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Monday, December 1, 2014

Final Paper - Existentialism (Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre)

Derek Beistad
CoPhilosophy – Final Paper
Dr. Phil Oliver
01 December 2014
            Simone de Beauvoir could be called many things, but a philosopher, a feminist, and  an existentialist are her most well know “titles.” Beauvoir is known for her work with feminist existentialism, commonly along-side Jean-Paul Sartre. Together, they are considered the “fathers” of existentialism.
De Beauvoir was born in Paris, France in 1908. At the age of fourteen, she became an atheist, which she would remain for the rest of her life. She went on to study in college and became the 9th woman to earn a degree from Sorbonne. Beauvoir said this about her life growing up, "...my father's individualism and pagan ethical standards were in complete contrast to the rigidly moral conventionalism of my mother's teaching. This disequilibrium, which made my life a kind of endless disputation, is the main reason why I became an intellectual."
Simone de Beauvoir never married, however she had a lifelong relationship with Sartre and never had kids. She lived alone and had relationships with others besides Sartre throughout her life. She was also known to have had many relationships with her students, often females which was not greatly accepted in that time. In her novel “She Came to Stay,” de Beauvoir wrote a fictional story based on her and Sartre’s relationships with two of her students. It also helps readers understand her and Sartre’s relationship with each other.
De Beauvoir also wrote many philosophical texts, her first was Pyrrhus et Cinéas. One of her most popular essays was The Ethics of Ambiguity, in which she cleared up many confusing things about existentialism. She wrote it in a simplistic many which made it much easier to understand the ideas of Existentialism.
She had a huge impact in existentialism, but possibly an even bigger impact in feminism. She said, "One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman." By this, she means that women accept and follow what men have said women should be. Her work, The Second Sex, shows many of her views towards feminism. She also states,
A man would never get the notion of writing a book on the peculiar situation of the human male. But if I wish to define myself, I must first of all say: ‘I am a woman’; on this truth must be based all further discussion. A man never begins by presenting himself as an individual of a certain sex; it goes without saying that he is a man. […] It would be out of the question to reply: ‘And you think the contrary because you are a man,’ for it is understood that the fact of being a man is no peculiarity.
She clearly shows that men are always defaulted to, and females are thought of secondary. The Second Sex had a huge impact on feminism, especially in its early phases.
De Beauvoir also had many other recognizable quotes. Simone quotes, "All oppression creates a state of war; this is no exception." She clearly gets her message across that oppression is a great disaster and should be avoided at all costs. She is also known to have said "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,” openly showing her belief that homosexuality is normal and should not be looked down upon. Another quotation from de Beauvoir shows that she believes that one must contribute to others. She shows this by saying, "One's life has value so long as one attributes value to the life of others, by means of love, friendship, indignation, compassion." Her feminist views show that she believes the world is dominated by men and is not fair to women. She shows her grief for women by declaring,
On the day when it will be possible for woman to love not in her weakness but in strength, not to escape herself but to find herself, not to abase herself but to assert herself – on that day love will become for her, as for man, a source of life and not of mortal danger. In the meantime, love represents in its most touching form the curse that lies heavily upon woman confined in the feminine universe, woman mutilated, insufficient unto herself.
To further ones understanding of her feminist beliefs, it is important to look at another quotation, “To emancipate woman is to refuse to confine her to the relations she bears to man, not to deny them to her…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." This, once again shows her belief that men are dominating unfairly. A final quotation from Simone shows that she thinks everyone can make a difference and should realize that, "Each of us is responsible for everything and to every human being."
            Simone de Beauvoir’s life-long friend, Jean- Paul Sartre was the other founder of existentialism, and also had an interesting life. He famously turned down the Nobel Prize in Literature. He was born in Paris in 1905, and his father passed away when he was two. He was also bullied often as a kid. In 1929 he met Simone de Beauvoir and they became friends. He was drafted into the French army in 1929 and served as a prisoner of war for nine months. When he returned, he and de Beauvoir challenged culture norms.
            Sartre’s first philosophical work was a lecture known as Existentialism and Humanism.  Some of his main ideas in his pieces of philosophical work are that people are meant to be free. This is shown throughout many of his works throughout his life. One of his most famous works was Being and Nothingness.
There are some well-known quotes of Sartes that will help one understand his way of thought. One is, “When the rich wage war, it is the poor who die,” he states his fact pretty clearly, he means that the rich have control and the poor are effected by their decisions much ore than the rich. He I salso known to have stated, “I tell you the truth: all men are Prophets or else God does not exist.” He is saying that God would not limit himself to only a few people. Sarte shows his belief that everyone can be free by testifying, “Freedom is what you do with what's been done to you.” He also said, “We do not know what we want and yet we are responsible for what we are - that is the fact,” showing that he believes that people are completely responsible for themselves. He shows this same view by saying, “Man is not the sum of what he has already, but rather the sum of what he does not yet have, of what he could have.” But the one quote that sums up all of his work is, “Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.”
Existentialism is a very important philosophic idea that should be looked at closely. The founders of it, Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir are great examples of how existentialism came to be. Both led very interesting lives, each had many similarities, but also many differences. De Beauvoir had a huge feminist side, and while Sartre did as well, he was more focused on existentialism, while de Beauvoir seemed to think feminism was more important. However she did have a great love for existentialism as well. Looking at both of their lives is a great way to understand why they thought this way and how this way of thought came to be. It is just as important to look at their quotations. Reading and interpreting what one says, especially a philosopher, is the best way to understand and learn their way of thought.
Works cited
A Little History of Philosophy. Nigel Warburton. Yale University Press. 2011. Print
“SIMONE BEAUVOIR – BIOGRAPHY.” The European Graduate School. 01 December 2014. Web. < http://www.egs.edu/library/simone-de-beauvoir/biography/>
“Simone de Beauvoir: 10 key quotes” The guardian. 01 December 2014. Web. <http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/jan/09/simone-de-beauvoir-google-doodle-quotes>
“JEAN-PAUL SARTRE – BIOGRAPHY.” The European graduate School. 01 December 2014. Web. <http://www.egs.edu/library/jean-paul-sartre/biography/>

“Jean-Paul Sartre Quotes.” Thinkexist. 01 December 2014. Web. <http://thinkexist.com/quotes/jean-paul_sartre/>

1 comment:

  1. "A man never begins by presenting himself as an individual of a certain sex; it goes without saying that he is a man" - actually there was, briefly, a "men's rights" movement in the '70s & '80s. It was epitomized by Robert Bly's "Iron John," which in retrospect will probably strike most of us as silly. The ultimate goal should indeed be to break out of these artificially imposed gender roles and recognize our common humanity. I think that's what deB was saying.

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