The Words


Some philosophers argue that Sartre's thought is contradictory. Specifically, they believe that Sartre makes metaphysical arguments despite his claim that his philosophical views ignore metaphysics. Herbert Marcuse criticized Being and Nothingness for projecting anxiety and meaninglessness onto the nature of existence itself: "Insofar as Existentialism is a philosophical doctrine, it remains an idealistic doctrine: it hypostatizes specific historical conditions of human existence into ontological and metaphysical characteristics. Existentialism thus becomes part of the very ideology which it attacks, and its radicalism is illusory."[75] In Letter on Humanism, Heidegger criticized Sartre's existentialism:

Existentialism says existence precedes essence. In this statement he is taking existentia and essentia according to their metaphysical meaning, which, from Plato's time on, has said that essentia precedes existentia. Sartre reverses this statement. But the reversal of a metaphysical statement remains a metaphysical statement. With it, he stays with metaphysics, in oblivion of the truth of Being.[76]

Philosophers Richard Wollheim and Thomas Baldwin have argued that Sartre's attempt to show that Sigmund Freud's theory of the unconscious is mistaken was based on a misinterpretation of Freud.[77][78] Author Richard Webster considers Sartre one of many modern thinkers who have reconstructed Judaeo-Christian orthodoxies in secular form.[79]

Brian C. Anderson denounced Sartre as an apologist for tyranny and terror because of his support for Stalinism, Maoism, and Castro's regime in Cuba.[80] Paul Johnson denounced Sartre's ideas for their influence on the Khmer Rouge: "The events in Cambodia in the 1970s, in which between one-fifth and one-third of the nation was starved to death or murdered, were entirely the work of a group of intellectuals, who were for the most part pupils and admirers of Jean-Paul Sartre – 'Sartre's Children' as I call them."[81]

Sartre, who stated in his preface to Frantz Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth that, "To shoot down a European is to kill two birds with one stone, to destroy an oppressor and the man he oppresses at the same time: there remains a dead man and a free man," has been criticized by Anderson and Michael Walzer for supporting the killing of European civilians by the FLN during the Algerian War. Walzer suggests that Sartre, a European, was a hypocrite for not volunteering to be killed himself.[80][82]

Clive James excoriated Sartre in his book of mini biographies Cultural Amnesia (2007). Among other things, James attacks Sartre's philosophy as being "all a pose".[83]

Munich 1972 and Israel

When eleven Israeli Olympians were killed by the Palestinian organization Black September in Munich 1972, Sartre referred to terrorism as a "terrible weapon but the oppressed poor have no others." He also found it "perfectly scandalous that the Munich attack should be judged by the French press and a section of public opinion as an intolerable scandal." (Sartre: The Philosopher of the Twentieth Century, Bernard-Henri Lévy, p. 343).

He legitimizes and justifies the use of the death penalty for political reasons. He supports the Palestinian terrorist attacks of 1972, saying that, "Palestinians don't have any other choice, because of a lack of weapons and supporters, than to turn to terrorism…The terrorist act committed in Munich, I once said, was justified on two levels: first, because the Israeli athletes in the Olympic Games were soldiers, and second, because the action was committed for an exchange of prisoners."

However, in other comments he indicated that no means should be used which dehumanize a target and disfigure an organization's goal. He identified as one of those "who affirm the sovereignty of the Israeli state and also believe the Palestinians have a right to sovereignty for the same reason..." He was also known for his strong opposition to anti-semitism.

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