Simone de Beauvoir

French philosopher, social theorist and activist (1908–1986)
(Redirected from Simone De Beauvoir)

Simone Lucie Ernestine Marie Bertrand de Beauvoir (9 January 190814 April 1986) was a French author and existentialist philosopher. She is now most famous for her 1949 treatise The Second Sex [Le Deuxième Sexe], a detailed analysis of women's oppression and a foundational tract of contemporary feminism, and her long personal relationship with Jean-Paul Sartre.

Quotes edit

I wish that every human life might be pure transparent freedom.
It was said that I refused to grant any value to the maternal instinct and to love. This was not so.
Self-knowledge is no guarantee of happiness, but it is on the side of happiness and can supply the courage to fight for it.
I tore myself away from the safe comfort of certainties through my love for truth — and truth rewarded me.

General sources edit

  • I wish that every human life might be pure transparent freedom.
    • The Blood of Others [Le sang des autres] (1946)
  • His personal prestige, his qualities, his competence assure him a preponderant role however; since 1927 he has been above all the unchallenged specialist on peasant question. But the power he exercises is no more dictatorial than, for example, Roosevelt's was. New China's Constitution renders impossible the concentration of authority in one man's hands; the country is governed by a team whose members have been united through a long common struggle and by a close friendship.
  • The Communists, following Hegel, speak of humanity and its future as of some monolithic individuality. I was attacking this illusion.
  • It was said that I refused to grant any value to the maternal instinct and to love. This was not so. I simply asked that women should experience them truthfully and freely, whereas they often use them as excuses and take refuge in them, only to find themselves imprisoned in that refuge when those emotions have dried up in their hearts. I was accused of preaching sexual promiscuity; but at no point did I ever advise anyone to sleep with just anyone at just any time; my opinion on this subject is that all choices, agreements and refusals should be made independently of institutions, conventions and motives of self-aggrandizement; if the reasons for it are not of the same order as the act itself, then the only result can be lies, distortions and mutilations.
    • Force of Circumstances Vol. III (1963) as translated by Richard Howard (1968) - Excerpt online
  • Self-knowledge is no guarantee of happiness, but it is on the side of happiness and can supply the courage to fight for it. Psychiatrists have told me that they give The Second Sex to their women patients to read, and not merely to intellectual women but to lower-middle-class women, to office workers and women working in factories. 'Your book was a great help to me. Your book saved me,' are the words I have read in letters from women of all ages and all walks of life.
    If my book has helped women, it is because it expressed them, and they in their turn gave it its truth. Thanks to them, it is no longer a matter for scandal and concern. During these last ten years the myths that men created have crumbled, and many women writers have gone beyond me and have been far more daring than I. Too many of them for my taste take sexuality as their only theme; but at least when they write about it they now present themselves as the eye-that-looks, as subject, consciousness, freedom.
    • Force of Circumstances Vol. III (1963) as translated by Richard Howard (1968)
  • It's frightening to think that you mark your children merely by being yourself... It seems unfair. You can't assume the responsibility for everything you do — or don't do.
    • Les Belles Images (1966), Ch. 3
  • What is an adult? A child blown up by age.
    • A Woman Destroyed [Une femme rompue] (1967)
  • I tore myself away from the safe comfort of certainties through my love for truth — and truth rewarded me.
  • When Sartre and I met not only did our backgrounds fuse, but also our solidity, our individual conviction that we were what we were made to be. In that framework we could not become rivals. Then, as the relationship between Sartre and me grew, I became convinced that I was irreplaceable in his life, and he in mine. In other words, we were totally secure in the knowledge that our relationship was also totally solid, again preordained, though, of course, we would have laughed at that word then. When you have such security it's easy not to be jealous. But had I thought that another woman played the same role as I did in Sartre's life, of course, I would have been jealous.
  • No woman should be authorized to stay at home to raise her children. Society should be totally different. Women should not have that choice, precisely because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one. It is a way of forcing women in a certain direction.
    • “A Dialogue with Simone de Beauvoir,” in Betty Friedan, It Changed My Life: Writings on the Women’s Movement, (New York: Random House, 1976), p. 397.
  • [T]he Sahara was a spectacle as alive as the sea. The tints of the dunes changed according to the time of day and the angle of the light: golden as apricots from far off, when we drove close to them they turned to freshly made butter; behind us they grew pink; from sand to rock, the materials of which the desert was made varied as much as its tints.

All Men are Mortal (1946) edit

Tous les hommes sont mortels (1946); quotes are primarily from the translation by Leonard M. Friedman (1955) ISBN 0393308456
I'm never afraid. But in my case it's nothing to be proud of.
He walks in the street, a picture of modesty in his felt hat and his gabardine suit, and all the while he's thinking, "I'm immortal."
You're unique like all other women.
There is only one good. And that is to act according to your conscience.
Had we advanced even a step nearer to the mysterious heart of the universe?
  • Insects were scurrying about in the shade cast by the grass, and the lawn was a huge monotonous forest of thousands of little green blades, all equal, all alike, hiding the world from each other. Anguished, she thought, "I don't want to be just another blade of grass."
    • Regina
  • She was beautiful, with a beauty so severe and so solitary that at first it was startling. "Ah! If only there were two of me," she thought, "one doing the talking and one listening, one living and one watching, how I would love myself. I'd envy no one."
    • p. 5
  • Time is beginning to flow again.
    • Raimon (Raymond) to Regina, p. 17
  • If I had amnesia, I'd be almost like other men. Perhaps I'd even be able to love you.
    • Raimon to Regina. p. 17
  • You made me come to Paris. You pestered me to start living again. Well, now it's up to you to make my life livable. You mustn't let three whole days go by without coming to see me. … You wanted me to take notice of you. Now nothing else matters to me. I know you're alive and I feel emptiness inside me when you're away.
    • Raimon to Regina. p. 20
  • I'm never afraid. But in my case it's nothing to be proud of.
    • Raimon to Regina. p. 23
  • He walks in the street, a picture of modesty in his felt hat and his gabardine suit, and all the while he's thinking, "I'm immortal." The world is his, time is his, and I'm nothing but an insect.
    • Regina to herself, p. 28
  • One day I'll be old, dead, forgotten. And at this very moment, while I'm sitting here thinking these things, a man in a dingy hotel room is thinking, "I will always be here."
    • Regina to herself, p. 28
  • He had not applauded, he had remained seated, but he had looked at her steadily. From the depths of eternity he had looked at her and Rosalind became immortal. If I could believe him, she thought, if only I could believe him!
    • P. 30
  • Dare to believe me. Dare!
    • Raimon to Regina. p. 31
  • They were walking side by side, but each was alone.
    • Raimon to Regina, p. 53
  • You're unique like all other women.
    • Raimon to Regina, p. 55
  • I was born in Italy on the 17th May 1279 in a castle in the city of Carmona.
    • 71
  • Even the children of Carmona were divided into two camps, and below the ramparts, among the brushwood and rocks, we battled with stones shouting "Long live the duke!" and others, "Down with the tyrant!" We fought viciously, but I was never satisfied with this game — the fallen enemy rose again, the dead came back to life. The day after a battle, victors and vanquished both found themselves unharmed.
    • p. 72
  • For the first time in my life, I took part in a real battle between men. The dead did not come to life again, the vanquished fled in disorder; every thrust of my lance helped save Carmona. That day, I would have died with a smile on my lips, certain of having contributed to a triumphant future for my city.
    • p. 73
  • It was as though some stubborn god spent their time in an immutable and absurd balancing act between life and death, prosperity and poverty.
    • p. 81
  • There is only one good. And that is to act according to the dictates of one's conscience.
    • p. 181
  • What did today's sacrifices matter: the Universe lay ahead in the future. What did burnings at the stake and massacres matter? The Universe was somewhere else, always somewhere else! And it isn't anywhere: there are only men, men eternally divided.
    • p. 201
  • What has value in their eyes is never what is done for them; it's what they do for themselves.
    • p. 315
  • It is impossible to do anything for anyone.
    • p. 317
  • Were we really more advanced than the alchemists of Carmona? We had brought to light certain facts that they were not aware of, we had organised them into the right order; but had we advanced even a step nearer to the mysterious heart of the universe?
  • [C]'est la vraie générosité ; vous donnez tout et rien ne semble jamais vous coûter.
    • That's what I consider true generosity. You give your all, and yet you always feel as if it costs you nothing.
  • If you live long enough, you'll see that every victory turns into a defeat.
  • After wars peace, after peace, another war. Every day men are born and others die.
  • Try to stay a man amongst men … There's no other hope for you.
    • Marianne to Raimon
  • In horror, in terror, she accepted the metamorphosis — gnat, foam, ant, until death. And it's only the beginning, she thought. She stood motionless, as if it were possible to play tricks with time, possible to stop it from following its course. But her hands stiffened against her quivering lips.
    When the bells began to sound the hour she let out the first scream.
    • Last lines

