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  Sartre on Violence: Curiously Ambivalent
Ronald E. Santoni
ISBN: 0271023007
Format: Hardcover, 208pp
Pub. Date: August 2003 Publisher: Pennsylvania State University Press

Professor explores French philosopher in new book
Advocate Correspondent


GRANVILLE -- One of Denison University's most distinguished professors, Dr. Ronald Santoni, the Maria Theresa Barney professor emeritus of philosophy, has written a new book on the French philosopher titled "Sartre on Violence -- Curiously Ambivalent."

Jean Paul Sartre (1905-1980) was a philosopher, dramatist, novelist and political journalist who was a leading exponent of existentialism, which, according to Encarta.com, is a philosophical movement emphasizing individual existence, freedom and choice, which influenced many diverse writers in the 19th and 20th centuries.

"It's a book for the scholarly community, but I suspect the educated layperson could get a fair amount out of it," said Dr. Tony Lisska, a philosophy professor at Denison and a colleague of Santoni's. "One not need be a Sartre scholar to understand all this stuff."

As a student of violence and also a scholar of Sartre, Santoni thought he really needed to bring together two areas of his scholarship and interest.

"Over the years, I've been very interested in the issue of violence," said Santoni, an internationally recognized Sartre scholar. "Sartre's position, to be sure, has been controversial, difficult to understand.

"In some of his early writings, he clearly took a stand in opposition to violence and tried to show how it was anti-community. Then he moves on to speak of violence as though it's a unifying thing. Then he moves clearly in the direction of justifying violence. So as a Sartre scholar, I'm quite critical of him on this whole issue and sort of argue that he uses weasel words."

For Santoni, it's the challenge of trying to understand how Sartre can talk seemingly out of both sides of his mouth.

"I hope people who are looking at 9/11, for example, who are totally shocked by it, will read this book and it will help them rethink the issues," Santoni said. "I hope they'll try to follow the argument and try to understand how some people can try to justify terror.

"I think 9/11 was a horrible, criminal, heinous act. But I think we have to understand that we too, our country, has been a perpetrator of terrorism in the world. And that we have trained terrorists in the School of the Americas, that we have dropped atomic bombs on people -- we're the only country." The School of the Americas, Santoni said, is a well-known training school for alleged "counter-terrorism" in Georgia.

Santoni's book was recently published by Pennsylvania State University Press. It's available at the Denison University bookstore and at Readers' Garden in Granville.


  Jean Paul Sartre. A french philosopher of the 20th century.
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