Savater, Fernando 1947-

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Savater, Fernando 1947-


Born June 21, 1947, in San Sebastien, Spain; married (separated); children: a son. Education: Attended Central University, Madrid, Spain; University of Madrid, Ph.D.


Office—General Pardinas 71, 28006 Madrid, Spain.


Writer, human rights activist, journalist, philosopher, and educator. Complutense University of Madrid, Spain, philosophy professor; formerly professor of philosophy, University of the Basque Country, beginning 1980, and the University of Alcalá de Henares, Madrid, Spain.


Premio Nacional de Literatura, 1982; Prize Pablo Churches, 1989; Sakharov Prize for Human Rights of the European Union, 2000, for his work Basta Ya!; Anagrama Prize; Ortega y Gasset Journalism Prize, 2000; Fernando Abril Martorell Prize, for his contribution to the defense and promotion of freedom, tolerance and human rights. Has worked with Amnesty International, Coordinator of Prisoners in Lucha (COPAL), and the Association of Relatives and Presos (AFAPE).


Nihilismo y acción, Taurus (Madrid, Spain), 1970.

La filosofía tachada, Taurus (Madrid, Spain), 1972.

Ensayo sobre Cioran, Taurus (Madrid, Spain), 1974.

Ultimo desembarco; Vente a Sinapia, Espasa Calpe (Madrid, Spain), 1974, reprinted, Ediciones Irreverentes (Barcelona, Spain), 2005.

De los dioses y del mundo, F. Torres (Valencia, Spain), 1975.

La filosofía como anhelo de la revolución y otras intervenciones: ensayos, I. Peralta (Pamplona, Spain), 1976.

Apóstatas razonables, Editorial Madrágora (Barcelona, Spain), 1976.

La piedad apasionada, Ediciones Sígueme (Salamanca, Spain), 1977.

El estado y sus criaturas, Ediciones Libertarias (Madrid, Spain), 1979.

Criaturas del aire, Planeta (Barcelona, Spain), 1979.

Para la anarquía y otros enfrentamientos, Editorial Orbis (Barcelona, Spain), 1979.

La infancia recuperada, Taurus (Madrid, Spain), 1981, translated by Frances M. López-Morillas and published as Childhood Regained: The Art of the Storyteller, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 1982.

La tarea del héroe: (elementos para una ética trágica), Taurus (Madrid, Spain), 1981.

Juliano en Eleusis: misterio dramático en un prólogo y dos retablos, Ediciones Hiperión (Madrid, Spain), 1981.

Caronte aguarda, Catedra (Madrid, Spain), 1981.

Invitación a la ética, Anagrama (Barcelona, Spain), 1982.

Panfleto contra el todo, Alianza (Madrid, Spain), 1982.

Nietzsche, Barcanova (Barcelona, Spain), 1982.

(With Gonzalo Martínez-Fresneda), Teoría y presencia de la tortura en España, Anagrama (Barcelona, Spain), 1982.

Sobre vivir, Ariel (Barcelona, Spain), 1983.

Ética para Amador (title means "Ethics for Amador"), Ariel (Barcelona, Spain), 1983 translation by Alastair Reid published as Amador: In Which a Father Addresses His Son on Questions of Ethics, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 1994.

Sobras completas, Ediciones Libertarias (Madrid, Spain), 1983.

Diario de Job, Catedra (Madrid, Spain), 1983.

El juego de los caballos, El Observatorio Ediciones (Madrid, Spain), 1984.

Contra las patrias, Tusquets (Barcelona, Spain), 1984.

Las razones del antimilitarismo: y otras rezones, Anagrama (Barcelona, Spain), 1984.

Fernando Savater contra el todo, Anjana (Madrid, Spain), 1984.

El dialecto de la vida, Plaza & Janés (Barcelona, Spain), 1985.

Episodios pasionales, Ediciones Libertarias (Madrid, Spain), 1986.