The Ethics of Ambiguity (1947) edit

It is in the knowledge of the genuine conditions of our life that we must draw our strength to live and our reason for acting.
The Ethics of Ambiguity (Pour une morale de l'ambiguïté). Philosophical Library. 1948. ISBN 978-0-8065-0160-4.  As translated by Bernard Frechtman (full text online at Marxists Internet Archive)

Part I: Ambiguity and Freedom edit

Text online at Marxists Internet Archive
From the very beginning, existentialism defined itself as a philosophy of ambiguity.
There is an original type of attachment to being which is not the relationship “wanting to be” but rather “wanting to disclose being.”
We must not confuse the present with the past. With regard to the past, no further action is possible.
To will freedom and to will to disclose being are one and the same choice...
Science condemns itself to failure when, yielding to the infatuation of the serious, it aspires to attain being, to contain it, and to possess it…
The individual is defined only by his relationship to the world and to other individuals; he exists only by transcending himself, and his freedom can be achieved only through the freedom of others.
In the earthly domain all glorification of the earth is true as soon as it is realized.
  • At the present time there still exist many doctrines which choose to leave in the shadow certain troubling aspects of a too complex situation. But their attempt to lie to us is in vain. Cowardice doesn’t pay. Those reasonable metaphysics, those consoling ethics with which they would like to entice us only accentuate the disorder from which we suffer.
    • p. 8
  • Men of today seem to feel more acutely than ever the paradox of their condition. They know themselves to be the supreme end to which all action should be subordinated, but the exigencies of action force them to treat one another as instruments or obstacles, as means. The more widespread their mastery of the world, the more they find themselves crushed by uncontrollable forces. Though they are masters of the atomic bomb, yet it is created only to destroy them. Each one has the incomparable taste in his mouth of his own life, and yet each feels himself more insignificant than an insect within the immense collectivity whose limits are one with the earth’s. Perhaps in no other age have they manifested their grandeur more brilliantly, and in no other age has this grandeur been so horribly flouted.
    • p. 9
  • In spite of so many stubborn lies, at every moment, at every opportunity, the truth comes to light, the truth of life and death, of my solitude and my bond with the world, of my freedom and my servitude, of the insignificance and the sovereign importance of each man and all men. There was Stalingrad and there was Buchenwald, and neither of the two wipes out the other. Since we do not succeed in fleeing it, let us therefore try to look the truth in the face. Let us try to assume our fundamental ambiguity. It is in the knowledge of the genuine conditions of our life that we must draw our strength to live and our reason for acting [C'est dans la connaissance des conditions authentiques de notre vie qu'il nous faut puiser la force de vivre et des raisons d'agir].
    • p. 9
  • From the very beginning, existentialism defined itself as a philosophy of ambiguity. It was by affirming the irreducible character of ambiguity that Kierkegaard opposed himself to Hegel, and it is by ambiguity that, in our own generation, Sartre, in Being and Nothingness, fundamentally defined man, that being whose being is not to be, that subjectivity which realizes itself only as a presence in the world, that engaged freedom, that surging of the for-oneself which is immediately given for others. But it is also claimed that existentialism is a philosophy of the absurd and of despair. It encloses man in a sterile anguish, in an empty subjectivity. It is incapable of furnishing him with any principle for making choices. Let him do as he pleases. In any case, the game is lost. Does not Sartre declare, in effect, that man is a “useless passion,” that he tries in vain to realize the synthesis of the for-oneself and the in-oneself, to make himself God? It is true. But it is also true that the most optimistic ethics have all begun by emphasizing the element of failure involved in the condition of man; without failure, no ethics; for a being who, from the very start, would be an exact co-incidence with himself, in a perfect plenitude, the notion of having-to-be would have no meaning. One does not offer an ethics to a God. It is impossible to propose any to man if one defines him as nature, as something given. The so-called psychological or empirical ethics manage to establish themselves only by introducing surreptitiously some flaw within the manthing which they have first defined.
    • pp. 9-10
  • The failure described in Being and Nothingness is definitive, but it is also ambiguous. Man, Sartre tells us, is “a being who makes himself a lack of being in order that there might be being.” That means, first of all, that his passion is not inflicted upon him from without. He chooses it. It is his very being and, as such, does not imply the idea of unhappiness. If this choice is considered as useless, it is because there exists no absolute value before the passion of man, outside of it, in relation to which one might distinguish the useless from the useful. The word “useful” has not yet received a meaning on the level of description where Being and Nothingness is situated. It can be defined only in the human world established by man’s projects and the ends he sets up. In the original helplessness from which man surges up, nothing is useful, nothing is useless. It must therefore be understood that the passion to which man has acquiesced finds no external justification. No outside appeal, no objective necessity permits of its being called useful. It has no reason to will itself. But this does not mean that it can not justify itself, that it can not give itself reasons for being that it does not have. And indeed Sartre tells us that man makes himself this lack of being in order that there might be being. The term in order that clearly indicates an intentionality. It is not in vain that man nullifies being. Thanks to him, being is disclosed and he desires this disclosure. There is an original type of attachment to being which is not the relationship “wanting to be” but rather “wanting to disclose being.” Now, here there is not failure, but rather success.
    • pp. 11-12
  • By uprooting himself from the world, man makes himself present to the world and makes the world present to him. I should like to be the landscape which I am contemplating, I should like this sky, this quiet water to think themselves within me, that it might be I whom they express in flesh and bone, and I remain at a distance. But it is also by this distance that the sky and the water exist before me. My contemplation is an excruciation only because it is also a joy. I can not appropriate the snow field where I slide. It remains foreign, forbidden, but I take delight in this very effort toward an impossible possession. I experience it as a triumph, not as a defeat.
    • p. 12
  • To attain his truth, man must not attempt to dispel the ambiguity of his being but, on the contrary, accept the task of realizing it.
    • p. 13
  • Value is this lacking-being of which freedom makes itself a lack; and it is because the latter makes itself a lack that value appears. It is desire which creates the desirable, and the project which sets up the end. It is human existence which makes values spring up in the world on the basis of which it will be able to judge the enterprise in which it will be engaged. But first it locates itself beyond any pessimism, as beyond any optimism, for the fact of its original springing forth is a pure contingency. Before existence there is no more reason to exist than not to exist. The lack of existence can not be evaluated since it is the fact on the basis of which all evaluation is defined. It can not be compared to anything for there is nothing outside of it to serve as a term of comparison.
    • p. 15
  • It is unjustifiable from without, to declare from without that it is unjustifiable is not to condemn it. And the truth is that outside of existence there is nobody. Man exists. For him it is not a question of wondering whether his presence in the world is useful, whether life is worth the trouble of being lived. These questions make no sense. It is a matter of knowing whether he wants to live and under what conditions.
    • p. 15
  • Far from God's absence authorizing all license, the contrary is the case, because man is abandoned on the earth, because his acts are definitive, absolute engagements. He bears the responsibility for a world which is not the work of a strange power, but of himself, where his defeats are inscribed, and his victories as well. A God can pardon, efface, and compensate. But if God does not exist, man's faults are inexpiable.
    • p. 16
  • One can not start by saying that our earthly destiny has or has not importance, for it depends upon us to give it importance. It is up to man to make it important to be a man, and he alone can feel his success or failure. And if it is again said that nothing forces him to try to justify his being in this way, then one is playing upon the notion of freedom in a dishonest way.
    • p. 16
  • The idea that defines all humanism is that the world is not a given world, foreign to man, one to which he has to force himself to yield without. It is the world willed by man, insofar as his will expresses his genuine reality.
    • p. 17
  • There is an ethics only if there is a problem to solve.
    • p. 18
  • In order for the universe of revolutionary values to arise, a subjective movement must create them in revolt and hope.
    • p. 19
  • In order for men to become indignant or to admire, they must be conscious of their own freedom and the freedom of others.
    • p. 20
  • As for us, whatever the case may be, we believe in freedom.
    • p. 23
  • The characteristic feature of all ethics is to consider human life as a game that can be won or lost and to teach man the means of winning.
    • p. 23
  • Freedom is the source from which all significations and all values spring. It is the original condition of all justification of existence. The man who seeks to justify his life must want freedom itself absolutely and above everything else.
    • p. 24
  • To will oneself moral and to will oneself free are one and the same decision.
    • p. 24
  • To will oneself free is to effect the transition from nature to morality by establishing a genuine freedom on the original upsurge of our existence.
    • p. 25
  • At each moment freedom is confirmed through all creation.
    • p. 28
  • Man does not create the world. He succeeds in disclosing it only through the resistance which the world opposes to him. The will is defined only by raising obstacles, and by the contingency of facticity certain obstacles let themselves be conquered, and others do not.
    • p. 28
  • My freedom must not seek to trap being but to disclose it. The disclosure is the transition from being to existence. The goal which my freedom aims at is conquering existence across the always inadequate density of being.
    • p. 30
  • This mystification of useless effort is more intolerable than fatigue. Life imprisonment is the most horrible of punishments because it preserves existence in its pure facticity but forbids it all legitimation. A freedom can not will itself without willing itself as an indefinite movement. It must absolutely reject the constraints which arrest its drive toward itself. This rejection takes on a positive aspect when the constraint is natural. One rejects the illness by curing it. But it again assumes the negative aspect of revolt when the oppressor is a human freedom. One can not deny being: the in-itself is, and negation has no hold over this being, this pure positivity; one does not escape this fullness: a destroyed house is a ruin; a broken chain is scrap iron: one attains only signification and, through it, the for-itself which is projected there; the for-itself carries nothingness in its heart and can be annihilated, whether in the very upsurge of its existence or through the world in which it exists. The prison is repudiated as such when the prisoner escapes. But revolt, insofar as it is pure negative movement, remains abstract. It is fulfilled as freedom only by returning to the positive, that is, by giving itself a content through action, escape, political struggle, revolution. Human transcendence then seeks, with the destruction of the given situation, the whole future which will flow from its victory.
    • p. 31
  • Just as life is identified with the will-to-live, freedom always appears as a movement of liberation. It is only by prolonging itself through the freedom of others that it manages to surpass death itself and to realize itself as an indefinite unity.
    • p. 32
  • The words "to will oneself free" have a positive and concrete meaning. If man wishes to save his existence, as only he himself can do, his original spontaneity must be raised to the height of moral freedom by taking itself as an end through the disclosure of a particular content.
    • p. 32
  • Man can not positively decide between the negation and the assumption of his freedom, for as soon as he decides, he assumes it. He can not positively will not to be free for such a willing would be self-destructive.
    • p. 33
  • Men do not like to feel themselves in danger. Yet, it is because there are real dangers, real failures and real earthly damnation that words like victory, wisdom, or joy have meaning. Nothing is decided in advance, and it is because man has something to lose and because he can lose that he can also win.
    • p. 34

