Jean-Paul Sartre described the Latin revolutionary Che Guevara as "the most complete human being of our age."

What did "complete" mean in Sartre's philosophical belief system? Or was he simply speaking in layman's terms, effectively saying "Che Guevara is cool"?

I understand Sartre was a political activist, so he may have felt a bond with Guevara outside of his philosophical beliefs.

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    iep.utm.edu/sartre-p Sartre was an avid Marxist and was incredibly supportive of the Cuban revolution in the beginning, later going on to denounce Castro as his leadership became an oppressive regime. After WW2 Sartre was more vocal about politics and how it plays into philosophy than he was about the topics he write about in, e.g. Being and Nothingness. Given his disposition towards Marxism and his main focus at that time being on politics and ethics, it doesn't seem like he meant anything other than "Che is doing what everyone in the world should aspire to do".
    – Not_Here
    Sep 20 '17 at 0:11
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    I don't have the date on the quote you used but given what he wrote about Castro a few years after the revolution, I would assume he said your quote before seeing what Cuba eventually became.
    – Not_Here
    Sep 20 '17 at 0:12
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    Apparently when Che was captured his knapsack had two books; one holding secret codes to communicate with Havana & the other poems by Neruda & Vallejo; Sartre was commited to anti-colonial and Marxist politics - see his introduction to Fanons White Masks & Black Skins. Sep 20 '17 at 4:39
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    See Sartre and authenticity: "he authentic individual will be the one who takes up the terrifying freedom of being the ultimate source of values, embraces it, and acts with a clarity and firmness suitable to his or her best understanding of what is right in this context." Linked: freedom and engagement: the political version of existential authenticity. Sep 20 '17 at 12:20
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    Wow, good comments, especially the tip on "existential authority." I think I read somewhere that Sartre felt bad because he never did anything substantial with his life. He wrote amazing books and became famous, but he never actually reformed a government or fought in a revolution. So maybe Sartre and El Che were alter egos. Sep 20 '17 at 23:38

An article by Gabriella Paolucci, 'Sartre's humanism and the Cuban revolution', Theory and Society, Vol. 36, No. 3 (June, 2007), p.259, gives some background to Sartre's remark. Sartre met Che in 1960. Here is an account of the meeting and of the impression Che made on Sartre :

The philosopher was imnmediately impressed by Che Guevara's personality, whereas the young doctor, on his part, found himself face-to-face for the first time with one his favorite authors, whose books he had read from the time he was young. Sartre painted Che Guevara as an educated and tireless revolutionary, devoted day and night to finding solutions to make the revolution successful. "Guevara," he wrote in the article that appeared in France-Soir on July 10, 1960, 'passes for a man of great culture. And you can see it. One understands immediately that he has, behind every sentence, a golden reserve. But an abyss separates this broad knowledge, the general knowledge of a young doctor devoted to the study of the social sciences out of inclination, out of passion, and the precise and technical knowledge that is indispensable to a state banker. He never talks of this, if not to joke about his change of profession. But you can feel the intensity of the effort. You can see it everywhere on this calm and restful face. Even the hour of this encounter is unusual: midnight". They would never have another occasion to meet after Sartre's stay in Cuba, but the writer would never forget the strength that emanated from this young revolutionary who remained for him a symbol of an experience that shunned dogmatism and relied on an autonomous search for an original path towards socialism and freedom. After Che Guevara's assassination, in an interview with Prensa Latina, Sartre would refer to him as the "most complete man of his times" (J.-P. Sartre, 1967), 'El Che fue el hombre mas completo de su tiempo. Interview in Bohemia, n. 59, p. 45.

I'm not concerned to endorse or to overturn Sartre's impression of Che. Nor do I know if he subsequently revised his impression. But the traits attributed to Che here are exactly in line with the personal authenticity that Sartre explored and valorised in his existentialist works. Che shunned dogmatism, he had chosen 'an autonomous search for an original path' (that of - revolutionary - socialism and freedom), he was both passionate in that search and possessed of calm self-possession. If this is how Sartre saw Che it is not entirely surprising that he eulogised him, in what Sartre regarded as the tragedy of his death, as 'the most complete man of his times'.

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