El contenido de la felicidad, Ediciones El País (Madrid, Spain), 1986.

Perdonadme, ortodoxo, Alianza (Madrid, Spain), 1986.

Schopenhauer, la abolicion del egoismo, Montesinos (Barcelona, Spain), 1986.

Una Nueva España desde México, Fondo de Cultura Económica (Mexico City, Mexico), 1987.

A rienda suelta, Anaya (Madrid, Spain), 1987.

San Sebastián, Ediciones Destino, (Barcelona, Spain), 1987.

A decir verdad, Fondo de Cultura Económica (Mexico City, Mexico), 1987.

Etica como amor propio, Grijalbo Mondadori (Barcelona, Spain), 1988.

Filosofía y sexualidad, Anagrama (Barcelona, Spain), 1988.

Humanismo impenitente: diez ensayos antijansenistas, Anagrama (Barcelona, Spain), 1990.

La escuela de Platón, Anagrama (Barcelona, Spain), 1991.

Sin contemplaciones, Ediciones Libertarias (Madrid, Spain), 1993.

El jardín de las dudas, Planteta (Barcelona, Spain), 1993.

Instrucciones para olvidar El Quijote, Taurus (Madrid, Spain), 1995.

Idea de Nietzsche, Ariel (Barcelona, Spain), 1995.

Diccionario filosófico, Planeta (Barcelona, Spain), 1995.

Libre mente, Espasa Calpe (Madrid, Spain), 1995.

La voluntad disculpada, Taurus (Madrid, Spain), 1996.

El mito nacionalista, Alianza (Madrid, Spain), 1996.

Malos y malditos, illustrated by Juan Ramón Alonso Díaz-Toledo, Alfaguara (Madrid, Spain), 1996.

El valor de educar, (title means "The Value of Education"), Ariel (Barcelona, Spain), 1997.

Apología del sofista, Taurus (Madrid, Spain), 1997.

Política Amador, Ariel (Barcelona, Spain), 1998.

Despierta y lee, Alfaguara (Madrid, Spain), 1998.

Loor al leer, Aguilar (Madrid, Spain), 1998.

Las preguntas de la vida, Ariel (Barcelona, Spain), 1999 translated by Carolina Ospina Arrowsmith and published as The Questions of Life: An Invitation to Philosophy, Blackwell (Cambridge MA), 2002.

Ética y ciudadanía, Monte Ávila Editores Latinoamericana (Barcelona, Spain), 1999.

Las mejores historias sobre caballos, Ediciones Siruela (Madrid, Spain), 2000.

Perdonen las molestias: crónica de una batalla sin armas contra las armas, Suma de Letras (Barcelona, Spain), 2001.

Jorge Luis Borges, Omega (Barcelona, Spain), 2001.

A caballo entre milenios, Aguilar, (Madrid, Spain), 2002.

Pensamientos arriesgados: (casi) todo Savater, La Esfera de los Libros (Madrid, Spain), 2002.

Mira por dónde: autobiografía razonada, (autobiography), Taurus (Madrid, Spain), 2003.

El gran fraude, Aguilar (Madrid, Spain), 2004.

La libertad como destino, presentación de Alberto González Troyano, Fundacion Jose Manuel Lara (Seville, Spain), 2004.

Los diez mandamientos en el siglo XXI: tradición y actualidad del legado de Moisés, Debate (Barcelona, Spain), 2004.

El gran laberinto, Editorial Ariel (Barcelona, Spain), 2005.

Los siete pecados capitales, Editorial Sudamericana (Buenos Aires, Argentina), 2005.