Part II: Personal Freedom and Others edit

  • Moral choice is free, and therefore unforeseeable.
    • p. 40
  • The drama of original choice is that it goes on moment by moment for an entire lifetime, that it occurs without reason, before any reason, that freedom is there as if it were present only in the form of contingency.
    • p. 40
  • What is called vitality, sensitivity, and intelligence are not ready-made qualities, but a way of casting oneself into the world and of disclosing being.
    • p. 41
  • To exist is to make oneself a lack of being; it is to cast oneself into the world.
    • p. 42
  • The rejection of existence is still another way of existing.
    • p. 43
  • Ethics is the triumph of freedom over facticity.
    • p. 44
  • Every goal is at the same time a point of departure and that human freedom is the ultimate, the unique end to which man should destine himself.
    • p. 48
  • It is the political fanaticism which empties politics of all human content and imposes the State, not for individuals, but against them.
    • p. 50
  • Freedom is realized as an independence in regard to the serious world and that, on the other hand, the ambiguity of existence is felt not as a lack but in its positive aspect.
    • p. 58
  • From the time of his adolescence a man can define himself as an adventurer. The union of an original, abundant vitality and a reflective scepticism will particularly lead to this choice. It is obvious that this choice is very close to a genuinely moral attitude. The adventurer does not propose to be; he deliberately makes himself a lack of being; he aims expressly at existence; though engaged in his undertaking, he is at the same time detached from the goal. Whether he succeeds or fails, he goes right ahead throwing himself into a new enterprise to which he will give himself with the same indifferent ardor. It is not from things that he expects the justification of his choices.
    • pp. 58-59
  • What distinguishes adventure from a simple game is that the adventurer does not limit himself to asserting his existence in solitary fashion. He asserts it in relationship to other existences. He has to declare himself.
    • p. 60
  • Favorable circumstances are enough to transform the adventurer into a dictator. He carries the seed of one within him, since he regards mankind as indifferent matter destined to support the game of his existence. But what he then knows is the supreme servitude of tyranny.
    • p. 62
  • No man can save himself alone.
    • p. 62
  • Love is then renunciation of all possession, of all confusion.
    • p. 67
  • Passion is converted to genuine freedom only if one destines his existence to other existences through the being – whether thing or man – at which he aims, without hoping to entrap it in the destiny of the in-itself.
    • p. 67
  • We see that no existence can be validly fulfilled if it is limited to itself. It appeals to the existence of others.
    • p. 67
  • Man is permitted to separate himself from this world by contemplation, to think about it, to create it anew. Some men, instead of building their existence upon the indefinite unfolding of time, propose to assert it in its eternal aspect and to achieve it as an absolute. They hope, thereby, to surmount the ambiguity of their condition. Thus, many intellectuals seek their salvation either in critical thought or creative activity.
    • p. 68
  • The critic defines himself positively as the independence of the mind. Crystallizing the negative movement of the criticism of values into a positive reality, he also crystallizes the negativity proper to all mind into a positive presence. Thus, he thinks that he himself escapes all earthly criticism.
    • p. 68
  • There is no way for a man to escape from this world. It is in this world that [...] he must realize himself morally.
    • p. 69
  • To will oneself free and to will that there be being are one and the same choice, the choice that man makes of himself as a presence in the world. We can neither say that the free man wants freedom in order to desire being, nor that he wants the disclosure of being by freedom. These are two aspects of a single reality. And whichever be the one under consideration, they both imply the bond of each man with all others.
    • p. 70
  • To will that there be being is also to will that there be men by and for whom the world is endowed with human significations. One can reveal the world only on a basis revealed by other men. No project can be defined except by its interference with other projects. To make being “be” is to communicate with others by means of being.
    • p. 71
  • Every man needs the freedom of other men and, in a sense, always wants it, even though he may be a tyrant; the only thing he fails to do is to assume honestly the consequences of such a wish. Only the freedom of others keeps each one of us from hardening in the absurdity of facticity.
    • p. 71
  • Man can find a justification of his own existence only in the existence of other men.
    • p. 72
  • To will oneself free is also to will others free.
    • p. 73

