Simone De Beauvoir’s Contribution To Philosophy And Ethics

May 15, 2021 by Essay Writer

Simone de Beauvoir’s most notable works include ones that focus on ethics. Ethics based writings include The Ethics of Ambiguity: Bad Faith, the Appeal, the Artist and Pyrrhus et Cineas. Beauvoir’s earliest work Pyrrhus et Cinéas written in 1944 examined ethical responsibility and existentialism. This philosophical essay was well known because it spoke to France in the midst of World War II. It addresses key ethical and political issues. This essay unpacks the motives of action and why humans act at all. Pyrrhus et Cineas has two sections the first is the elements of individual human existence and the second connecting human existence and relationships. Beauvoir believes humans are transcendent beings meaning that humans are compelled to pursue further projects rather than this first initial motive. Human beings can never be fixed in a moment because the brain is constantly transcending. Beauvoir believes transcendence is apart of the human condition and is the reason it is hard for humans to have fixed knowledge of ourselves or others.

The self-oher relation is another concept in the second half of the essay understanding the relationship between self and other. Questions like how do humans see each other in relation to themselves. In The Ethics of Ambiguity Beauvoir explains that human existence is ambiguous. Humans live a dual reality, we relish in our freewill yet are shackled by the rules that restrict our freedoms. We live existences that connect us in certain aspects and pull us apart in other aspects. We dwell in a conscious reality where we perceive ourselves possibly different than how others perceive us and that reality is finite for everyone. Beauvoir suggests that the crux of our human reality is that we are autonomous and reliant on others. In Pyrrhus et Cinéas and The Ethics of Ambiguity, Beauvoir develops many concepts, such as the human condition, ambiguity, and the self-other relation.

The Second Sex is Beauvoir’s greatest contribution to philosophy written in 1949. Many of her viewpoints are fundamental ideas in feminism today. This book looks at the status of women from the beginning of civilization. Beauvoir believed that women have been forced into submission, therefore, taking a secondary status in comparison to men. She explains that the human condition is made and viewed for males. Women were voluntarily excluded because women were seen as “ the other “. Beauvoir addressed three viewpoints to explain her statements. Historical materialism, existentialism, and psychoanalysis are the three angles she writes about to make her case. The dependence of men can be seen in every aspect of life. Society insured women had no real power and were treated as minors. Men were in control of all levels of society whether that be economic, political and social. History has been influenced and recorded from the male perspective. Beauvoir also constructs females through an existentialist framework. At birth, humans are not instilled with specific values and create unique identities as an outcome of their circumstance.

Women’s femininity is constructed as she goes through life because of socialization, not nature. Beauvoir’s most famous quote “One is not born, but rather one becomes, a woman”. She describes womanhood as a socially constructed idea that is imposed on women because of how a girl is raised and treated by society. Women have been shafted as the “other” meaning separate from humans. Society constructs women as the other because they are only compared to men. Women are attached to people within their life like objects. Women are objects for men to sexualize and objects for reproduction. The Second Sex uncovers the cultural understanding of femininity. The definition of femininity is a myth constructed by males and making women’s sole purpose to nurture misogynistic values and be passive when men wanted to possess them. The Second Sex argued for women’s equality and brought about change. Beauvoir believed it was immoral to make women inferior because of their sexual difference. Beauvoir is credited by some for the birth of feminism. She was ridiculed by many for writing The Second Sex because she brought this debate into motion about a topic most people did not speak about. Twenty-first-century people studying her works might say Beauvoir stated obvious opinions about women in society.

Furthermore, Simone de Beauvoir understands oppression through The Ethics of Ambiguity and The Second Sex. Oppression aims to minimize the oppressed to the status of an object and to exclude them within society. She understands oppressed individuals are considered as the “other” in our society. She brings forth women’s oppression as her main understanding. Beauvoir believes it is complicated for humans to connect and understand other people’s action because of oppression. She believes that oppression has more than one aspects. To unpack oppression humans have to look at all forms of oppression. She believes humans do not know the limitation of freedom because the situation appears natural to them. One can live within a situation feeling free because the oppression has enclosed them. Members of oppressed groups have a difficult time gaining real freedom.

Society has made oppression seem natural because of oppressors making it appear that way. The oppression of women is one group of people that differ from other oppressed groups because there is no historical start point. She unpacks this idea through the concept of women having no social location other than gender that has oppressed them. Beauvoir largely surrounds oppression with the concept of “ the other” and how oppression has been rooted in women and many other marginalized groups throughout history.

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