Simone de Beauvoir is renown for The Second Sex (1949), a work now considered to be a feminist classic. Nevertheless, when Beauvoir wrote this book she did not explicitly endorse the women's movement, nor did she associate her analysis with the women's liberation. It took twenty-one years after the publication before she publicly declared herself a feminist, but from that point on she was a dedicated feminist. How can her development from a gender blind young philosopher to a radical (...) feminist activist be explained? In this article I argue that her less known moral philosophy might provide an answer, as it might be understood as the foundation for her later philosophical analysis and political commitments. In her existentialist ethics she assets that freedom to be the normative core value, and develops an ethical justification for why we should defend our own as well as the freedom of others. However, when this idealistic and abstract moral philosophy was applied to the concrete situation of women, she discovered a reality permeated with gendered structures that impeded women's possibilities of transcendence and to attain freedom. An examination of the philosophical link between Beauvoir's ethics, The Second Sex and her feminist analysis also reveals, Pettersen argues, what might happen when a gender blind moral philosophy is faced with a gendered reality. NORWEGIAN ABSTRACT: Hvordan kunne Simone de Beauvoir allerede i 1949 skrive Det annet kjønn uten tilknytning til en kvinnebevegelse, og uten å oppfatte seg som feminist? Svaret er trolig at hennes mindre kjente moralfilosofi danner grunnlaget for senere analyser, og også forklarer utviklingen fra kjønnsblind ung filosof til radikal feministisk aktivist. Forbindelsen mellom Beauvoirs etikk og senere femi- nistiske analyser viser dessuten hva som kan skje når idealistisk moralfilosofi møter en kjønnet virkelighet. (shrink)
In "Existential Humanism and Moral Freedom in Simone de Beauvoir's Ethics" Tove Pettersen elucidates the close connection between Beauvoir’s ethics and humanism, and argues that her humanism is an existential humanism. Beauvoir’s concept of freedom is inspected, followed by a discussion of her reasons for making moral freedom the leading normative value, and her claim that we must act for humanity. In Beauvoir’s ethics, freedom is not reserved for the elite, but understood as everyone being “able to surpass the (...) given toward an open future.” By addressing the continuing friction between individual freedom and public interests, Beauvoir’s normative thinking remains highly relevant today. It also exemplifies the enduring importance of humanistic reflections and demonstrates how, through critical and creative thinking, the humanities can contribute to a free, well-functioning democratic society. (shrink)
There are prominent resemblances between issues addressed by Simone de Beauvoir in her early essay on moral philosophy, Pyrrhus and Cineas (1944), and issues attracting the attention of contemporary feminist ethicists, especially those concerned with the ethics of care. They include a focus on relationships, interaction, and mutual dependency. Both emphasize concrete ethical challenges rooted in everyday life, such as those affecting parents and children. Both are critical of the level of abstraction and insensitivity to the situation of the (...) moral agent in utilitarianism and Kantian ethics. And both condemn the “moral point of view,” i.e. the assumption that it is possible to speak with a universal voice on behalf of humanity. These resemblances are explored in this article. (shrink)
The philosophical and religious ideas of Simone Weil bear on theory of history and historiography in ways not previously explored. They amount to a view of history as a consequence of the original creation, but they also exclude theodicy. By examining these ideas we see some of the ways in which to develop a theory history centered on a conception of moral understanding that is impartialist and universal. For Weil such understanding is both inside of and outside of history. (...) This leads to an approach to human history that centers on the moral dilemmas and choices of historical actors and that matches the force of compassion with that of power. Under an approach inspired by Weil’s ideas, the historian’s work of understanding can be an experience of moral growth. (shrink)
Michèle Le Dœuff considers the relationship between Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir as a paradigmatic case of what she calls an "erotico-theoretical transference" relationship: De Beauvoir devoted herself to Sartre theoretically by adopting his existentialist perspective for the analysis of reality in general and the analysis of women's oppression in particular. The latter is especially strange since Sartre used strongly sexist metaphors and adopted a macho attitude towards women. In her book Hipparchia's Choice, Le Dœuff speaks in this (...) context of "theoretical masculinism." She convincingly shows in this book that Sartre without using images could not have closed his existentialist philosophy: without the feminine drawback he would not have been able to explain why man cannot become god. Sartre not only understands gaining knowledge as a rape of a woman he also fears that the possessed feminine (body) could reverse its position from being dominated to the dominating force by appropriating the masculine through slime. In Being and Nothingness Sartre states that "slime is the revenge of the In-itself. A sickly–sweet, feminine revenge." Despite of the fact that De Beauvoir used Sartre's heterosexist ontology and metaphysics she managed to provide a highly influential depiction of women's condition and offered an original approach to the understanding of selfhood which places woman inside the subject. (shrink)
Simone de Beauvoir published a number of philosophical essays and novels before writing The Second Sex. The most important of these was The Ethics of Ambiguity, in which she argues that one’s freedom is always intertwined with that of others. The Bonds of Freedom examines de Beauvoir’s ideas on ethics, demonstrating her importance in contemporary philosophy.
