A Writer should not Allow Himself to be Turned into an Institution – Jean-Paul Sartre

Google Doodle for Jean Paul Sartre (1905-1980)

Jean-Paul Sartre was born on June 21, 1905 in Paris and has become one of the most influential French  philosophers, playwrights, novelists, screenwriters, political activists, biographers, and
literary critics of his age. He was one of the key figures in the philosophy of existentialism, and one of the leading figures in 20th century French philosophy as well as Marxism. He also significantly  influenced other scientific disciplines such as sociology, critical theory, post-colonial theory, and literary studies, and still continues to influence these disciplines. “A writer should not allow himself to be turned into an institution” he said as he also refused to accept the Nobel Prize that was awarded to him in 1964. In general he always declined official honors.

Also he was known for his relationship with feminist philosopher and writer Simone de Beauvoir, whom he first met in 1929 at university. Jean Paul Sartre was dazzlingly intelligent, but was just under 5 feet (1.5 m) tall. Nevertheless, the two became an inseparable couple and Sartre asked her to marry him. One day while they were sitting on a bench outside the Louvre, he said, “Let’s sign a two-year lease“. Near the end of her life, Beauvoir said, “Marriage was impossible. I had no dowry.” So they entered a life-long relationship, but never got married. 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 ‘Being and Nothingness‘ (1943). 

The main idea of Jean-Paul Sartre stated in ‘Being and Nothingness‘ is that we are, as humans, “condemned to be free.” This theory relies upon his position that there is no such thing as a creator, and it is illustrated using the example of the paper cutter. Sartre says that if one considered a paper cutter, one would assume that the creator would have had a plan for it: an essence. Sartre said that human beings have no essence before their existence because there is no creator. Thus: “existence precedes essence“, which forms the basis for his assertion that since one cannot explain his own actions and behaviour by referencing any specific human nature, people are necessarily fully responsible for all of their actions. “We are left alone, without excuse“.

Sartre’s introduction to his philosophy is his work ‘Existentialism is a Humanism’ (1946), originally presented as a lecture, and at yovisto you might watch Dr. Gregory B. Sadliers introductory lecture on that particular topic. 

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