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). Sartre did not solve the issue of the absence of objective meaning under an atheist worldview (see: Atheism and meaninglessness). He implies in his 1946 philosophical tract "Existentialism is a Humanism" that his philosophy was rooted ultimately in Dostoevsky's dictum of "If God doesn't exist, then everything is permitted" (which referred to the events of the Russian Nihilist movement), in particular trying to actually make everything permitted. 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".
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, although he himself viewed his motives and beliefs as closer to anarchism. During his time as a Soviet supporter, he proceeded to write a little known book advocating for solidarity for the imprisoned Henri Martin after refusing to participate in the Indo-China War, called the 'L'Affaire Henri Martin in 1953, and also infamously accused the old-fashioned parliamentary conservative Prime Minister Antoine Pinay of setting up a dictatorship. In addition, he chose to align himself with the Communists in 1952 despite his fellow left-wing intellectuals left the Communist Party in droves with the news of Stalin's crimes coming to the forefront. In response to this, he gave the following response that completely contradicted his stance in his manifesto on commitment in Les Temps modernes, "As we were not members of the Party or avowed sympathizers, it was not our duty to write about Soviet labour camps; we were free to remain aloof from quarrels over the nature of this system, provided no events of sociological significance occurred." He also allowed himself to be made a performing bear at the December 1952 Communist World Peace Movement conference in Vienna, Austria, which meant truckling to Fadayev, who had previously referred to him as a hyena and a jackal, as well as very blatantly lying about how the three most important events of his life were the Popular Front of 1936, the Liberation, and the Communist World Peace Movement (which he referred to as 'this congress'), and also proceeded to cancel the performance in Vienna of his old, anti-Communist play Les Mains sales at the behest of the Communist Party bosses at least a year later. He also proceeded to make ludicrous lengths to back the Communist Party line in action and words, including his giving a very fawning account of the Soviet Union in July 1954 during a two-hour interview from the Communist Liberation magazine, being comparable to George Bernard Shaw's infamous expedition to the USSR in the early 1930s. Among the claims he made in the interview were, among other things, that the Soviet citizens did not travel simply because they had no desire to leave the country, and not because they were prevented from doing so, and also said regarding freedom of speech in the country the following: "The Soviet citizens, criticize their government much more and more effectively than we do. There is total freedom of criticism in the USSR." He later admitted in 1976 this claim was a lie, or at least he didn't actually believe the claims when he wrote them and claimed he did so because otherwise it was "impolite," and falsely implied he didn't know where he stood when in fact he knew full well where he stood. 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. 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. 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." 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.
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." 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.
Sartre published a number of philosophical works including:
- Transcendence of the Ego, published in 1936
- The Psychology of Imagination, published in 1940
- Being and Nothingness, published in 1943
- The Age of Reason, published in 1945
- Search for a Method, published in 1957
- Critique of Dialectical Reason, published in 1960 (including Search for a Method as its introduction)
- Notebooks for Ethics, published posthumously, but written between 1947 and 1948.
Sartre also wrote a number of works of fiction based on his philosophical ideas, these include:
- Nausea, published in 1938
- The Wall and Other Stories, published in 1939
- The Flies, published in 1942
- No Exit, published in 1942
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.
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.
Jean-Paul Sartre's doubts about atheism
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].||”|
- Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- Can Life Have Meaning Without God? by James Anderson
- Atheism’s Universe is Meaningless and Valueless by J.W. Wartick, January 3, 2011
- Can atheists have meaning and purpose in life?
- Why atheism by Katie Galloway, 2014
- Heat Death and Atheist Inconsistency (or, Isn’t It Ironic?)
- Atheism and Death: Why the atheist must face death with despair By Dustin Shramek
- Apathy, Atheism, and the Absurdity of Life Without God by Aaron Brake
- The Meaningless Life Of Atheism by Daniel Prayson, 2010
- Sartre at Seventy: An Interview by Jean-Paul Sartre and Michel Contat. The New York Review of Books (7 August 1975). Retrieved on 31 May 2017.
- R.A. Forum > Sartre par lui-même (Sartre by Himself). Raforum.info (28 September 1966). Retrieved on 31 May 2017.
- "Interview with Jean-Paul Sartre" in The Philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre, ed. P. A. Schilpp, p. 21.
- Liberation, 16 October 1952
- Quoted in Walter Laqueur and G.L. Mosse, Literature and Politics in the Twentieth Century (New York, 1967), p. 25.
- Les Lettres francaises, 1–8 January 1953; Le Monde, 25 September 1954.
- Liberation 15–20 July 1954
- "After my first visit to the USSR in 1954, I lied. Actually, lie might be too strong a word : I wrote an article . . . where I said a number of friendly things about the USSR which I did not believe. I did it partly because I considered that it is not polite to denigrate your hosts as soon as you return home, and partly because I didn't really know where I stood in relation to both the USSR and my own ideas." – Situations X (Paris, 1976), p. 220
- 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."
- Quoted in Cohen-Solal, p. 213
- 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.
- Sartre: The Philosopher of the Twentieth Century, Bernard Henri-Levy. p. 344
- Is Christianity Alone Fully True and is Jesus Christ Really the Only Way To God? -- Part 4