Simone De Beauvoir Philosophy Essay

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Simone de Beauvoir's argument in The Ethics of Ambiguity are two main issues: the refuting of Cartesian dualism between body and mind, and the essence of freedom. From these two points, de Beauvoir also notes how the human being struggles with the ambiguity of existence, which is at once futile and meaningful, subjective and objective. The human being is socially constructed as well as self-constructed, seeing oneself in others, as others reflect back their image of the self. When others reflect ourselves back, that image is not pure. It has been tainted by the biases and worldviews of the other. Because of this, it can also be argued that the opinions of others are not fully meaningful. The person can certainly listen to what others have to say, but it would be wiser not to internalize that information or take it seriously.

However, de Beauvoir includes some important caveats in her philosophy of self. One is that human freedom, while absolute, is also constrained by ethical imperatives. Those ethical imperatives necessarily derive from externalities, not from within the self. The external source of ethical duty does not come from God, but may come from other people. Therefore, it may be important to listen to what others have to say in order to construct a more ethical self-concept.
The second caveat is that the individual, while free, is always a subject of something. The self exists only as a relational being or entity. "It is rather well-known that the fact of being a subject is a universal fact and that the Cartesian cogito expresses both the most individual experience and the most objective truth," (de Beauvoir, Part 1: "Ambiguity and Freedom").

Another point de Beauvoir makes regarding listening to others is that there is no one ultimate, whole, integral ethical construct that exists separate from human beings. Ethics are human constructs, culturally constrained, and constantly and continually re-invented. Therefore, people continue to project their own ideas onto the collective body of ethics. There are no pure thoughts or absolute morals. "The plurality of concrete -- particular men projecting themselves toward their ends on the basis of situations whose particularity is as radical and as irreducible as subjectivity itself," and if there are no objective ethics, then what others have to say is relatively meaningless (de Beauvoir, Part I). Furthermore, what others have to say is….....

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De Beauvoir, S. (n.d.). The Ethics of Ambiguity. Retrieved online:

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