Beauvoir’s Concept of “Decline”


This paper explicates Simone de Beauvoir’s concept of “decline” in ageing and assesses both its plausibility and its ethical and political promise. Though I maintain that the concept is largely plausible, and that it helps us to envision social justice for the aged, I also note certain limitations, and these lead me to suggest philosophical and ethical caution as to its range of application. Briefly, both in theory and in practice, Beauvoir appears to questionably conflate the decline of the phenomenological subject with that of a younger adult version of the psychological self or structure of the personality. Through examinations of Beauvoir’s account of dementia and her paternalism towards her dying mother and the declining Jean-Paul Sartre, I suggest how her concept of decline may fall short, but also how her rich phenomenological descriptions point the way to a pluralistic approach to ageing as a social justice issue.

Download options


    Upload a copy of this work     Papers currently archived: 72,805

External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server

Through your library


Added to PP

2 (#1,459,389)

6 months
1 (#386,499)

Historical graph of downloads
How can I increase my downloads?

Author's Profile

Citations of this work

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

The Creation Of Meaning: Simone De Beauvoir’s Existentialist Ethics.Pauline O'flynn - 2009 - Minerva - An Internet Journal of Philosophy 13:67-84.
Ambiguity and Difference: Two Feminist Ethics of the Present.Sara Heinämaa - 2018 - In E. A. Parker & A. van Leeuwen (eds.), Differences: Rereading Beauvoir and Irigaray. New York, USA: Oxford University Press. pp. 137-176.