Jean Paulsartre

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Jean-Paul Sartre was born in Paris as the only child of Jean-Baptiste Sartre, an officer of the French Navy, and Anne-Marie Schweitzer. His mother was of Alsatian origin and the first cousin of Nobel Prize laureate Albert Schweitzer. (Her father, Charles Schweitzer, was the older brother of Albert Schweitzer's father, Louis Théophile.) When Sartre was 15 months old, his father died of a fever. Anne-Marie moved back to her parents' house in Meudon, where Sartre was raised with help from her father, a professor of German, who taught Sartre mathematics and introduced him to classical literature at a very early age. At twelve his mother remarried and the family moved to La Rochelle, where he was frequently bullied.

As a teenager in the 1920s, Sartre became attracted to philosophy upon reading Henri Bergson's essay Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness. He studied and earned a doctorate in philosophy in Paris at the École Normale Supérieure, an institution of higher education that was the alma mater for several prominent French thinkers and intellectuals. It was at ENS that Sartre began his life-long, sometimes fractious, friendship with Raymond Aron. Sartre was influenced by many aspects of Western philosophy, absorbing ideas from Kant, Hegel, Kierkegaard, Husserl and Heidegger, among others. Perhaps the most decisive influence on Sartre's philosophical development was his weekly attendance at Alexandre Kojève's seminars, which continued for a number of years.

From his first years in the École Normale, Sartre was one of its fiercest pranksters; In 1927, his antimilitarist satirical cartoon in the revue of the school, coauthored with Georges Canguilhem, forced the director Gustave Lanson to resign. In the same year, with his comrades Niza, Larroutis, Baillou and Herland, he organized a media prank following Charles Lindbergh's successful New York-Paris flight; Sartre & Co. called newspapers and informed them that Lindbergh was going to be awarded an honorary École degree. Many newspapers, including Le Petit Parisien, announced the event on 25 May. Thousands, including journalists and curious spectators, showed up, unaware that what they were witnessing was a stunt involving a Lindbergh look-alike. The public's resultant outcry[Need quotation to verify] forced Lanson to resign again. In 1939, in his famous short-story collection The Wall, referring to a fake turd, he will say that in pranks "There is more destructive power than in all the works of Lenin."

In 1929 at the École Normale, he met Simone de Beauvoir, who studied at the Sorbonne and later went on to become a noted philosopher, writer, and feminist. The two became inseparable and lifelong companions, initiating a romantic relationship, though they were not monogamous. Sartre served as a conscript in the French Army from 1929 to 1931 and he later argued in 1959 that each French person was responsible for the collective crimes during the Algerian War of Independence.

Together, Sartre and de Beauvoir challenged the cultural and social assumptions and expectations of their upbringings, which they considered bourgeois, in both lifestyle 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 L'Être et le Néant (Being and Nothingness) (1943). Sartre's introduction to his philosophy is his work Existentialism is a Humanism (1946), originally presented as a lecture.

In 1939 Sartre was drafted into the French army, where he served as a meteorologist. He was captured by German troops in 1940 in Padoux, and he spent nine months as a prisoner of war—in Nancy and finally in Stalag 12D, Trier, where he wrote his first theatrical piece, Barionà, fils du tonnerre, a drama concerning Christmas. It was during this period of confinement that Sartre read Heidegger's Sein und Zeit (Being and Time), later to become a major influence on his own essay on phenomenological ontology. Because of poor health (he claimed that his poor eyesight and exotropia affected his balance) Sartre was released in April 1941. Given civilian status, he recovered his teaching position at Lycée Pasteur near Paris, settled at the Hotel Misgiven a new position at Lycée Condorcet, replacing a Jewish teacher who had been forbidden to teach by Vichy law.

After coming back to Paris in May 1941, he participated in the founding of the underground group Socialisme et Liberté with other writers Simone de Beauvoir, Merleau-Ponty, Jean-Toussaint Desanti and his wife Dominique Desanti, Jean Kanapa, and École Normale students. In August, Sartre and Beauvoir went to the French Riviera seeking the support of André Gide and André Malraux. However, both Gide and Malraux were undecided, and this may have been the cause of Sartre's disappointment and discouragement. Socialisme et liberté soon dissolved and Sartre decided to write, instead of being involved in active resistance. He then wrote Being and Nothingness, The Flies, and No Exit, none of which were censored by the Germans, and also contributed to both legal and illegal literary magazines.

After August 1944 and the Liberation of Paris, he wrote Anti-Semite and Jew. In the book he tries to explain the etiology of "hate" by analyzing antisemitic hate. Sartre was a very active contributor to Combat, a newspaper created during the clandestine period by Albert Camus, a philosopher and author who held similar beliefs. Sartre and Beauvoir remained friends with Camus until 1951, after the publication of Camus' The Rebel. Later, while Sartre was labeled by some authors as a resistant, the French philosopher and resistant Vladimir Jankelevitch criticized Sartre's lack of political commitment during the German occupation, and interpreted his further struggles for liberty as an attempt to redeem himself. According to Camus, Sartre was a writer who resisted, not a resistor who wrote.

After the war ended Sartre established Les Temps Modernes (Modern Times), a quarterly literary and political review, and started writing full-time as well as continuing his political activism. He would draw on his war experiences for his great trilogy of novels, Les Chemins de la Liberté (The Roads to Freedom) (1945–1949).

The first period of Sartre's career, defined in large part by Being and Nothingness (1943), gave way to a second period as a politically engaged activist and intellectual. His 1948 work Les Mains Sales (Dirty Hands) in particular explored the problem of being both an intellectual at the same time as becoming "engaged" politically. He embraced Marxism (but did not join the Communist Party) and took a prominent role in the struggle against French rule in Algeria. He became perhaps the most eminent supporter of the FLN in the Algerian War and was one of the signatories of the Manifeste des 121. Furthermore, he had an Algerian mistress, Arlette Elkaïm, who became his adopted daughter in 1965. He opposed the Vietnam War and, along with Bertrand Russell and others, organized a tribunal intended to expose U.S. war crimes, which became known as the Russell Tribunal in 1967.


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