This essay demonstrates that Beauvoir's La Vieillesse is a phenomenological study of old age indebted to Husserl's phenomenology of the body. Beauvoir's depiction of the doubling in the lived experience of the elderly--a division between outsiders' awareness of the elderly's decline and the elderly's own inner understanding of old age--serves as a specific illustration of Beauvoir's particular method of description and analysis.
This article explicates the meaning of the paradox from the perspective of sexual difference, as articulated by Simone de Beauvoir. I claim that the self, the other, and their becoming are sexed in Beauvoir’s early literary writing before the question of sexual difference is posed in The Second Sex (1949). In particular, Beauvoir’s description of Françoise’s subjective becoming in the novel She Came to Stay (1943) anticipates her later systematic description of ‘the woman in love’. In addition, I argue (...) that the different existential types appearing at the end of The Second Sex (the narcissist, the woman in love, the mystic, and the independent woman) are variations of a specific feminine, historically changing paradox of subjectivity. According to this paradox, women, in a different mode than men, must become what they ontologically “are”: beings of change and self-transcendence that have to realise the human condition in their concrete, singular lives. My interpretation draws on Kierkegaardian philosophy of existence, phenomenology, and early psychoanalysis. (shrink)
Doing violence and evil always indirectly or directly leads to making someone else suffer. Such is the dialogical structure of evil and it seems to be the dialogical structure of elder abuse as well. There is a perturbing sameness between definitions of evil and definitions of elder abuse. It is hard at times to see how or if there is any line of demarcation between the subjects. Two modern‐day philosophers, Paul Ricoeur and Simone Weil have delved particularly into the (...) concept of evil. The symbolism Ricoeur analyses in depth is that of defilement, sin, and guilt and the concept of the servile will. Integral in Weil's description of evil are the concepts of suffering and the special situation of extreme suffering, termed affliction. Grounded in the writings of Ricoeur and Weil, this paper is a series of reflections on the intersection of evil and elder abuse as exemplified in the narrative of an abused older woman. This woman provided around the clock care at home for her husband who had vascular dementia. She was also abused by her husband. This was witnessed by both family and others but no one intervened. In her narrative there were indications of defilement, sin, guilt, and true affliction as a servile will. This paper illuminates the evil of elder abuse that is harm and suffering, and the challenge of untangling issues of blame, free will, responsibility, and self‐determinism. When engaging with abused, older persons it can be worthwhile for nurses to enter the encounter with non‐judgemental compassion founded on the human to human connection and recognition of our mutual fallibility and potential for evil that is part of our human fragility. (shrink)
In July 1940, Simone de Beauvoir began a routine of going to the Bibliothèque Nationale most days from 2.00 to 5.00 p.m. to read G. W. F. Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit. Hitler's armies had invaded and occupied Paris earlier, on June 14, 1940. She was teaching philosophy classes at a girls' lycée and living in her grandmother's empty apartment. Her close companion, Jean-Paul Sartre, who had been a soldier in a meteorological unit of the French Army, had been captured (...) and was now being held in a German prisoner-of-war camp. Beauvoir was relieved to receive a note from him sent on July 2 saying he was being well treated, but life in Paris was dismal. Food was scarce, and the German troops were grim reminders of Parisians' lack of political freedom. Her reading routine helped soothe the dread, isolation, and alienation she felt. Beauvoir had always been a very earnest student. She had passed the demanding aggregation exam in philosophy at the young age of twenty-one. To supplement her knowledge of classical philosophical texts, she learned German and read texts in phenomenology. In 1935 she had read Edmund Husserl's The Phenomenology of Internal Time-Consciousness “without too much difficulty.” She also read Heidegger and translated long passages into French for Sartre. Back when she was in college, her prodigious work habits had earned her a special nickname among her friends: Castor, or the beaver. Poring over a difficult philosophical text in a foreign language for three hours a day might seem a strange way to get through such times, but with her it made sense. (shrink)