Part III: The Positive Aspect of Ambiguity edit

Text online at Marxists Internet Archive
Chapter 1: The Aesthetic Attitude edit
  • Every man has to do with other men. The world in which he engages himself is a human world in which each object is penetrated with human meanings. It is a speaking world from which solicitations and appeals rise up. This means that, through this world, each individual can give his freedom a concrete content. He must disclose the world with the purpose of further disclosure and by the same movement try to free men, by means of whom the world takes on meaning.
  • The present is not a potential past; it is the moment of choice and action; we can not avoid living it through a project; and there is no project which is purely contemplative since one always projects himself toward something, toward the future; to put oneself "outside" is still a way of living the inescapable fact that one is inside.
  • One can not justify all that is by asserting that everything may equally be the object of contemplation, since man never contemplates: he does.
  • It is for the artist and the writer that the problem is raised in a particularly acute and at the same time equivocal manner, for then one seeks to set up the indifference of human situations not in the name of pure contemplation, but of a definite project: the creator projects toward the work of art a subject which he justifies insofar as it is the matter of this work; any subject may thus be admitted, a massacre as well as a masquerade. This aesthetic justification is sometimes so striking that it betrays the author’s aim; let us say that a writer wants to communicate the horror inspired in him by children working in sweatshops; he produces so beautiful a book that, enchanted by the tale, the style, and the images, we forget the horror of the sweatshops or even start admiring it. Will we not then be inclined to think that if death, misery, and injustice can be transfigured for our delight, it is not an evil for there to be death, misery, and injustice?
  • We must not confuse the present with the past. With regard to the past, no further action is possible. There have been war, plague, scandal, and treason, and there is no way of our preventing their having taken place; the executioner became an executioner and the victim underwent his fate as a victim without us; all that we can do is to reveal it, to integrate it into the human heritage, to raise it to the dignity of the aesthetic existence which bears within itself its finality; but first this history had to occur: it occurred as scandal, revolt, crime, or sacrifice, and we were able to try to save it only because it first offered us a form. Today must also exist before being confirmed in its existence: its destination in such a way that everything about it already seemed justified and that there was no more of it to reject, then there would also be nothing to say about it, for no form would take shape in it; it is revealed only through rejection, desire, hate and love. In order for the artist to have a world to express he must first be situated in this world, oppressed or oppressing, resigned or rebellious, a man among men. But at the heart of his existence he finds the exigency which is common to all men; he must first will freedom within himself and universally; he must try to conquer it: in the light of this project situations are graded and reasons for acting are made manifest.
Chapter 2: Freedom and Liberation edit
  • Freedom realizes itself only by engaging itself in the world: to such an extent that man’s project toward freedom is embodied for him in definite acts of behavior. To will freedom and to will to disclose being are one and the same choice; hence, freedom takes a positive and constructive step which causes being to pass to existence in a movement which is constantly surpassed. Science, technics, art, and philosophy are indefinite conquests of existence over being; it is by assuming themselves as such that they take on their genuine aspect; it is in the light of this assumption that the word progress finds its veridical meaning. It is not a matter of approaching a fixed limit: absolute Knowledge or the happiness of man or the perfection of beauty; all human effort would then be doomed to failure, for with each step forward the horizon recedes a step; for man it is a matter of pursuing the expansion of his existence and of retrieving this very effort as an absolute.
  • Science condemns itself to failure when, yielding to the infatuation of the serious, it aspires to attain being, to contain it, and to possess it; but it finds its truth if it considers itself as a free engagement of thought in the given, aiming, at each discovery, not at fusion with the thing, but at the possibility of new discoveries; what the mind then projects is the concrete accomplishment of its freedom.
  • Art [...] should not attempt to set up idols; it should reveal existence as a reason for existing.
  • Art reveals the transitory as an absolute; and as the transitory existence is perpetuated through the centuries, art too, through the centuries, must perpetuate this never-to-be-finished revelation.
  • The constructive activities of man take on a valid meaning only when they are assumed as a movement toward freedom; and reciprocally, one sees that such a movement is concrete: discoveries, inventions, industries, culture, paintings, and books people the world concretely and open concrete possibilities to men.
  • Every man transcends himself. But it happens that this transcendence is condemned to fall uselessly back upon itself because it is cut off from its goals. That is what defines a situation of oppression. Such a situation is never natural: man is never oppressed by things; in any case, unless he is a naive child who hits stones or a mad prince who orders the sea to be thrashed, he does not rebel against things, but only against other men. The resistance of the thing sustains the action of man as air sustains the flight of the dove; and by projecting himself through it man accepts its being an obstacle; he assumes the risk of a setback in which he does not see a denial of his freedom. The explorer knows that he may be forced to withdraw before arriving at his goal; the scientist, that a certain phenomenon may remain obscure to him; the technician, that his attempt may prove abortive: these withdrawals and errors are another way of disclosing the world.
  • Only man can be an enemy for man; only he can rob him of the meaning of his acts and his life because it also belongs only to him alone to confirm it in its existence, to recognize it in actual fact as a freedom.
  • For "we" is legion and not an individual; each one depends upon others, and what happens to me by means of others depends upon me as regards its meaning; one does not submit to a war or an occupation as he does to an earthquake: he must take sides for or against, and the foreign wills thereby become allied or hostile. It is this interdependence which explains why oppression is possible and why it is hateful.
  • My freedom, in order to fulfill itself, requires that it emerge into an open future: it is other men who open the future to me, it is they who, setting up the world of tomorrow, define my future; but if, instead of allowing me to participate in this constructive movement, they oblige me to consume my transcendence in vain, if they keep me below the level which they have conquered and on the basis of which new conquests will be achieved then they are cutting me off from the future, they are changing me into a thing.
  • Life is occupied in both perpetuating itself and in surpassing itself; if all it does is maintain itself, then living is only not dying, and human existence is indistinguishable from an absurd vegetation; a life justifies itself only if its effort to perpetuate itself is integrated into its surpassing and if this surpassing has no other limits than those which the subject assigns himself.
  • Oppression divides the world into two clans: those who enlighten mankind by thrusting it ahead of itself and those who are condemned to mark time hopelessly in order merely to support the collectivity; their life is a pure repetition of mechanical gestures; their leisure is just about sufficient for them to regain their strength; the oppressor feeds himself on their transcendence and refuses to extend it by a free recognition. The oppressed has only one solution: to deny the harmony of that mankind from which an attempt is made to exclude him, to prove that he is a man and that he is free by revolting against the tyrants. In order to prevent this revolt, one of the ruses of oppression is to camouflage itself behind a natural situation since, after all, one can not revolt against nature. When a conservative wishes to show that the proletariat is not oppressed, he declares that the present distribution of wealth is a natural fact and that there is thus no means of rejecting it; and doubtless he has a good case for proving that, strictly speaking, he is not stealing from the worker "the product of his labor," since the word theft supposes social conventions which in other respects authorizes this type of exploitation; but what the revolutionary means by this word is that the present regime is a human fact. As such, it has to be rejected. This rejection cuts off the will of the oppressor, in his turn, from the future toward which he was hoping to thrust himself alone: another future is substituted, that of revolution. The struggle is not one of words and ideologies; it is real and concrete, if it is this future which triumphs, and not the former, then it is the oppressed who is realized as a positive and open freedom and the oppressor who becomes an obstacle and a thing.
  • Revolt is not integrated into the harmonious development of the world; it does not wish to be integrated but rather to explode at the heart of the world and to break its continuity.
  • One of the shocking things about charity – in the civic sense of the word – is that it is practised from the outside, according to the caprice of the one who distributes it and who is detached from the object.
  • The cause of freedom is not that of others more than it is mine: it is universally human. If I want the slave to become conscious of his servitude, it is both in order not to be a tyrant myself – for any abstention is complicity, and complicity in this case is tyranny – and in order that new possibilities might be opened to the liberated slave and through him to all men. To want existence, to want to disclose the world, and to want men to be free are one and the same will.
  • The oppressor is lying if he claims that the oppressed positively wants oppression; he merely abstains from not wanting it because he is unaware of even the possibility of rejection. All that an external action can propose is to put the oppressed in the presence of his freedom: then he will decide positively and freely. The fact is that he decides against oppression, and it is then that the movement of emancipation really begins. For if it is true that the cause of freedom is the cause of each one, it is also true that the urgency of liberation is not the same for all.
  • The oppressed can fulfill his freedom as a man only in revolt, since the essential characteristic of the situation against which he is rebelling is precisely its prohibiting him from any positive development; it is only in social and political struggle that his transcendence passes beyond to the infinite.
  • Morality requires that the combatant be not blinded by the goal which he sets up for himself to the point of falling into the fanaticism of seriousness or passion. The cause which he serves must not lock itself up and thus create a new element of separation: through his own struggle he must seek to serve the universal cause of freedom.
  • A freedom wills itself genuinely only by willing itself as an indefinite movement through the freedom of others; as soon as it withdraws into itself, it denies itself on behalf of some object which it prefers to itself.
  • We have to respect freedom only when it is intended for freedom, not when it strays, flees itself, and resigns itself. A freedom which is interested only in denying freedom must be denied. And it is not true that the recognition of the freedom of others limits my own freedom: to be free is not to have the power to do anything you like; it is to be able to surpass the given toward an open future; the existence of others as a freedom defines my situation and is even the condition of my own freedom. I am oppressed if I am thrown into prison, but not if I am kept from throwing my neighbor into prison.
  • It is quite certain that the surpassing of the past toward the future always demands sacrifices.
