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Jean-Paul Sartre: biography of this existentialist philosopher

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Jean-Paul Sartre is a well-known figure in the field of philosophy and literature, being considered one of the fathers of contemporary existentialism. Philosopher, writer and political activist, he considered that the human being is a free being and that as such he must take responsibility for his own destiny, although there may be external conditions.

In addition, Sartre is also known for his political activism, maintaining a complex relationship with communism. He was nominated for a Nobel Prize in Literature, although he decided to decline the award due to his personal beliefs. To understand his vision of the world, it may be useful to understand his life, which is why in this article we are going to review a short biography of Jean-Paul Sartre, who marked the philosophy of the twentieth century.

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Short biography of Jean-Paul Sartre

Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre was born on June 21, 1905 in the city of Paris, France, being the son of a Naval officer named Jean Baptiste Sartre and Anne Marie Schweitzer.

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However, a few months after he was born, his father died of an illness contracted during his travels. His mother, with the help of Jean-Paul's maternal grandparents, would raise him in a stimulating and intellectual environment. His grandfather also introduced him to an interest in the arts.

Academic training of this philosopher

In 1915, at the age of ten, Sartre entered the Lycée Henri IV in Paris to begin his education. However, his mother would meet and remarry Joseph Mancy, causing the young Sartre to move to La Rochelle. It would be at the Lyceum in that town where he would continue his studies until 1920, when he would return to Paris and finish his education at his original institute.

After completing his secondary studies, he would enter the École Normale Supérieure in Paris in 1924 to carry out his university studies. During these studies he would meet different people who in the future would become great authors, among whom was the one who would become his main sentimental partner (they would establish throughout their lives a controversial open relationship for the epoch), Simone de Beauvoir. He received his doctorate in philosophy in 1929, the first of his promotion (followed by De Beauvoir).

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Postdoctoral life and first publications of Sartre

After obtaining his doctorate, he began to work in various institutes as a professor of philosophy, such as the Lycée de Havre. Later, in 1933 he obtained a scholarship that allowed him to travel to Germany and train in the philosophy of different authors such as Edmund Husserl (exploring phenomenology) at the French Institute in Berlin.

After that he would return to France, again working as a teacher in high schools such as Pasteur. At this stage he would begin to elaborate his notion that existence precedes essence, since we have to be in order to choose. This idea would be exposed in his first novel, published in 1938 and entitled Nausea. During 1939 he began to write other of his great works, among them Being and Nothingness.

War and Postwar

The arrival of the Second World War would cause Sartre to be called up, participating in the war and being captured by the Germans in 1940. In 1941 he managed to escape by posing as a civilian, and supported and participated in the French resistance.

In 1943 he published his most important and well-known work on a philosophical level, Being and Nothingness, in which he offered his version of existentialist philosophy. This work, largely influenced by the existentialism of Heidegger (considered at that time a great authority in this philosophical current) and other authors such as Husserl or Kierkegaard, would lead him to achieve great popularity.

Eventually, in 1945 he decided to abandon teaching and dedicate himself fully to literary and philosophical creation as a writer. He founded together with his partner Simone de Beauvoir and other authors such as Raymond Aron the magazine The modern temps, of great influence at the time.

His political activism

As we have mentioned before, Sartre is also known for his political activism, maintaining an active participation in this field for a long time. Such activism would be especially active after 1947. With socialist ideas, the author was critical of the Cold War and the actions of both the American and Soviet blocs.

Despite the existence of divergences, he has an approach towards communist ideas, traveling to Moscow on numerous occasions and being part of different associations. He would also support the Cuban revolution and the Chinese cultural revolution.

In 1964 the name of Sartre was proposed to award him the Nobel Prize in Literature. However, the author decided to reject the award considering that the link between author and reader did not require intermediaries.

He also actively participated in the revolt of May 68 and he openly condemned the Vietnam War and the war crimes committed in it, collaborating in the formation of the Stockholm International Court.

Also, during this period the author continues to publish various works. Together with Maurice Clavel, he created the agency "Liberátion" in 1973, which would later become a newspaper of which he would be the director.

Last years and death

However, over the years Sartre's health began to decline, losing his sight and having to gradually withdraw from literary creation.

During the month of May 1980, Jean-Paul Sartre was admitted to the Broussais hospital in Paris, due to suffering from pulmonary edema and hypertensive crisis. On April 15, 1980, this edema was complicated by a heart attack that would eventually cause her to death, at nine o'clock in the evening, in the company of Simone De Beauvoir and her adopted daughter Arlette El Kaim.

The legacy of this author is broad, bringing the focus of philosophy closer to the problems between the relationship of the self and society. In addition his ideas have influenced disciplines such as psychology, contributing to the thought and creation of the humanist current.

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