Jean-Paul Sartre & Albert Camus: Their Friendship and the Bitter Feud That Ended It


“At the end of World War II, as Europe lay in ruins, so too did its ‘intellectual landscape,’ notes the Living Philosophy video above. In the midst of this ‘intellectual crater’ a number of great thinkers debated ‘the blueprint for the future.’ Feminist philosopher and novelist Simone de Beauvoir put it bluntly: ‘We were to provide the postwar era with its ideology.’ Two names — De Beauvoir’s partner Jean-Paul Sartre and his friend Albert Camus — came to define that ideology in the philosophy broadly known as Existentialism. … Their fame would continue into the postwar years, despite Camus’ retreat from philosophical writing after the publication of The Rebel. While we’ve previously brought you stories of their friendship, and its bitter end, the video above digs deeper into the Sartre-Camus rivalry, with critical historical context for their thinking. Their initial falling out took place over The Rebel, which championed an ethical individualism and critiqued the morality of revolutionary violence. … The book provoked Sartre, a doctrinaire Marxist, who had issued what Camus considered feeble defenses for Joseph Stalin’s purges and gulags. A series of scathing reviews and angry ripostes followed. The personal tone of these attacks chilled what little warmth remained between them. When the Algerian war for independence erupted a few years later, the staunchly anti-colonialist Sartre took the side of Algeria’s National Liberation Front (FLN), excusing acts of violence against civilians and rival factions as justified by French oppression. Such events ‘were beyond justification in the mind of Camus.’ While Sartre belittled Camus as ‘a crook,’ the ‘acuteness of the situation was all the stronger for Camus since Algeria was his homeland. He could not see it in the ideological warped black and white of Sartre’s circle or the conservative French government.’ The statement might sum up all of Camus’ thought. …”
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