  • The tendency of man is not to reduce himself but to increase his power. To abandon the past to the night of facticity is a way of depopulating the world. I would distrust a humanism which was too indifferent to the efforts of the men of former times; if the disclosure of being achieved by our ancestors does not at all move us, why be so interested in that which is taking place today; why wish so ardently for future realizations? To assert the reign of the human is to acknowledge man in the past as well as in the future.
  • The fact of having a past is part of the human condition; if the world behind us were bare, we would hardly be able to see anything before us but a gloomy desert. We must try, through our living projects, to turn to our own account that freedom which was undertaken in the past and to integrate it into the present world.
  • One does not love the past in its living truth if he insists on preserving its hardened and mummified forms. The past is an appeal; it is an appeal toward the future which sometimes can save it only by destroying it. Even though this destruction may be a sacrifice, it would be a lie to deny it: since man wants there to be being, he can not renounce any form of being without regret. But a genuine ethics does not teach us either to sacrifice it or deny it: we must assume it.
  • Oppression tries to defend itself by its utility. But we have seen that it is one of the lies of the serious mind to attempt to give the word “useful” an absolute meaning; nothing is useful if it is not useful to man; nothing is useful to man if the latter is not in a position to define his own ends and values, if he is not free. Doubtless an oppressive regime can achieve constructions which will serve man: they will serve him only from the day that he is free to use them; as long as the reign of the oppressor lasts, none of the benefits of oppression is a real benefit. Neither in the past nor in the future can one prefer a thing to man, who alone can establish the reason for all things.
  • Man must accept the tension of the struggle, that his liberation must actively seek to perpetuate itself, without aiming at an impossible state of equilibrium and rest; this does not mean that he ought to prefer the sleep of slavery to this incessant conquest. Whatever the problems raised for him, the setbacks that he will have to assume, and the difficulties with which he will have to struggle, he must reject oppression at any cost.
Chapter 3: The Antinomies of Action edit
  • If the oppressor were aware of the demands of his own freedom, he himself should have to denounce oppression. But he is dishonest; in the name of the serious or of his passions, of his will for power or of his appetites, he refuses to give up his privileges. In order for a liberating action to be a thoroughly moral action, it would have to be achieved through a conversion of the oppressors: there would then be a reconciliation of all freedoms.
  • A freedom which is occupied in denying freedom is itself so outrageous that the outrageousness of the violence which one practices against it is almost cancelled out.
  • The oppressor would not be so strong if he did not have accomplices among the oppressed themselves; mystification is one of the forms of oppression; ignorance is a situation in which man may be enclosed as narrowly as in a prison; as we have already said, every individual may practice his freedom inside his world, but not everyone has the means of rejecting, even by doubt, the values, taboos, and prescriptions by which he is surrounded; doubtless, respectful minds take the object of their respect for their own; in this sense they are responsible for it, as they are responsible for their presence in the world: but they are not guilty if their adhesion is not a resignation of their freedom.
  • All oppressive regimes become stronger through the degradation of the oppressed.
  • If, in all oppressed countries, a child’s face is so moving, it is not that the child is more moving or that he has more of a right to happiness than the others: it is that he is the living affirmation of human transcendence: he is on the watch, he is an eager hand held out to the world, he is a hope, a project.
  • Man is a being of the distances, a movement toward the future, a project. The tyrant asserts himself as a transcendence; he considers others as pure immanences: he thus arrogates to himself the right to treat them like cattle. We see the sophism on which his conduct is based: of the ambiguous condition which is that of all men, he retains for himself the only aspect of a transcendence which is capable of justifying itself; for the others, the contingent and unjustified aspect of immanence.
  • All authority is violence. [...] We may well assume that not all those who govern have the courage to make such a confession; and furthermore it might be dangerous for them to make it too loudly. They try to mask the crime from themselves; at least they try to conceal it from the notice of those who submit to their law. If they can not totally deny it, they attempt to justify it. The most radical justification would be to demonstrate that it is necessary: it then ceases to be a crime, it becomes fatality.
  • If the chief considers that he does not simply reflect the given situation but that he is interpreting it, he becomes a prey to anguish: who am I to believe in myself? And if the soldier’s eyes open, he too asks: who is he to command me? Instead of a prophet, he sees nothing more than a tyrant. That is why every authoritarian party regards thought as a danger and reflection as a crime; it is by means of thought that crime appears as such in the world.
  • However cruel the yoke may be, in spite of the purges, murders, and deportations, every regime has opponents: there are reflection, doubt, and contestation. And even if the opponent is in the wrong, his error brings to light a truth, namely, that there is a place in this world for error and subjectivity; whether he is right or wrong, he triumphs; he shows that the men who are in power may also be mistaken.
  • What distinguishes war and politics from all other techniques is that the material that is employed is a human material. Now human efforts and lives can no more be treated as blind instruments than human work can be treated as simple merchandise; at the same time as he is a means for attaining an end, man is himself an end. The word useful requires a complement, and there can be only one: man himself. And the most disciplined soldier would mutiny if skillful propaganda did not persuade him that he is dedicating himself to the cause of man: to his cause.
  • The supreme end at which man must aim is his freedom, which alone is capable of establishing the value of every end; thus, comfort, happiness, all relative goods which human projects define, will be subordinated to this absolute condition of realization. The freedom of a single man must count more than a cotton or rubber harvest; although this principle is not respected in fact, it is usually recognized theoretically.
  • The complement of the word useful is the word man, but it is also the word future. It is man insofar as he is, according to the formula of Ponge, "the future of man." Indeed, cut off from his transcendence, reduced to the facticity of his presence, an individual is nothing; it is by his project that he fulfills himself, by the end at which he aims that he justifies himself; thus, this justification is always to come. Only the future can take the present for its own and keep it alive by surpassing it. A choice will become possible in the light of the future, which is the meaning of tomorrow because the present appears as the facticity which must be transcended toward freedom.
Chapter 4: The Present and the Futuren edit
  • Freedom will never be given; it will always have to be won.
  • The means, it is said, will be justified by the end; but it is the means which define it, and if it is contradicted at the moment that it is set up, the whole enterprise sinks into absurdity. In this way the attitude of England in regard to Spain, Greece, and Palestine is defended with the pretext that she must take up position against the Russian menace in order to save, along with her own existence, her civilization and the values of democracy; but a democracy which defends itself only by acts of oppression equivalent to those of authoritarian regimes, is precisely denying all these values; whatever the virtues of a civilization may be, it immediately belies them if it buys them by means of injustice and tyranny.
  • Existence must be asserted in the present if one does not want all life to be defined as an escape toward nothingness.
  • In telling a story, in depicting it, one makes it exist in its particularity with its beginning and its end, its glory or its shame; and this is the way it actually must be lived. In the festival, in art, men express their need to feel that they exist absolutely. They must really fulfill this wish. What stops them is that as soon as they give the word "end" its double meaning of goal and fulfillment they clearly perceive this ambiguity of their condition, which is the most fundamental of all: that every living movement is a sliding toward death. But if they are willing to look it in the face they also discover that every movement toward death is life. In the past people cried out, "The king is dead, long live the king;" thus the present must die so that it may live; existence must not deny this death which it carries in its heart; it must assert itself as an absolute in its very finiteness; man fulfills himself within the transitory or not at all. He must regard his undertakings as finite and will them absolutely.
Chapter 5: Ambiguity edit
  • There is a concrete bond between freedom and existence; to will man free is to will there to be being, it is to will the disclosure of being in the joy of existence; in order for the idea of liberation to have a concrete meaning, the joy of existence must be asserted in each one, at every instant; the movement toward freedom assumes its real, flesh and blood figure in the world by thickening into pleasure, into happiness. If the satisfaction of an old man drinking a glass of wine counts for nothing, then production and wealth are only hollow myths; they have meaning only if they are capable of being retrieved in individual and living joy. The saving of time and the conquest of leisure have no meaning if we are not moved by the laugh of a child at play. If we do not love life on our own account and through others, it is futile to seek to justify it in any way.
  • It is the abortive movement of man toward being which is his very existence, it is through the failure which he has assumed that he asserts himself as a freedom. To want to prohibit a man from error is to forbid him to fulfill his own existence, it is to deprive him of life.
  • The value of an act lies not in its conformity to an external model, but in its internal truth.
  • The vote should really be the expression of a concrete will, the choice of a representative capable of defending, within the general framework of the country and the world, the particular interests of his electors.
  • Lynching is an absolute evil; it represents the survival of an obsolete civilization, the perpetuation of a struggle of races which has to disappear; it is a fault without justification or excuse.
  • The defender of the U.S.S.R. is making use of a fallacy when he unconditionally justifies the sacrifices and the crimes by the ends pursued; it would first be necessary to prove that, on the one hand, the end is unconditioned and that, on the other hand, the crimes committed in its name were strictly necessary.
  • In our private life as in our collective life there is no other truth than a statistical one.
  • Political choice is an ethical choice: it is a wager as well as a decision; one bets on the chances and risks of the measure under consideration; but whether chances and risks must be assumed or not in the given circumstances must be decided without help, and in so doing one sets up values.
  • There is an element of failure in all success.
  • The politician follows the line of least resistance; it is easy to fall asleep over the unhappiness of others and to count it for very little; it is easier to throw a hundred men, ninety-seven of whom are innocent, into prison, than to discover the three culprits who are hidden among them; it is easier to kill a man than to keep a close watch on him; all politics makes use of the police, which officially flaunts its radical contempt for the individual and which loves violence for its own sake. The thing that goes by the name of political necessity is in part the laziness and brutality of the police. That is why it is incumbent upon ethics not to follow the line of least resistance; an act which is not destined, but rather quite freely consented to; it must make itself effective so that what was at first facility may become difficult.