Savater has written prologues to new editions of Beau Geste, by Christopher Wren, 1981; La vida de los hombres infames: ensayos sobre desviación y dominación, 1990, by Michel Foucault; Papá, qué es el racismo?, by Tahar Ben Jelloun, 2000; Gregorio Ordoñez: tal como era, by Gregorio Ordoñez, 2000; a Spanish edition of The Conquest of Happiness by Bertrand Russell; and various Spanish editions of Voltaire, 1976-89. Also translator of The Misanthrope, by Moliere, 1996; Utopia by Thomas More; Précis de decomposition and La tentation d'exister by E.M. Cioran, 1997. Works have been translated into several languages, including Italian.


Fernando Savater is perhaps the best known and most representative intellectual of the Socialist era in Spain. As an avowed member of the European generation that came of age in May, 1968, he is often characterized by seeming contradiction. "Thus," as Paul Julian Smith noted in the Modern Language Review, "he is a committed internationalist dedicated to teaching in the recently founded university of his native Basque Country, a political activist who has never joined a political party, and a avowed anarchist who claims individualism as a foundation for a non-violent ethics of community."

Savater has written more than forty-five works: essays, novels and children's books. His philosophical ideas, detailed in a personal philosophical dictionary (unpublished in English) are based on thoughtful rebellion against the establishment, with a touch of humor and irony. Savater has been called Spain's Jean-Paul Sartre and compared to Salman Rushdie. He is also a professor of philosophy who is forced to move around with a group of bodyguards to protect him from threats on his life. He lives with his bodyguards.

Lucía Iglesias Kuntz, in an interview for the UNESCO Courier, asked Savater if he felt it was unfair that most people see him only in the context of the Basque conflict. Savater responded: "It's a little tedious and one-dimensional because one does many things in one's life, maybe too many, though the only thing that interests people is the fact that one day you stood at a corner with a placard. But in the end it's just one of those problems. Nobody's required to be interested in philosophy, but I think you should be interested in your own country. I've got no desire to draw attention to myself. I just want to use the audience I can attract to promote something that seems vital to me—defending the rule of law and fighting totalitarianism in my country." He continued: "People in the Basque country have the same freedoms as any other people in Europe. There's more political and economic self-government than in the German länder, and it has its own parliament with all political parties represented, including the separatists. It's a developed area with no economic problems. The main Basque problem is that there isn't one—there's no objective, historical or economic basis for one. And ETA's ideas, or to put it bluntly, the ideas of Basque nationalism, wouldn't be taken seriously were it not for the violence."

His specialty, however, is ethics, which he defines as "the belief that not everything is equally valuable and that there are reasons for choosing one course of action over another." He has written several books on the subject, including The Questions of Life: An Invitation to Philosophy, and Etica como amor proprio ("Ethics as Self-Respect").

Savater became widely known outside of Spain in 1994 with the publication of Etica para Amador ("Ethics for Amador"), which has sold 150 thousand copies in Spain (which is equivalent to a million copies in the U.S.), and went on to become a million seller in France and Italy and translated into eighteen languages. Deborah Garrison, reviewing the book in the New Yorker, called the book "a mostly overlooked gem, since it's completely lacking in the kind of practical instruction Americans crave: it won't tell you what to take for a hangover or which mutual fund to invest in or how to light the grill." This is not what Savater had in mind. He takes the high road by beginning with a discussion of the different kinds of knowledge: "Quite simply," he says in the book, "among the kinds of knowing, there is at least one that is essential to us: knowing that certain things suit us, while others do not. Certain foods don't sit well with us, neither do certain kinds of behavior, certain attitudes. Clearly I mean they don't suit us if we want to go on living."

The author advises his son on how he should treat others, that is, to put himself in their place—to have "sympathetic justice," or compassion for them. He discusses sexual ethics, stating that all the fuss made over so-called sexual immorality stems from innate fear of human pleasure. As to political philosophy, he writes that in a democracy, directly or indirectly, all citizens are politicians. Savater is telling Amador that in any sphere of life, be accountable—but accountable first and foremost to oneself.

