French philosopher Dufourmantelle drowns rescuing children

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Anne Dufourmantelle, the popular French philosopher who drowned trying to rescue children in FranceImage source, Librairie Mollat
Image caption,
French philosopher Anne Dufourmantelle, 53, said that "life begins with risk"

A leading French philosopher who advocated risk-taking has drowned after attempting to save two children at a beach on the French Riviera.

Anne Dufourmantelle entered the water after the children got into difficulty in strong winds at Pampelonne beach, near St Tropez, on Friday.

The two children were later rescued by lifeguards and were unharmed.

The French culture minister, Françoise Nyssen, said Dufourmantelle was a "great philosopher who helped us live".

Witnesses said Dufourmantelle, 53, was bathing 50m (164 ft) from the two children when an orange warning flag at the beach was changed to red, indicating that bathing was prohibited due to dangerous conditions.

She immediately tried to reach them but was carried away in a strong current. Attempts to resuscitate her after she was recovered failed, France 3 reported (in French).

It was unclear if she knew the children involved in the incident.

Her funeral is due to be held in Ramatuelle, southern France, on Tuesday.

Dufourmantelle wrote numerous essays on the importance of taking risks and the need to accept that exposure to any number of possible threats is a part of everyday life, including the book Praise of Risk, published in 2011.

"A great philosopher, a psychoanalyst, she helped us to live and think about the world today," Ms Nyssen wrote on Twitter.

Fellow French philosopher Raphaël Enthoven tweeted that he was "sad to learn of the death" of Dufourmantelle, adding that she "spoke so well of dreams".

Image source, @Enthoven_/Twitter

In a 2015 interview with French daily Liberation (in French), where Dufourmantelle later worked as a columnist, she said that the idea of ​​"absolute security - like 'zero risk' - is a fantasy".

"When there really is a danger that must be faced in order to survive, as for example during the Blitz in London, there is a strong incentive for action, dedication, and surpassing oneself," she said.

'Life begins with risk'

"It is said: 'to risk one's life', but perhaps one should say 'to risk life', [because] being alive is a risk," Dufourmantelle added.

"Life is metamorphosis," she said, adding: "It begins with this risk."

Dufourmantelle had argued that fear can be - and is - used "as a political weapon for the control of freedoms". She said that any offer to the public of increased protection and security can act to reinforce control and diminish life's freedoms.

Security in any visual sense, such as armed officers on streets during heightened terror alerts or threats, she said, can also generate or increase fear.

"To imagine an enemy ready to attack from time to time induces a state of paralysis, a feeling of helplessness which calls for a maternal response - supposedly all protective. Today, we desire this overprotection," she told Liberation.

Dufourmantelle earned a doctoral degree in philosophy from Paris-Sorbonne in 1994, but later went on to practise psychoanalysis. She was awarded the Raymond de Boyer Prize of Sainte-Suzanne for philosophy in 1998.