Conclusion edit

Text online at Marxists Internet Archive
  • Une telle morale [la morale existentialiste] est-elle ou non un individualisme? Oui, si l’on entend par là qu’elle accorde à l’individu une valeur absolue et qu’elle reconnaît qu’a lui seul le pouvoir de fonder son existence. Elle est individualisme au sens où les sagesses antiques, la morale chrétienne du salut, l’idéal de la vertu kantienne méritent aussi ce nom ; elle s’oppose aux doctrines totalitaires qui dressent par-delà I’homme le mirage de l’Humanité. Mais elle n’est pas un solipsisme, puisque l’individu ne se définit que par sa relation au monde et aux autres individus, il n’existe qu’en se transcendant et sa liberté ne peut s’accomplir qu’à travers la liberté d’autrui. Il justifie son existence par un mouvement qui, comme elle, jaillit du coeur de lui-même, mais qui aboutit hors de lui.
    Cet individualisme ne conduit pas à l’anarchie du bon plaisir. L’homme est libre ; mais il trouve sa loi dans sa liberté même. D’abord il doit assumer sa liberté et non la fuir; il l’assume par un mouvement constructif : on n’existe pas sans faire; et aussi par un mouvement négatif qui refuse l’oppression pour soi et pour autrui.
    • Is this kind of ethics individualistic or not? Yes, if one means by that that it accords to the individual an absolute value and that it recognizes in him alone the power of laying the foundations of his own existence. It is individualism in the sense in which the wisdom of the ancients, the Christian ethics of salvation, and the Kantian ideal of virtue also merit this name; it is opposed to the totalitarian doctrines which raise up beyond man the mirage of Mankind. But it is not solipsistic, since the individual is defined only by his relationship to the world and to other individuals; he exists only by transcending himself, and his freedom can be achieved only through the freedom of others. He justifies his existence by a movement which, like freedom, springs from his heart but which leads outside of him.
      This individualism does not lead to the anarchy of personal whim. Man is free; but he finds his law in his very freedom. First, he must assume his freedom and not flee it by a constructive movement: one does not exist without doing something; and also by a negative movement which rejects oppression for oneself and others.
  • A conquest of this kind is never finished; the contingency remains, and, so that he may assert his will, man is even obliged to stir up in the world the outrage he does not want. But this element of failure is a very condition of his life; one can never dream of eliminating it without immediately dreaming of death. This does not mean that one should consent to failure, but rather one must consent to struggle against it without respite.
  • Within Mankind men may be fooled; the word “lie” has a meaning by opposition to the truth established by men themselves, but Mankind can not fool itself completely since it is precisely Mankind which creates the criteria of true and false. In Plato, art is mystification because there is the heaven of Ideas; but in the earthly domain all glorification of the earth is true as soon as it is realized. Let men attach value to words, forms, colors, mathematical theorems, physical laws, and athletic prowess; let them accord value to one another in love and friendship, and the objects, the events, and the men immediately have this value; they have it absolutely. It is possible that a man may refuse to love anything on earth; he will prove this refusal and he will carry it out by suicide. If he lives, the reason is that, whatever he may say, there still remains in him some attachment to existence; his life will be commensurate with this attachment; it will justify itself to the extent that it genuinely justifies the world.
    This justification, though open upon the entire universe through time and space, will always be finite. Whatever one may do, one never realizes anything but a limited work, like existence itself which tries to establish itself through that work and which death also limits. It is the assertion of our finiteness which doubtless gives the doctrine which we have just evoked its austerity and, in some eyes, its sadness. As soon as one considers a system abstractly and theoretically, one puts himself, in effect, on the plane of the universal, thus, of the infinite. … existentialism does not offer to the reader the consolations of an abstract evasion: existentialism proposes no evasion. On the contrary, its ethics is experienced in the truth of life, and it then appears as the only proposition of salvation which one can address to men. Taking on its own account Descartes’ revolt against the evil genius, the pride of the thinking reed in the face of the universe which crushes him, it asserts that, despite his limits, through them, it is up to each one to fulfill his existence as an absolute. Regardless of the staggering dimensions of the world about us, the density of our ignorance, the risks of catastrophes to come, and our individual weakness within the immense collectivity, the fact remains that we are absolutely free today if we choose to will our existence in its finiteness, a finiteness which is open on the infinite. And in fact, any man who has known real loves, real revolts, real desires, and real will knows quite well that he has no need of any outside guarantee to be sure of his goals; their certitude comes from his own drive. There is a very old saying which goes: “Do what you must, come what may.” That amounts to saying in a different way that the result is not external to the good will which fulfills itself in aiming at it. If it came to be that each man did what he must, existence would be saved in each one without there being any need of dreaming of a paradise where all would be reconciled in death.

