Philosopher Who Praised Risk Died Trying to Save Children From Drowning

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PARIS — A French philosopher and psychoanalyst, known for her work that praised living a life that embraced risk, died last week as a result of following her own bold philosophy.

The philosopher, Anne Dufourmantelle, 53, drowned on Friday as she tried to save two children who were struggling to swim off the coast of Pampelonne beach, near St.-Tropez, France, according to a report from French public television.

Ms. Dufourmantelle was on the beach when the weather began to change and the previously safe swimming area became treacherous. She saw two children who were in danger and leapt into the sea to help, according to France 3, before being caught in the rough surf.

She was pulled unresponsive from the water by two other swimmers, and attempts to resuscitate her failed.

Both children survived.

Friends remembered Ms. Dufourmantelle as a profound philosopher and psychoanalyst whose work was widely admired.

“What to me characterized Anne was her gentleness and her strength,” said Hélène Fresnel, a journalist at Psychologies Magazine and a friend of Ms. Dufourmantelle. “She managed to tie the two together.”

Ms. Dufourmantelle had been a prominent voice of a new generation of female French intellectuals, Ms. Fresnel said, and her “gentleness and goodness” garnered widespread support from her peers.

“There are schools in the psychoanalytic field, and she transcended those schools,” Ms. Fresnel said.

Raphaël Enthoven, another French philosopher, posted a message on Twitter on Monday that paid tribute to Ms. Dufourmantelle’s work.

“Sadness and stupor to learn at the moment the death of the philosopher and psychoanalyst, who spoke so well of dreams,” Mr. Enthoven wrote.

France’s culture minister, Francoise Nyssen, also used Twitter to express her grief at hearing the news of Ms. Dufourmantelle’s death.

“She helped us to live, to think about the world of today,” Ms. Nyssen wrote.

Ms. Dufourmentelle had two children from her first marriage and a daughter from her later relationship with the writer Frédéric Boyer. That daughter was on the beach with her on the day she died, according to a friend.

Ms. Dufourmantelle went to Brown University and was awarded a doctoral degree in philosophy from Paris-Sorbonne University. She wrote several books, including “Éloge du Risque” (“In Praise of Risk”), published in 2011, that embrace risk as a necessary part of the human experience.

“She was a singular human being,” said Guy Dana, a fellow psychoanalyst and friend. “She was both a philosopher, a psychoanalyst, a novelist. People like that are rare.”

Much of Ms. Dufourmantelle’s work delved into the nature of human fear and the freedom of risk taking.

“The idea of absolute security — like ‘zero risk’ — is a fantasy,” Ms. Dufourmantelle said in a 2015 interview with the French newspaper Libération when asked about new security measures in light of an uptick in terrorist attacks in Europe.

She spoke of fear being wielded as a political weapon and as a means to control a population, warning that “the price of protection soon becomes very expensive.”

Instead, she encouraged people to embrace that fear in order to truly live.

“When one admits his fear, his finitude, a confidence can be reborn from this vulnerability,” Ms. Dufourmantelle said. “Being alive is a risk. Few beings are.”