The ancient Athenians believed that their forebears sprang directly from the earth rather than being created by gods or born of human parents. In some version of the myth, the ancestor was depicted as having a man's form above the waist and a snake's form below: "Having emerged from the earth, he still in part resembled the creature that slips to and fro between the upper and lower worlds."'1 At the beginning of her 1947 work, The Ethics of Ambiguity, (...) class='Hi'>Simone de Beauvoir asserts that there is a fundamental ambiguity to human life. According to her, every human, like the chthonic ancestor of the Athenians, exists at the same time in two realms: "he is still part of the world of which he is conscious."2 Rooted as they are in the earth, humans can transcend their material origin in thought but they can never escape it. (shrink)
Simone Weil is widely recognized today as one of the profound religious thinkers of the twentieth century. Yet while her interpretation of natural science is critical to Weil's overall understanding of religious faith, her writings on science have received little attention compared with her more overtly theological writings. The present essay, which builds on Vance Morgan's Weaving the World: Simone Weil on Science, Necessity, and Love (2005), critically examines Weil's interpretation of the history of science. Weil believed that (...) mathematical science, for the ancient Pythagoreans a mystical expression of the love of God, had in the modern period degenerated into a kind of reification of method that confuses the means of representing nature with nature itself. Beginning with classical (Newtonian) science's representation of nature as a machine, and even more so with the subsequent assimilation of symbolic algebra as the principal language of mathematical physics, modern science according to Weil trades genuine insight into the order of the world for symbolic manipulation yielding mere predictive success and technological domination of nature. I show that Weil's expressed desire to revive a Pythagorean scientific approach, inspired by the "mysterious complicity" in nature between brute necessity and love, must be recast in view of the intrinsically symbolic character of modern mathematical science. I argue further that a genuinely mystical attitude toward nature is nascent within symbolic mathematical science itself. (shrink)
This essay argues that Simone Weil appropriates Marx's notion of labor as life activity in order to reposition work as the site of spirituality. Rather than locating spirituality in a religious tradition, doctrine, profession of faith, or in personal piety, Weil places it in the capacity to work. Spirit arises in the activity of living, and more specifically in laboring—in one's engagement with materiality. Utilizing Marx's distinction between living and dead labor, I show how Weil develops a critique of (...) capital as a “force” that disrupts the individual's relation to her own work by reducing it to the mere activity of calculable “production.” Capital reduces labor to an abstraction and thereby uproots human subjectivity, on a systemic scale, from its connection to living praxis, or what Weil calls spirituality. Life itself is exchanged for a simulacrum of life. In positioning living labor as spiritual, Weil's work offers a corrective to these deadening practices. (shrink)
"Anyone interested in Simone Weil will want, and need, to read this superb collection." —Diogenes Allen, Princeton Theological Seminary “These essays—some written by leading specialists in Simone Weil's thought, others by prominent theologians and philosophers of religion—are especially valuable not only for elucidating Weil's reading of Plato but also for showing what one or another form of Christian Platonism can mean for us today.” —James A. Wiseman, O.S.B., Catholic University of America "This remarkable and penetrating collection of essays (...) on Simone Weil's religious philosophy illumines the living intersection between serious metaphysics and ethics. The authors carefully examine this relation that much post-modern reflection has until now only skimmed, but that Weil herself managed to embrace with breathtaking intellectual discipline and self-giving. The book is a bracing testimony to the deep moral consequences of classical ontology and its challenging Christian reorientation." —The Rev. Dr. Ephraim Radner, Ascension Episcopal Church, Pueblo, Colorado In this book a group of renowned international scholars seek to discern the ways in which Simone Weil was indebted to Plato, and how her provocative readings of his work offer challenges to contemporary philosophy, theology, and spirituality. This is the first book in twenty years to systematically investigate Weil’s Christian Platonism. (shrink)
This book is a novel contribution to contemporary research on Simone de Beauvoir, and a defense of the importance of the humanities. It reveals previously unexplored dimensions of Beauvoir's work by exposing her as a significant and inspiring humanist thinker. These essays argue that her works and influence testify to the transformative potential of humanistic research.