The Second Sex (1949) edit

Le Deuxième Sexe (1949) as translated by H M Parshley (1972)ISBN 0679724516
One is not born a genius, one becomes a genius; and the feminine situation has up to the present rendered this becoming practically impossible.
One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.
It is for man to establish the reign of liberty in the midst of the world of the given. To gain the supreme victory, it is necessary, for one thing, that by and through their natural differentiation men and women unequivocally affirm their brotherhood.
  • All agree in recognising the fact that females exist in the human species; today as always they make up about one half of humanity. And yet we are told that femininity is in danger; we are exhorted to be women, remain women, become women. It would appear, then, that every female human being is not necessarily a woman; to be so considered she must share in that mysterious and threatened reality known as femininity.
  • When an individual (or a group of individuals) is kept in a situation of inferiority, the fact is that he is inferior. But the significance of the verb to be must be rightly understood here; it is in bad faith to give it a static value when it really has the dynamic Hegelian sense of "to have become." Yes, women on the whole are today inferior to men; that is, their situation affords them fewer possibilities. The question is: should that state of affairs continue?
    Many men hope that it will continue; not all have given up the battle.
    • Introduction : Woman as Other
  • One is not born a genius, one becomes a genius; and the feminine situation has up to the present rendered this becoming practically impossible.
    • Bk. I, Pt. 2, Ch. 8: Since the French Revolution: the Job and the Vote, p. 133
  • On ne naît pas femme: on le devient.
    • One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.
    • Bk. 2, Pt.. 4, Ch. 1: Childhood, p. 267
  • Sex pleasure in woman, as I have said, is a kind of magic spell; it demands complete abandon; if words or movements oppose the magic of caresses, the spell is broken.
    • Bk. 2, Pt.. 4, Ch. 3: Sexual Initiation. p. 396
  • From primitive times to our own, intercourse has always been considered a "service" for which the male thanks the woman by giving her presents or assuring her maintenance; but to serve is to give oneself a master; there is no reciprocity in this relation.
    • Bk. 2, Pt.. 4, Ch. 3: Sexual Initiation. P. 418 (1974 Vintage edition)
  • To be gazed at is one danger; to be manhandled is another. Women as a rule are unfamiliar with violence, they have not been through the tussles of childhood and youth as have men; and now the girl is laid hold of, swept away in a bodily struggle in which the man is the stronger. She is no longer free to dream, to delay, to maneuver: she is in his power, at his disposal.
    • Bk. 2, Pt.. 3, Ch. 3: Sexual initiation. p. 427 (1974 Vintage edition)
  • Woman is an existent who is called upon to make herself object; as subject she has an aggressive element in her sensuality which is not satisfied on the male body: hence the conflicts that her eroticism must somehow overcome.
    • Bk. 2, Pt.. 3, Ch. 4: The Lesbian. P. 445 (1974 Vintage edition)
  • To "catch" a husband is an art; to "hold" him is a job.
    • Bk. 2, part 5, Ch. 1: The Married Woman, p. 468
  • Cooking is revelation and creation; and a woman can find special satisfaction in a successful cake or a flaky pastry, for not every one can do it: one must have the gift.
    • Bk. 2, part 5, Ch. 1: The Married Woman, p. 506
  • The curse which lies upon marriage is that too often the individuals are joined in their weakness rather than in their strength, each asking from the other instead of finding pleasure in giving. It is even more deceptive to dream of gaining through the child a plenitude, a warmth, a value, which one is unable to create for oneself; the child brings joy only to the woman who is capable of disinterestedly desiring the happiness of another, to one who without being wrapped up in self seeks to transcend her own existence.
    • Bk. 2, Pt.. 5, Ch. 2: The Mother, p. 522
  • Toute oppression crée un état de guerre. Ce cas-ci ne fait pas exception. L'existant que l'on considère comme inessentiel ne peut manquer de prétendre rétablir sa souveraineté.
    Aujourd'hui, le combat prend une autre figure; au lieu de vouloir enfermer l'homme dans un cachot, la femme essaie de s'en évader; elle ne cherche plus à l'entraîner dans les régions de l'immanence mais à émerger dans la lumière de la transcendance.
    • All oppression creates a state of war. And this is no exception. The existent who is regarded as inessential cannot fail to demand the re-establishment of her sovereignty.
      Today the combat takes a different shape; instead of wishing to put man in a prison, woman endeavours to escape from one; she no longer seeks to drag him into the realms of immanence but to emerge, herself, into the light of transcendence.
    • Conclusion, p. 717
  • It is vain to apportion praise and blame. The truth is that if the vicious circle is so hard to break, it is because the two sexes are each the victim at once of the other and of itself. Between two adversaries confronting each other in their pure liberty, an agreement could be easily reached: the more so as the war profits neither. But the complexity of the whole affair derives from the fact that each camp is giving aid and comfort to the enemy; woman is pursuing a dream of submission, man a dream of identification. Want of authenticity does not pay: each blames the other for the unhappiness he or she has incurred in yielding to the temptations of the easy way; what man and woman loathe in each other is the shattering frustration of each one's own bad faith and baseness.
  • We must not believe, certainly, that a change in woman’s economic condition alone is enough to transform her, though this factor has been and remains the basic factor in her evolution; but until it has brought about the moral, social, cultural, and other consequences that it promises and requires, the new woman cannot appear.
  • The fact that we are human beings is infinitely more important than all the peculiarities that distinguish human beings from one another; it is never the given that confers superiorities: "virtue", as the ancients called it, is defined at the level of "that which depends on us". In both sexes is played out the same drama of the flesh and the spirit, of finitude and transcendence; both are gnawed away by time and laid in wait for by death, they have the same essential need for one another; and they can gain from their liberty the same glory. If they were to taste it, they would no longer be tempted to dispute fallacious privileges, and fraternity between them could then come into existence.
  • The humanity of tomorrow will be living in its flesh and in its conscious liberty; that time will be its present and it will in turn prefer it. New relations of flesh and sentiment of which we have no conception will arise between the sexes; already, indeed, there have appeared between men and women friendships, rivalries, complicities, comradeships — chaste or sensual — which past centuries could not have conceived.
  • It is nonsense to assert that revelry, vice, ecstasy, passion, would become impossible if man and woman were equal in concrete matters; the contradictions that put the flesh in opposition to the spirit, the instant to time, the swoon of immanence to the challenge of transcendence, the absolute of pleasure to the nothingness of forgetting, will never be resolved; in sexuality will always be materialised the tension, the anguish, the joy, the frustration, and the triumph of existence. To emancipate woman is to refuse to confine her to the relations she bears to man, not to deny them to her; let her have her independent existence and she will continue none the less to exist for him also: mutually recognising each other as subject, each will yet remain for the other an other. The reciprocity of their relations will not do away with the miracles — desire, possession, love, dream, adventure — worked by the division of human beings into two separate categories; and the words that move us — giving, conquering, uniting — will not lose their meaning. On the contrary, when we abolish the slavery of half of humanity, together with the whole system of hypocrisy that it implies, then the 'division' of humanity will reveal its genuine significance and the human couple will find its true form.
  • It is for man to establish the reign of liberty in the midst of the world of the given. To gain the supreme victory, it is necessary, for one thing, that by and through their natural differentiation men and women unequivocally affirm their brotherhood.

The Coming of Age (1970) edit

ISBN 039331443X
I am incapable of conceiving infinity, and yet I do not accept finity. I want this adventure that is the context of my life to go on without end.
Society cares about the individual only in so far as he is profitable. The young know this. Their anxiety as they enter in upon social life matches the anguish of the old as they are excluded from it.
  • Work almost always has a double aspect: it is a bondage, a wearisome drudgery; but it is also a source of interest, a steadying element, a factor that helps to integrate the worker with society. Retirement may be looked upon either as a prolonged holiday or as a rejection, a being thrown on to the scrap-heap.
    • Pt I, Ch. 4: Old age in present-day society, p. 263
  • Since it is the Other within us who is old, it is natural that the revelation of our age should come to us from outside — from others. We do not accept it willingly.
    • Pt. 2, Ch. 1: The discovery and assumption of old age: the body's experience, p. 288
  • I am incapable of conceiving infinity, and yet I do not accept finity. I want this adventure that is the context of my life to go on without end.
    • Pt. 2, Ch. 2: Time, activity, history, p. 412
  • It is old age, rather than death, that is to be contrasted with life. Old age is life's parody, whereas death transforms life into a destiny: in a way it preserves it by giving it the absolute dimension. Death does away with time.
    • Conclusion, p. 539
  • One's life has value so long as one attributes value to the life of others, by means of love, friendship, indignation and compassion.
    • Conclusion, p. 541
  • What should a society be, so that in his last years a man might still be a man?
    The answer is simple: he would always have to have been treated as a man. By the fate that it allots to its members who can no longer work, society gives itself away — it has always looked upon them as so much material. Society confesses that as far as it is concerned, profit is the only thing that counts, and that its "humanism" is mere window-dressing. In the nineteenth century the ruling classes explicitly equated the proletariat with barbarism. The struggles of the workers succeeded in making the proletariat part of mankind once more. But only in so far as it is productive. Society turns away from the aged worker as though he belonged to another species. That is why the whole question is buried in a conspiracy of silence.
    • Conclusion, p. 542
  • Society cares about the individual only in so far as he is profitable. The young know this. Their anxiety as they enter in upon social life matches the anguish of the old as they are excluded from it.
    • Conclusion, p. 543

Attributed edit

  • In itself, homosexuality is as limiting as heterosexuality: the ideal should be to be capable of loving a woman or a man; either, a human being, without feeling fear, restraint, or obligation.
    • As quoted in Bisexual Characters in Film: From Anaïs to Zee (1997) by Wayne M. Bryant, p. 143
  • Defending the truth is not something one does out of a sense of duty or to allay guilt complexes, but is a reward in itself.
    • As quoted in The Book of Positive Quotations (2007) by John Cook, Steve Deger and Leslie Ann Gibson, p. 525
  • Change your life today. Don't gamble on the future, act now, without delay.
    • As quoted in The Book of Positive Quotations (2007) by John Cook, p. 548

Misattributed edit

  • Each of us is responsible for everything and to every human being.
    • Fyodor Dostoevsky in The Brothers Karamazov; this was used as an epigraph in The Blood of Others, and is sometimes attributed to de Beauvoir