Each chapter is like a brief lecture written as if it were spoken, with informal introductory and closing remarks, such as: "We were saying before that most of the things we do because we are told to" and "Come on, let's go to the movies. We'll continue tomorrow." Garrison noted: "Savater's discourse penetrated the dim reaches of my rock-video cluttered mind, where I retain a vague memory of the way I used to read at Amador's age—the way I mined Gulliver's Travels and Franny and Zooey for news of what life was supposed to be like, what I should be like," wrote Garrison, who added: "This book is a reminder that we still read, at least some of the time, in order to figure out how we should live."

El valor de educar, which means "The Value of Education," is an essay dedicated to his mother, who was his first teacher, in which the author professes that education is the cure for most of society's ills. Savater begins the book with a rhetorical question: "If you ask nineteen thousand nine hundred people what is the way to alleviate our social problems, probably the entire nineteen thousand nine hundred people would respond that the solution to all our social problems can be found in education." Nevertheless, he asks what is society willing to spend on education?

In January, 2001, he published an anthology of his many articles criticizing extreme nationalism that had been published in the Spanish daily El Pais and the Bilbao daily El Correo. It reads like an indictment of an unarmed battle against weapons, and the indictment against a civil society for its passivity towards terrorist violence as well as a call to citizens to stand up to the ETA. Savater is also the author of Las preguntas de la vida, in which he addresses teens on how to enjoy life. Booklist contributor Isabel Schon noted the author's "fluid, elegant prose."



Savater, Fernando, Ética para Amador (title means "Ethics for Amador"), Ariel (Barcelona, Spain), 1983, translation by Alastair Reid and published as Amador: In Which a Father Addresses His Son on Questions of Ethics, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 1994.

Savater, Fernando, El valor de educar, (title means "The Value of Education"), Ariel (Barcelona, Spain), 1997.

Savater, Fernando, Mira por dónde: autobiografía razonada, Taurus (Madrid, Spain), 2003.


Biography, fall, 2005, Dario Olivero, review of Italian version of Mira por dónde, p. 727.

Booklist, April 1, 2000, Isabel Schon, review of Las preguntas de la vida, p. 1460.

Cuadernos Americanos, October, 1983, Teresa Waisman, article on Fernando Savater, p. 95.

Cuadernos Hispanamericanos, May, 1997, Hector Subirats, interview with Fernando Savater, p. 127.

Discurso: Revista de Estudios Iberoamericanos, Volume 2, 1993, Patricia Hart, analysis of Caronte Aguarda, p. 119.

Insula, May, 1983, Rosa Maria Pereda, interview with Fernando Savater, p. 438.

Kirkus Reviews April 15, 1994, review of Amador, p. 537.

Los Ensavistas, Issue 30, 1991, Francisco Javier Higuero, article on Fernando Savater and the humanist essay, p. 185.

Modern Language Review, January, 1998, Paul Julian Smith, article on Fernando Savater, p. 94.

New Yorker, February 6, 1995, Deborah Garrison, review of Amador, p. 89.

Ojancano, October, 1990, Francisco Javier Higuero, article on Fernando Savater and the humanist tradition, p. 19.

Publishers Weekly, May 30, 1994, review of Amador, p. 43.

Revista de Occidente, July, 2000, Carlos Alfieri, article on Fernando Savater, p. 191.

UNESCO Courier, July, 2001, Lucia Iglesias Kuntz, interview with Fernando Savater, p. 71.

Vuelta, February, 1992, Danubio Torres Fiero, article on Fernando Savater and Panfleto contra el todo, p. 48; March, 1993, Blas Matamoros, article on Fernando Savater and Amador, p. 191; April, 1993, Castanon, Adolfo, article on Fernando Savater and Amador, p. 191.

World Literature Today, winter, 2000, Jeffrey Oxford, review of Dispierta y lee, p. 121.


Forum Barcelona, (June 17, 2004), "Fernando Savater: When We Admit We Are Not Don Quixote We Die."

Generacion xxi,, (May 9, 2002), interview with Fernando Savater.