Updated: Jun 4, 2018
Jean-Paul Sartre (1905- 1980) was a French intellectual who influenced much of the political landscape in France by being a member of the French underground during world war two. Apart from political philosophy, Sartre was also a novelist, playwright and a major source of inspiration for other writers, artists and political activists all around the globe. Jean-Paul effectively contributed to Existentialism- a philosophy heavily rooted in the belief that all philosophical thinking begins with the human subject. – not merely the thinking subject but the acting, feeling, living individual. It emphasizes freedom of the individual from all that is customary and routinely in order to find the essence of their being. All existentialists embark on this journey to interpret this rather absurd world and face a sense of disorientation and are viewed by the rest as “people with an attitude problem”
A sneak – peek into the life of Sartre, a hardcore existentialist…
Before really understanding what this philosophy is all about we need to know who a potential existentialist can be. An existentialist is a person who looks at life with very critical eyes. Every moment for an existentialist is a moment of deep introspection and thought which can be quite irksome to the people around them. In general, one can say that events in the life of an existentialist have not turned out to be picture perfect which develops in them the innate need to analyze, understand and interrogate.
The kind of life experiences that came to Sartre led to him developing the most profound thoughts about life in the years to come.
His mother belonged to a conflictual part of Eastern France called Alsace – Lorraine which the German and French had been fighting over for years, at an early age his father passed away after which his mother intended to remarry much against the wishes of little Sartre.
As life would have it, he was not a very good looking individual either. He had a pimply face and suffered from a condition called Strabismus (wandering eye). And he was quite short in stature and hoped with all his heart to find a romantic partner who was shorter than him!
A delay in his academic career, mainly because he failed to pass his tests, led him to meet a young philosophy student by the name Simon de Beauvoir (not taller than he). For the rest of their lives, each had a great influence on each other’s philosophical works. Though they never formally married and had multiple romantic partners (a true existentialist choice of freedom), they spent a major part of their lives coming up with philosophies on the rainy streets of Paris cafes and Bistros. They discussed art and culture at great length with other writers and artists such as Albert Camus and Pablo Picasso.
After Sartre’s death in 1980, the streets of Paris teamed with people honoring him on his final journey to the cemetery. After his death, Sartre inspired a legacy of thousands of university student dropouts in scores of countries who sat around in coffee houses, dressed in black thinking melancholic thoughts in his name.
Sartre blended his melancholic nature with his thought-provoking writings and gave us all beautiful analogies and ideas to ponder upon. A few of which I will be elaborating upon in my next article. I would recommend you reading the Existential comic put together to understand Existentialism better.