Quotes about de Beauvoir edit

When I was growing up in the 60s, Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre were a model couple, already legendary creatures, rebels with a great many causes, and leaders of what could be called the first postwar youth movement: existentialism — a philosophy that rejected all absolutes and talked of freedom, authenticity, and difficult choices. ~ Lisa Appignanesi
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  • When I was growing up in the 60s, Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre were a model couple, already legendary creatures, rebels with a great many causes, and leaders of what could be called the first postwar youth movement: existentialism — a philosophy that rejected all absolutes and talked of freedom, authenticity, and difficult choices. It had its own music and garb of sophisticated black which looked wonderful against a cafe backdrop. Sartre and De Beauvoir were its Bogart and Bacall, partners in a gloriously modern love affair lived out between jazz club, cafe and writing desk, with forays on to the platforms and streets of protest. Despite being indissolubly united and bound by ideas, they remained unmarried and free to engage openly in any number of relationships. This radical departure from convention seemed breathtaking at the time.
  • I finished the book and I lifted my eyes the pages to a different world. For several days thereafter, I mechanically carried out my chores while repeating the theses of The Second Sex: Femininity is neither natural nor innate, rather it is a condition of socialization that is based on, but not determined by, physiological differences. Male domination must then be explained by historical factors; in particular, the rise of private property and the state. A woman is created, not born. Dependency is the curse of woman. One sentence in particular became my mantra: Woman escapes complete dependency to the degree in which she escapes from the family.
  • (Who are some of the writers you enjoy reading and re-reading?) SK: Dostoevsky and Simone De Beauvoir. Since I was a young teenager, I started reading them and I never for De Beauvoir, what a great writer and philosopher! Have you read The Mandarins? I read the novel at least five times. And what about The Second Sex? From that book, I learned how we become women, I mean how we became the other sex. Those two writers affected me deeply.
  • women's marginalization in the process of History-making has set them back intellectually and has kept them for far longer than was necessary from developing a consciousness of their collectivity in sisterhood, not motherhood. The cruel repetitiousness by which individual women have struggled to a higher level of consciousness, repeating an effort made a number of times by other women in previous centuries, is not only a symbol of women's oppression but is its actual manifestation. Thus, even the most advanced feminist thinkers, up to and including those in the early 20th century, have been in dialogue with the "great men" before them and have been unable to verify, test and improve their ideas by being in dialogue with the women thinkers before them...Simone de Beauvoir, in a passionate dialogue with Marx, Freud, Sartre and Camus, could go as far with a feminist critique of patriarchal values and institutions as it was possible to go when the thinker was male-centered. Had she truly engaged with Mary Wollstonecraft's thought, the works of Mary Astell, the Quaker feminists of the early 19th century, the mystical revisioners among the black spiritualists and the feminism of Anna Cooper, her analysis might have become woman-centered and therefore capable of projecting alternatives to the basic mental constructs of patriarchal thought. Her erroneous assertion that, "They [women] have no past, no history, no religion of their own," was not just an oversight and a flaw, but a manifestation of the basic limitations which have for millennia limited the power and effectiveness of women's thought.
  • The nature of Sartre and Beauvoir’s partnership was never a secret to their friends, and it was not a secret to the public, either, after they were abruptly launched into celebrity, in 1945. They were famous as a couple with independent lives, who met in cafés, where they wrote their books and saw their friends at separate tables, and were free to enjoy other relationships, but who maintained a kind of soul marriage. Their liaison was part of the mystique of existentialism, and it was extensively documented and coolly defended in Beauvoir’s four volumes of memoirs, all of them extremely popular in France: “Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter” (1958), “The Prime of Life” (1960), “Force of Circumstance” (1963), and “All Said and Done” (1972). Beauvoir and Sartre had no interest in varnishing the facts out of respect for bourgeois notions of decency. Disrespect for bourgeois notions of decency was precisely the point.
  • The theoretical and philosophical contribution of Simone de Beauvoir, writing in the 1940s in a context of general political identification with the communist movement, interrogated the 'monist' (that is, reductive) premises of Marxism and inaugurated a theoretical debate over its adequacy for the understanding of female subordination.
    • Maxine Molyneux Women's Movements in International Perspective: Latin America and Beyond (2000)
  • I read it (Beauvoir's autobiography), but again it was a whole other life. Part of my life or what I've been interested in is staying this close to the people, if I can put it that way, to ordinary life, to daily life in some way. So she really did not have that much to tell me except that I was interested in her. I was interested, but I saw here is this woman who really wanted the absolute opposite of ordinary life, whereas that's the opposite of me.
  • By the time I left my marriage, after seventeen years and three children, I had become identified with the Women's Liberation movement. It was an astonishing time to be a woman of my age. In the 1950s, seeking a way to grasp the pain I seemed to be feeling most of the time, to set it in some larger context, I had read all kinds of things; but it was James Baldwin and Simone de Beauvoir who had described the world-though differently in terms that made the most sense to me. By the end of the sixties there were two political movements-one already meeting severe repression, one just emerging-which addressed those descriptions of the world. And there was, of course, a third movement, or a movement-within-a-movement: the early lesbian manifestoes, the new visibility and activism of lesbians everywhere.
    • Adrienne Rich, Split at the Root: An Essay on Jewish Identity" (1982)
  • Reading The Second Sex in the 1950s isolation of an academic housewife had felt less dangerous than reading "The Myth of Vaginal Orgasm" or "Woman-identified Woman" in a world where I was in constant debate and discussion with women over every aspect of our lives that we could as yet name. De Beauvoir had placed "The Lesbian" on the margins, and there was little in her book to suggest the power of woman bonding.
    • Adrienne Rich, Split at the Root: An Essay on Jewish Identity" (1982)
  • (about Lorraine Hansberry) In 1957, she had begun the draft of an essay on Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex in which Hansberry said, "The Second Sex may well be the most important work of this century." She assessed the reception of the book in America, the gossip surrounding de Beauvoir's personal life which substituted for serious debate on her ideas.
  • By and large, feminist theory has been as inadequate as were the early feminist attempts to correct sexism. This was to be expected. The problem is so immense that, at first try, only the surface could be skimmed, the most blatant inequalities described. Simone de Beauvoir was the only one who came close to – who perhaps has done – the definitive analysis. Her profound work The Second Sex – which appeared as recently as the early fifties to a world convinced that feminism was dead – for the first time attempted to ground feminism in its historical base. Of all feminist theorists De Beauvoir is the most comprehensive and far-reaching, relating feminism to the best ideas in our culture.
  • Simone de Beauvoir said penetratingly of De Sade's work that 'he is trying to communicate an experience whose distinguishing characteristic is, nevertheless its will to remain incommunicable'. De Sade's perversion may have sprung from his dislike of his mother or of other women, but its basis is a kind of distorted religious emotion.
    • Colin Wilson in The Origins of the Sexual Impulse, p. 90 (1963)

See also edit

Social and political philosophers
Classic AristotleMarcus AureliusChanakyaCiceroConfuciusMozi LaoziMenciusMoziPlatoPlutarchPolybiusSeneca the YoungerSocratesSun TzuThucydidesXenophonXun Zi
Conservative de BenoistBolingbrokeBrandesBurkeBurnhamCarlyleChestertonCortésDávilaEvolaFichteFilmerGaltonGentileHegelHeideggerHerderHobbesHoppede JouvenelKirkvon Kuehnelt-LeddihnLandMacIntyrede MaistreMansfieldMenckenMoscaNietzscheOrtega y GassetPagliaParetoRothbardSantayanaSchmittScrutonSloterdijkSpencerSpenglerStraussTocqueville • VicoVoegelinWeaverYarvin
Liberal ArendtAronBastiatBeccariaBenthamBerlinBoétieCamusCondorcetConstantDworkinEmersonErasmusFranklinFukuyamaHayekJeffersonKantLockeMachiavelliMadisonMaineMillMiltonMisesMontaigneMontesquieuNozickOrtega y GassetPopperRandRawlsRothbardSadeSchillerSimmelSmithSpencerSpinozade StaëlStirnerThoreauTocquevilleTuckerVoltaireWeberWollstonecraft
Religious al-GhazaliAmbedkarAugustine of HippoAquinasAugustineAurobindoCalvinDanteDayanandaDostoyevskyEliadeGandhiGirardGregoryGuénonJesusJohn of SalisburyJungKierkegaardKołakowskiLewisLutherMaimonidesMalebrancheMaritainMoreMuhammadMüntzerNiebuhrOckhamOrigenPhiloPizanQutbRadhakrishnanShariatiSolzhenitsynTaylorTeilhard de ChardinTertullianTolstoyVivekanandaWeil
Socialist AdornoAflaqAgambenBadiouBakuninBaudrillardBaumanBernsteinButlerChomskyde BeauvoirDebordDeleuzeDeweyDu BoisEngelsFanonFoucaultFourierFrommGodwinGoldmanGramsciHabermasKropotkinLeninLondonLuxemburgMaoMarcuseMarxMazziniNegriOwenPaine RortyRousseauRussellSaint-SimonSartreSkinnerSorelTrotskyWalzerXiaopingŽižek

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