Jean paul Sartre (21st june 1905 - 15th April 1980)
I’ve already covered Kierkegaard, nietzsche and dostoyevsky it would be a disgrace not to cover Sartre. A French commie with a wandering eye. Who became a household name in the US and his native France and embedding himself in history.
Born in Paris, in 1905 his father died when he was very young and he grew up attached to his mother. They moved back to his mothers home in Meudon where he was raised by his grandfather. His mother remarried much to his regret and they relocated to La rochelle where he was bullied for his strabismus and his thick heavy glasses. He was very short and when he reached adulthood he only stood at 5′3 inches. He frequently described himself as “ugly”.
Sartre met his lifelong friend and ocasionally sexual partner. Simone de Beauvoir while studying at the École Normale Supérieure. After he graduated he was drafted into the French army to fight in world war 2. His forced conscription would contribute to sartres feeling of freedom and purpose.
When he returned to paris in May 1941 he and ecole founded an underground socialist group called Socialisme et liberté (Socialism and liberty) which was anything but dangerous in Nazi occupied France. During this time he wrote the book that made his name. Being and nothingness.
He became famous not becuase people could logically decipher what he was saying. But because they couldn’t quite. His book was based on the idea of existentialism and revolved around 4 main principles.
1. Things are weirder than we think. Pay close attention to the world around you and things appear more strange. Realising that a chair is just a piece of wood and wondering what use does it have, suddenly the word chair becomes loose from your tounge, as only a string of letters. Sartre described this as peering into the “Absurdity of the world”.
2. We are free. Sartre described the anguish of life. Life is scary because nothing has any premade purpose. A chair is made to be sat on. But humans have no such design. Realising that every eventuallity in your head is possible. Terrifies us.
3. We shouldn’t live in bad faith. Sartre believed nothing is out of our limits. We shouldn’t live in just accepting the fact that “Things have to be this way”. In being and nothingness satre describes a waiter. Every step is quick. Every movement is too precise. Every word is too devoid of emotion. As if he was firstly a waiter and secondly a human being.
4. We are free to dismantle capitalism. Sartre believed the one thing stopping from us being free is money. Most of us want to experience the world and its wonders. But we don’t make enough money. Capitalism enraged satre he thought it was a machine that created nessecity that didn’t really exist. It was because of these views Sartre became heavily involved in marxism because it removed the value of material gains.
Becuase of his some would say “Radical” philosophy the CIA kept a large file on Sartre and he was arrested in 1968. But was pardoned by the president of France charles de Gaulle who said “You don’t arrest voltaire”. He was offered the nobel prize for literature but refused it stating “a writer should not allow himself to be turned into an institution”
Sartre still inspires to this today urging us to tap into our unfufilled potential as free human beings.
“Better to die on ones feet than to live on ones knees”
— Being and Nothingness by Jean-Paul Sartre “Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.”
Spending some quality time with Sartre and his Being and Nothingness. Challenging book, but undoubtedly among the timeless philosophies. I’m not enjoying myself reading it, but I enjoy the fact that I feel this way…
We encounter the true ideal of loves’ enterprise: alienated freedom. But it is the one who wants to be loved who by the mere fact of wanting someone to love him alienates his freedom…Each one is alienated only to the exact extent to which he demands the alienation of the other. Each one wants the other to love him but does not take into account the fact that to love is to want to be loved and that thus by wanting the other to love him, he only wants the other to want to be loved in turn.
I am the self which I will be, in the mode of not being it. It is through my horror that I am carried toward the future, and the horror nihilates itself in that it constitutes the future as possible. Anguish is precisely my consciousness of being my own future, in the mode of not-being.
Reflection is a knowledge; of that there is no doubt. It is provided with a positional character; it affirms the consciousness reflected-on. But every affirmation, as we shall soon see, is conditioned by a negation: to affirm this object is simultaneously to deny that I am this object. To know is to make oneself other.
I must be without remorse or regrets as I am without excuse; for from the instant of my upsurge into being, I carry the weight of the world by myself alone without help, engaged in a world for which I bear the whole responsibility without being able, whatever I do, to tear myself away from this responsibility for an instant.