Kaum ein Buch hat so viele und so kontroverse Reaktionen verursacht wie Simone de Beauvoirs "Das Andere Geschlecht". Der Sammelband gibt einen Einblick in die aktuelle internationale Beauvoir-Debatte und die Art und Weise wie das fünfzigjährige Jubiläum des "Anderen Geschlechts" gefeiert wurde. Die Autorinnen versuchen die verschiedenen Grundthemen von Beauvoirs Werk, wie Geschlecht und Körper (D. Lamoureux, M. Couillard, M. L. Femenías), Gleichheit und Differenz (S. Kruks, Y. Raynova, S. Bainbrigge), Ausschluss und Anerkennung (D. Bergoffen, S. Moser), Verantwortung und (...) Engagement (F. Rétif, N. Bauer, K. Arp, Dauphin, C. Gater), aus der Perspektive der Gegenwart neu zu beleuchten. Darüber hinaus enthält der Band biographische (K. Vintges, B. Weisshaupt) und bibliographische Beiträge, die ihn zu einem Nachschlagewerk und zu einer Dokumentation der gegenwärtigen Beauvoirforschung werden lassen. Aus dem Inhalt: Françoise Rétif: Zur Aktualität von Simone de Beauvoir oder die Dialektik des Engagements - Nancy Bauer: First Philosophy, "The Second Sex", and the Third Wave - Debra Bergoffen: Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre: Woman, Man and the Desire to be God - Elaine Stavro-Pearce: Transgressing Sartre: embodied situated subjects in "The Second Sex" - Susanne Moser: Subjekt und Anerkennung: Zum Problem des Ausschlusses von Frauen und Weiblichkeit im" Anderen Geschlecht" - Diane Lamoureux: Der Paradox des Körpers bei Simone de Beauvoir - Marie Couillard: Die Lesbierin bei Simone de Beauvoir und Nicole Brossard - María Luisa Femenías: Beauvoir revisited: Butler and the "gender" question - Sonia Kruks: Panopticism and Shame: Reading Foucault through Beauvoir - Yvanka B. Raynova: Für eine postmoderne Ethik der Gerechtigkeit: Simone de Beauvoir und Jean-François Lyotard - Kristana Arp: Moral obligation in Simone de Beauvoir's "The Ethics of Ambiguity" - Susan Bainbrigge: The Impact of Simone de Beauvoir's "universel singularisé" on the Politics of Representation and the Representation of Politics - Sandrine Dauphin: From Socialism to radical Feminism: Militant foundations in Simone de Beauvoir's Writings - Claudia Gather: Simone de Beauvoir, eine Klassikerin der feministischen Soziologie? - Karen Vintges: Beauvoir's autobiography: "autofiction" or selftechnique? - Brigitte Weisshaupt: Simone de Beauvoir und Jean-Paul Sartre. Eine Anmerkung - Susanne Moser/Yvanka B. Raynova: "50 Jahre 'Das andere Geschlecht'": Zur internationalen Konferenz in Paris (19.-23.01.1999). (shrink)
Simone Weil (1909-1943) was a defining figure of the twentieth century; a philosopher, Christian, resistance fighter, anarchist, feminist, labor activist and teacher. She was described by T. S. Eliot as "a woman of genius, of a kind of genius akin to that of the saints," and by Albert Camus as "the only great spirit of our time." Originally published posthumously in two volumes, these newly reissued notebooks, are among the very few unedited personal writings of Weil's that still survive (...) today. Containing her thoughts on art, love, science, God and the meaning of life, they give context and meaning to Weil's famous works, revealing a unique philosophy in development and offering a rare private glimpse of her singular personality. (shrink)
This book boldly points our a supernaturalist alternative to contemporary, post-structuralist literary theory. This study of classical tragic drama offers a sacralizing impetus to secular discussions of literature.
