Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre 

He was a French existentialist philosopher, playwright, novelist, screenwriter, political activist, biographer, and literary critic. He was one of the leading figures in 20th century French philosophy and Existentialism, and his work continues to influence further fields such as sociology and literary studies. Sartre was also noted for his lifelong relationship with the author and social theorist, Simone de Beauvoir.

Early life and thought

Jean-Paul Sartre was born and raised in Paris to 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, 1844-1935, was the older brother of Albert Schweitzer’s father, Louis Théophile, 1846-1925).[1] When Sartre was 15 months old, his father died of a fever. 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.[2] As a teenager in the 1920s, Sartre became attracted to philosophy upon reading Henri Bergson‘s Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness.[3] He studied and earned a doctorate in philosophy in Paris at the elite École Normale Supérieure, an institution of higher education that was the alma mater for several prominent French thinkers and intellectuals.[4] Sartre was influenced by many aspects of Western philosophy, absorbing ideas from Kant, Hegel, Husserl and Heidegger, among others. 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,[5] though they were not monogamous.[6] 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.

Late life and death

In 1964, Sartre renounced literature in a witty and sardonic account of the first ten years of his life, Les mots (Words). The book is an ironic counterballast to Marcel Proust, whose reputation had unexpectedly eclipsed that of André Gide (who had provided the model of littérature engagée for Sartre’s generation). Literature, Sartre concluded, functioned ultimately as a bourgeois substitute for real commitment in the world. In October 1964, Sartre was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature but he declined it. He was the first Nobel Laureate to voluntarily decline the prize,[18] and he had previously refused the Légion d’honneur, in 1945. The prize was announced on 22 October 1964; on 14 October, Sartre had written a letter to the Nobel Institute, asking to be removed from the list of nominees, and that he would not accept the prize if awarded, but the letter went unread;[19] on 23 October, Le Figaro published a statement by Sartre explaining his refusal. He said he did not wish to be “transformed” by such an award, and did not want to take sides in an East vs. West cultural struggle by accepting an award from a prominent Western cultural institution.[19]

He died 15 April 1980 in Paris from an oedema of the lung.

Sartre lies buried in Cimetière de Montparnasse in Paris. His funeral was well attended, with estimates of the number of mourners along the two hour march ranging from 15,000 to over 50,000.