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Simone De Beauvoir (1908–1986)

Simone de Beauvoir deserves special mention as a philosophical novelist who shared with Sartre this emphasis on freedom and responsibility for what one is and "what one makes of what is made of one." In her Pour une morale de l'ambiguité (1947; English trans. Ethics of Ambiguity, 1948) she spelled out the ethical implications of Sartre's philosophy. Beauvoir advanced the important thesis (shared with Merleau-Ponty) that the "ambiguity" of situations always undermines the wishful thinking that demands "right" and "wrong" answers. Beauvoir was always fascinated by her society's resistance to sensitive topics and consequently became one of the most controversial authors of the age. Beauvoir was appalled that her society, and virtually all societies, gave very little attention to the problems and inequities afflicting women. Later in life, she attacked the unsympathetic insensitivity to the inevitability of aging.

Beauvoir's most lasting contribution to philosophy and social thought was her revolutionary discussion of what it meant to be a woman. In Le deuxième sexe (1949; English trans. The Second Sex, 1953) Beauvoir initiates a discussion on the significance of gender. Hers is a powerful existentialist perspective in which gender becomes a matter of choice and imposition (being-for-others) and not a matter of mere biological facticity.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Evolution to FerrocyanideExistentialism - Søren Kierkegaard (1813–1855), Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900), Martin Heidegger (1889–1971), Jean-paul Sartre (1905–1980)