For the second edition of her landmark study of Simone de Beauvoir, Toril Moi provides a major new introduction discussing current developments in Beauvoir studies as well as the recent publication of papers and letters by Beauvoir, including her letters to her lovers Jacques-Laurent Bost and Nelson Agren, and her student diaries from 1926-7.
Contents: "Analysis of Claude Bernard's Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine," "Two Unpublished Chapters from She Came to Stay," "Pyrrhus and Cineas," "A Review of The Phenomenology of Perception by Maurice Merleau-Ponty," "Moral Idealism and Political Realism," "Existentialism and Popular Wisdom," "Jean-Paul Sartre," "An Eye for an Eye," "Literature and Metaphysics," "Introduction to an Ethics of Ambiguity," "An Existentialist Looks at Americans," and "What is Existentialism?".
Simone Weil's concept of gravity has received attention from philosophers and interested readers at least since the 1947 publication of La Pésanteur et la grâce. "Gravity" is a key concept in Weil's moral and spiritual psychology, and despite the attention Weil's writings have received, there is ample need for a study that draws together Weil's scattered references to gravity and demonstrates their cohesion. This article develops a treatment of gravity that seeks to clarify one of the major scientific analogies (...) Weil uses to develop her notion of moral gravity. It is hoped that this approach will furnish a point of departure for interpreting Weil's obscure and often fragmentary remarks on gravity. In addition, something important can be said about both the difficulties and the promise of Weil's analogy, and this article offers a few critical comments towards that end. (shrink)
Since the 1980s, feminist epistemologists have exposed the cultural biases that have denied epistemic value to certain epistemic styles and agents while they have explored ways to reclaim the devalued epistemic modes--including more practical, emotionally invested, and community-situated modes of knowing--that many of us have found to be meaningful ways of engaging the world. At the same time, feminist critics have sought not merely to reverse received epistemic hierarchies but to explore more pluralistic epistemologies that appreciate as well as examine (...) critically the diverse ways that humans engage the world. This paper examines how Simone Weil’s concept of paying attention can contribute to such a critical and pluralist epistemology. By reading Weil’s account of “a certain kind of attention” together with feminist and decolonial critiques of modern epistemic norms, I show how Weil points toward an epistemic framework that would open our intellectual communities to a greater plurality of epistemic styles and agents and, ultimately, would make possible richer knowledge practices more responsive to world problems. (shrink)
This article compares Hannah Arendt's famous essay on Adolf Eichmann's trial in Israel in 1961 to Simone de Beauvoir's little studied piece, "An Eye for an Eye," on the trial of Robert Brasillach in France in 1945. Arendt and Beauvoir each determine the complicity of individuals acting within a political order that seeks to eliminate certain forms of otherness and difference, but come to differing conclusions about the significance of the crimes. I explain Beauvoir's account of ambiguity, on which (...) she draws in her judgment of Brasillach and elaborates in her 1948 Ethics of Ambiguity, ana measure it against Arendt's account of Eichmann's thoughtlessness and its effects on the destruction of conditions of worldly plurality. Linking the failure of ethical judgment on the part of individuals to prior systemic political conditions, Beauvoir helps us recognize struggles over the meaning of bodies and conditions of inequality as central to politics. (shrink)
In Simone de Beauvoir's Philosophy of Lived Experience, Eleanore Holveck presents Simone de Beauvoir's theory of literature and metaphysics, including its relationship to the philosophers Edmund Husserl, Martin Heidegger, Immanuel Kant, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Jean-Paul Sartre, with references to the literary tradition of Goethe, Maurice Barr_s, Arthur Rimbaud, AndrZ Breton, and Paul Nizan. The book provides a detailed philosophical analysis of Beauvoir's early short stories and several major novels, including The Mandarins and L'invitZe.
