately and profoundly moral." although he denied being a Maoist himself.[5][6][7] In addition, he also gave advice to the Martinican psychiatrist and political theorist Frantz Fanon during the Algerian War for Independence, and wrote in his preface to Fanon's 1961 book Les Damnes de la terre ("The Wretched of the Earth") that for a Black man "to shoot down an European is to kill two birds with one stone, to destroy an oppressor and the man he oppresses at the same time.", which had been an update of Existentialism to include self-liberation through murder. He also implied that "for [Sartre], the essential problem is to reject the theory according to which the left ought not to answer violence with violence."[8] This also led him to be responsible for the various terrorist acts in Africa during the 1960s to the present, including the genocidal policies of Africans onto other Africans. Similarly, he also had an influence on the Cambodian Revolution and the Khmer Rouge's reign of terror, especially the crimes conducted by the Khmer Rouge's ruling class, the Angka Leu ("The Higher Organization), all of whom studied under Sartre as Communist Party members during the 1950s. Despite his communist ties, however, Helen Chaffee Biehl indicated that his overall philosophy demanded for absolute liberty for the individual, albeit not in the way the founding fathers believed in, and was one of four sources for the American Library Association's radicalization.[9]

Jean-Paul Sartre in Cuba.

He also spent a lot of his time seducing several females into having sex with him, betraying Simone de Beauvoir constantly. Each time he got older, his females got younger in age. His practices were well known enough that Robert Francis, during a hostile criticism of Huis clos, wrote "We all know Monsieur Sartre. He is an odd philosophy teacher who has specialized in the study of his students' underwear."[10] The infamous love pact that allowed him and Beauvoir to have freedom of affairs so long as they have mutual loyalty to each other was allegedly an attempt to eliminate the "stifling hypocrisy" inherent in marriage, although it ironically resulted in Sartre and Beauvoir being even more unfaithful and bitter towards each other.[11]

Sartre published a number of philosophical works including:

Sartre also wrote a number of works of fiction based on his philosophical ideas, these include:

In fact, Sartre’s writing was so well received that, in 1964, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature, which he declined.[12]

Sartre fought in the French resistance in World War II for a brief period and worked on an underground French paper of the time. However, his activities were only very brief, and otherwise did his own actions during that time, including several plays. After France was Liberated, Sartre mentioned that France had been "more free" under Nazi control.[13]

Towards the end of his life he expressed sympathy with the terrorists who kidnapped and killed Israelis during the 1972 Olympics, asserting that it was “perfectly scandalous” how the French press criticized the terrorism. He described terrorism as “a terrible weapon, but the oppressed poor have no others”. He also implied while defending the terrorists' actions during the Munich Olympics that he felt that the Jacobin Club during their Reign of Terror during the French Revolution didn't kill enough people.[14]

He died on April 15, 1980 in Paris, France.

Jean-Paul Sartre's doubts about atheism

See also: Atheists doubting the validity of atheism and Denials that atheists exist and Atheism, agnosticism and flip-flopping

Jean-Paul Sartre was one of the leading proponents of atheism of the 20th Century.

Yet Jean-Paul Sartre made this candid confession:

As for me, I don’t see myself as so much dust that has appeared in the world but as a being that was expected, prefigured, called forth. In short, as a being that could, it seems, come only from a creator; and this idea of a creating hand that created me refers me back to God. Naturally this is not a clear, exact idea that I set in motion every time I think of myself. It contradicts many of my other ideas; but it is there, floating vaguely. And when I think of myself I often think rather in this way, for want of being able to think otherwise [emphasis added].[15]


  1. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
  3. 4.0 4.1
  7. Interview in France-Observateur, 1 February 1962.
    "The fourth source [for the American Library Association's radicalization] is Jean-Paul Sartre, the French existentialist who was so fashionable in the 1940s. He held the absolute freedom of the individual to be the highest good and yet saw all values as relative. His idea that there are no rules by which we must govern our conduct dispenses handily with Madison's idea that the Ten Commandments are necessary for peaceful self-government."
  9. Quoted in Cohen-Solal, p. 213
  11. List of Nobel Prize laureates for litrature
    “A revolutionary regime must get rid of a certain number of individuals that threaten it and I see no other means for this than death; it is always possible to get out of a prison; the revolutionaries of 1793 probably didn’t kill enough people,” he [Sartre] said.
  14. Is Christianity Alone Fully True and is Jesus Christ Really the Only Way To God? -- Part 4

See also