Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Jean-Paul Sartre (June 21, 1905)

Sartre -- "the best known European public intellectual of the twentieth century" -- was the author of a classic on the topic of antisemitism, Anti-Semite and Jew. This work was "a blistering criticism of French complicity in the Holocaust" and "the first of many works analyzing moral responsibility for oppression."

I find Sartre's analysis very insightful and helpful in my life: that antisemitism isn't based on any objective facts about Jews or features of Jews, and thus can't be refuted by rational arguments. His description of the mental processes and ethical weaknesses of antisemites unfortunately continues to apply to many individuals today as well as it did when he wrote.

A summary:
"Sartre’s analysis works particularly well at diagnosing attitudes of racial superiority. An anti-Semite bases his self-image on the fact that he is not-a-Jew, but in so doing, he becomes dependent upon the Jewish other from whom he claims total independence. Ultimately, the racist receives no satisfaction from domination because he solicits recognition from someone he denigrates."
Quotes from "Sartre's Political Philosophy."

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