- 74 years old
- Born Jun 21, 1905
- Died Apr 15, 1980
- Paris, France
Jean-PaulCharlesAymardSartre, normally known simply as Jean-Paul Sartre, was a French existentialist philosopher and pioneer, dramatist and screenwriter, novelist and critic. He was a leading figure in Twentieth-Century French Philosophy.
Jean-Paul Sartre was born in Paris to parents Jean-Baptiste Sartre, an officer of the French Navy, and Anne-Marie Schweitzer. His mother was of German-Alsatian origin, and was a cousin of German Nobel prize laureate Albert Schweitzer. When he was 15 months old, his father died of a fever and Anne-Marie raised him with help from her father, Charles Schweitzer, a high school professor of German, who taught Sartre mathematics and introduced him to classical literature at a very early age.
As a teenager in the 1920s, Jean became attracted to philosophy upon reading Henri Bergson's Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness. He studied in Paris at the elite École Normale Supérieure, an institution of higher education, the alma mater for multiple prominent French thinkers and intellectuals. Sartre was influenced by many aspects of Western philosophy, absorbing ideas from Immanuel Kant, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and Martin Heidegger.
In 1929 at the Ecole Normale, he met Simone de Beauvoir, who studied at the Sorbonne and later went on to become a noted thinker, writer, and feminist. The two, it is documented, became inseparable and lifelong companions, initiating a romantic relationship, though they were not monogamous.
He graduated from the École Normale Supérieure in 1929 with a doctorate in philosophy and served as a conscript in the French Army from 1929 to 1931.
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" state of "being" became the dominant theme of Sartre's 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 this work, he defends existentialism against its detractors, which ultimately results in a somewhat incomplete description of his ideas. The work has been considered a popular, if over-simplifying, point of entry for those seeking to learn more about Sartre's ideas but lacking the background in philosophy necessary to fully absorb his longer work Being and Nothingness. One should not take the expression of his ideas contained here as authoritative; in 1965, Sartre told Francis Jeanson that its publication had been "an error."