Simone De Beauvoir Essay On The Synthesis Of Sartrian

An essay about Simone de Beauvoirs attempts to humanize Sartre's existentialism by creating a necessary meaning to human existence.

NOTE: All references refer to Simone de Beauvoir's The Ethics of Ambiguity

Simone de Beauvoir is obviously trying to address the weakest point of Sartre's philosophical exposition of existentialism -- what sort of value system arises from the existential outlook? De Beauvoir wants to show how existential assumptions actually do lead to an ethics of a non-classical sort. In speaking of the freedom of men from the deterministic bounds of society, religion, or the material world de Beauvoir states: "[I]t appears to us that by turning toward this freedom we are going to discover a principle of action whose range will be universal (23)." This seems to be an important point as it addresses directly the accusation that the very "existential freedom" of man is a destructive and horrific isolation of each individual into self-justifying random action. Later de Beauvoir states that it is actually freedom itself which is this universal. "At the same time that [freedom] requires the realization of concrete ends, of particular projects, it requires itself universally (24)." She then continues to set up an equality between being free and being moral. Even considering the starting point of ambiguity, how can freedom in terms of consciousness become the basis for any morality? So whatever you do is moral as long as you choose to do it?

This does not seem to address a "shortcoming" in Sartre's philosophy since Sartre implies a similar thing in the primacy of the for-itself over all external values and "universal truths" which are falsely claimed to transcend human existence. There does not seem to be a basis for a coherent ethics, only the same internally valid value system of the for itself justifying its own existence.



There are, however, two possible reasons for de Beauvoir's primacy of freedom for others. One is that she has created a value scheme which promotes such values. But if this were simply the case, there would be no "necessary" jump to such a value scheme from basic existential principles.

On the other hand, de Beauvoir could assert that other's freedom is necessary to your own freedom, and thus you must value their freedom in order to be truly free. This latter valuation of other's freedom seems to be what de Beauvoir is advocating. On page 60 she states, "Two attitudes are possible. He can become conscious of the real requirements for his own freedom, which can will itself only by destining itself to an open future, by seeking to extend itself by means of the freedom of others. Therefore, in any case, the freedom of other men must be respected and they must be helped to free themselves." It seems that this quote is saying in effect that your own freedom, once realized becomes part of the world of facticity and yields nothing to the for-itself.

In order for the for-itself to have a project, especially a project which posits its own freedom, it must choose a grander goal than simply self-liberation and self-satisfying selfishness. Since freedom is the basis of all values, it necessarily places itself as the forebear of all value schemes, thus it is an ultimate value scheme. If this is the case, does not the action of a truly "liberated" and "free" person fall back into the realm of determinism since their ultimate value scheme is a "necessary" and not a choice?

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