: How should socially privileged white feminists (and others) address their privilege? Often, individuals are urged to overcome their own personal racism through a politics of self-transformation. The paper argues that this strategy may be problematic, since it rests on an over-autonomous conception of the self. The paper turns to Simone de Beauvoir for an alternative account of the self, as "situated," and explores what this means for a politics of privilege.
Simone de Beauvoir and the Politics of Ambiguity is the first full-length study of Beauvoir's political thinking. Best known as the author of The Second Sex, Beauvoir also wrote an array of other political and philosophical texts that together, constitute an original contribution to political theory and philosophy. Sonia Kruks here locates Beauvoir in her own intellectual and political context and demonstrates her continuing significance. Beauvoir still speaks, in a unique voice, to many pressing questions concerning politics: the values (...) and dangers of liberal humanism; how oppressed groups become complicit in their own oppression; how social identities are perpetuated; the limits to rationalism; and the place of emotions, such as the desire for revenge, in politics. In discussing such matters Kruks puts Beauvoir's ideas into conversation with those of many contemporary thinkers, including feminist and race theorists, as well as with historical figures in the liberal, Hegelian, and Marxist traditions. Beauvoir's political thinking emerges from her fundamental insights into the ambiguity of human existence. Combining phenomenological descriptions with structural analyses, she focuses on the tensions of human action as both free and constrained. To be human is to be a paradoxical being, at once capable of free choice and yet, because embodied, vulnerable to injury from others. Politics is thus a domain of complexly interwoven, multiple, human interactions that is rife with ambiguity, and where freedom and violence too often closely intertwine. Beauvoir accordingly argues that failure is a necessary part of political action. However, she also insists that, while acknowledging this, we should assume responsibility for the outcomes of what we do. (shrink)
This essay aims to motivate a different way of reading Simone de Beauvoir's feminist philosophy than that which has become dominant in Beauvoir scholarship. I wish to argue that we can read Beauvoir as articulating what I will call a "feminist art of living." To substantiate this thesis, I highlight a crucial feature of her art of living—one that is connected to her reflections on the body—namely, what I refer to as Beauvoir's "sensualism." By "sensualism," I have in mind (...) a subjective experience of the body from an intimate, first-person perspective that is not derived from the body's appearance.Before delving into the idea of sensualism, let me preview the stages of my argument. I first discuss examples of how... (shrink)
Simone de Beauvoir was a philosopher and writer of notable range and influence whose work is central to feminist theory, French existentialism, and contemporary moral and social philosophy. The essays in this 2003 volume examine all the major aspects of her thought, including her views on issues such as the role of biology, sexuality and sexual difference, and evil, the influence on her work of Heidegger, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, Husserl, and others, and the philosophical significance of her memoirs and fiction. (...) New readers and nonspecialists will find this the most convenient and accessible guide to Beauvoir currently available. Advanced students and specialists will find a conspectus of recent developments in the interpretation of Beauvoir. (shrink)
How should socially privileged white feminists address their privilege? Often, individuals are urged to overcome their own personal racism through a politics of self-transformation. The paper argues that this strategy may be problematic, since it rests on an over-autonomous conception of the self. The paper turns to Simone de Beauvoir for an alternative account of the self, as "situated," and explores what this means for a politics of privilege.