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Sarah Kofman

Philosopher Sarah Kofman argued that the ideas of great thinkers couldn’t simply be taken on their abstract merit, they had to be considered in the context of those philosophers’ lives. Kofman’s father was arrested by the Vichy police in 1942 and died in Auschwitz, reportedly for praying when he was supposed to be working. Kofman, meanwhile, was sheltered by a Parisian woman who fought Kofman’s mother for custody after the war. From 1960–1963 she taught at Lycee Saint Sernin in Toulouse, where Gilles Deleuze served as her thesis advisor. She then moved to Paris and taught at Lycée Claude Monet from 1963–1970, when she transferred to the University of Paris I. She taught there for the rest of her life but was denied tenure until 1991, when a coalition of leading intellectuals including Jacques Derrida and Emanuel Levinas came to her aid. Kofman published more than two dozen books and countless articles on philosophy, psychology, feminist theory, the impact of the Holocaust on modern thought, and biographical interpretations of great thinkers’ ideas from Socrates to Nietzche. At age 60, after years of struggling with depression, she committed suicide on Nietsche’s 150th birthday.


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Philosopher Sarah Koenig, photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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Philosopher, Writer, Professor

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Sarah Kofman." (Viewed on December 2, 2020) <https://jwa.org/people/kofman-sarah>.


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