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.
In the second part of the book, Santoni provides a detailed analysis of Sartre's debate with Camus in 1952 and his Rome Lecture in 1964. Santoni criticizes Sartre for scoffing at Camus's "limits" on violence while failing to articulate his own. And in the Rome Lecture, Santoni argues, Sartre still held a two-sided position: while acknowledging conditions for any legitimate use of terror, Sartre failed to show persuasively how revolutionary killing could be a vehicle for overcoming mass alienation or effecting the "new" humanity he sought.
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