Sartre on Violence

Curiously Ambivalent

By (author) Ronald E. Santoni

Paperback - £24.95

Publication date:

15 August 2003

Length of book:

200 pages


Penn State University Press

ISBN-13: 9780271023014

From "Materialism and Revolution" (1946) through Hope Now (1980), Jean-Paul Sartre was deeply engaged with questions about the meaning and justifiability of violence. In the first comprehensive treatment of Sartre’s views on the subject, Ronald Santoni begins by tracing the full trajectory of Sartre’s evolving thought on violence and shows how the "curious ambiguity" of freedom affirming itself against freedom in his earliest writings about violence developed into his "curiously ambivalent" position through his later writings.

“Across the years and through a number of writings that exhibit ‘an unsteady but tested line of continuity, development and coherence,’ Sartre came to realize that violence is at once freedom-affirming and freedom-destroying—a particularly uncomfortable situation for a philosopher of freedom with quasi-utopian social ideals. This insightful analysis of Sartre’s ‘curiously ambivalent’ understanding of violence and its justification is the most thorough study of this important topic that we are like to have for a long time.”

—Thomas R. Flynn, Emory University