Jean Nabert

Jean Nabert

French writer and philosopher
Date of Birth: 27.06.1881
Country: France

Biography of Jean Nabert

Jean Nabert (1881-1960) was a French writer and philosopher. He was born on June 27, 1881, in Iso, France. Nabert received his secondary education in Burgundy and at the lyceum in Grenoble. He then pursued higher education at the University of Lyon. From 1908 to 1910, he studied philosophy in Sen-Lo, where he obtained a degree in agrégé de philosophie in 1910. From 1910 to 1914, he taught at a lyceum in Brest.

At the beginning of World War I, Nabert was called to the front but soon after, he was injured and stayed in Switzerland until the end of the war. In 1919, he taught in Metz, and in 1923, he defended his dissertation titled "L'expérience intérieure de la liberté" (The Inner Experience of Freedom) and began teaching at the lyceum in Saint-Louis. He worked at the Lycee Louis-le-Grand, and from 1931, he taught at the Lycees Lacordaire and Henri IV in Paris. In 1944, he became the chief advisor to the Minister of National Education. After retiring, he served as the director of the Victor Cousin Library at Sorbonne.

Nabert continued the tradition of reflexive philosophy, influenced by Descartes, Kant, Fichte, Maine de Biran, and Lachelier. In his dissertation, "L'expérience intérieure de la liberté," he explored the concept of freedom based on internal experiences of consciousness. He agreed with Descartes that the foundation of knowledge is cogito, the primary certainty of consciousness, and he argued that the concept of freedom cannot be derived from objective knowledge. Nabert questioned how freedom can be understood based on the internal experience of consciousness.

In his main work, "Elements pour une ethique" (Elements for an Ethics, 1943), Nabert investigated the "primary affirmation" that could form the basis of an ethics free from moralism. He analyzed three forms of experiences - guilt, failure, and loneliness - to examine the negative element present in human experiences. Nabert believed that the human self is characterized by fundamental insufficiency, which is not determined by individual circumstances but by the necessary structure of existence. He explored the concept of self-awareness, which led him to the discovery of a certain form of transcendence.

According to Nabert, the principle that consciousness relates to is a primary, unconditioned affirmation. This affirmation exists within the subject's affirmation of oneself and certifies that the subject is not limited to what it is but must constantly free itself from itself. This primary affirmation ultimately becomes a being-must and a call to action. It forms the foundation of an ethics that encompasses all aspects of human existence, all forms of activity, and relationships with others. By responding to the call in being-must, the subject becomes a creator of values, particularly values of action.

In his work "Essai sur le mal" (Essay on Evil, 1955), Nabert explored the negative element of existence revealed in his previous work. He argued that evil is rooted in human existence, and even strict adherence to moral laws cannot eliminate it. From this perspective, sin is inherent in the act through which a person constitutes oneself. It represents a rupture through which the individual separates themselves from their origin and from other selves. The fate of humanity is tragic to the extent that it must confront this evil, which contradicts the principle of values.

Jean Nabert passed away on October 14, 1960, in Locquirec, Brittany. His ideas influenced French personalism and other philosophical movements of the 20th century. His work "Essai sur le mal" is analyzed by Paul Ricœur in his book "The Conflict of Interpretations." Ricœur also wrote prefaces for several editions of Nabert's works.