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Chapter 5

SIMONE DE BEAUVOIR:

AN EXISTENTIAL-PHENOMENOLOGICAL ETHICS

Gail Weiss

The George Washington University

1. BACKGROUND

Thanks to the recent efforts of feminist scholars, Simone de Beauvoir's fame as the lifelong companion ofexistential philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre is slowly giving way to a recognition ofthe originality ofher own work as a philosopher, autobiographer, novelist, essayist, editor, and political activist. Her ethics, inparticular, has received a great deal of attention, not only because she offers the first formal articulation of an existential ethics in her 1947 book, Pour une morale de l'ambiguite (published in English in 1948 as The Ethics ofAmbiguity and hereafter abbreviated as EA), but also because the moral challenges she discusses there and elsewhere in her works seem as appropriate today as they were half a century ago. Simone de Beauvoir was born in Paris on January 9, 1908. Aside from summer vacations at her relatives' homes in the French countryside as a young girl, a couple of years spent teaching in lycees outside of Paris after she obtained her agregation in philosophy at the Sorbonne, and her regular travels as an adult, Beauvoir resided in Paris throughout her life and died there on April 14, 1986. As a member of the French Resistance, Beauvoir remained in Paris during the difficult years of the German Occupation, and toward the end of the war, she co-founded and co-edited with Sartre, Camus, Merleau-Ponty, and others the political journal Les Temps Modernes. Beauvoir's best known philosophical work, Le deuxieme sexe (published in English in 1952 as The Second Sex and hereafter referred to as SS), was first published in France by Gallimard in two volumes in 1949. In this book, Beauvoir uses an existential framework to address the question "What does it mean to be a woman?" Focusing primarily, but not exclusively, on the situation of Western women, her text incorporates insights from a variety of disciplines, including philosophy, literature, sociology, anthropology, and biology. Given its fame today as a "landmark" feminist text, it is easy to forget that the initial public reception of The Second Sex was far from positive. Indeed, the text

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J.J. Drummond and L Embree (eds.), Phenomenological Approaches to Moral Philosophy, 107-118. © 2002 Kluwer Academic Publishers.

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Weiss

was sharply criticized by the media and by some ofBeauvoir's own colleagues for

frank

condemnations Beauvoir offers ofsuch venerated social institutions as marriage and

motherhood. American feminists in the 1960s such as Betty Friedan took Beauvoir to task for her repeated assertion that the housewife leads an immanent existence,

as have

the unconventionality

of its subject matter

as

well

as

for

the brutally

but these same women were nonetheless strongly influenced by her work, been the generations of feminist scholars that followed them.

After the controversy surrounding the publication of

The Second Sex,

Beauvoir

decided to stop writing philosophy and turned her attention exclusively to literature.

Philosophy,

however,

was never

left behind.

Her literary

works

develop the

implications

of central existential

themes

such

responsibility, death, and deception. Interestingly,

as intersubjectivity, freedom, Sartre claimed that she was the

better philosopher of the two of them, while she claimed to prefer Sartre 's literature

to his philosophy.

a Beauvoir

"renaissance."

In

the 1990s, there has

New

been

what

can legitimately

be called

generations

of feminist scholars have been attracted to her

work, not merely for

significant historical interest,

provocative analyses of gender, race, sexuality,

protestations that her ideas were an extension of Sartre's and not original in their

own right, recent Beauvoir scholars have shown the ways in which she departs from

a Sartrean framework and,

phenomenological thought. By examining Beauvoir's ethics as it is explicitly presented in her early work

and

best

appreciate her sophisticated

nonetheless

human existence from

demand an unambiguous, ethical response.

that characterize

its

but

also

because

of her

and class oppression. Despite her

the

possibilities

of existential-

her later work,

we

can

in so

doing,

extends

then turning

to

its nuanced

development in

understanding

to the

of the ambiguities

one moment

next, ambiguities that

2. CONFLICTS OF INTERPRETATION

With the recent surge of interest in Beauvoir's oeuvre, it should not surprise us if

special

responsibilities we have to ourselves, to others, and to our shared situation extend

throughout her work.

attention

has been paid to

Moreover,

her

ethics. After all,

concerns about the

The

one of her best-known philosophical texts,

Ethics ofAmbiguity,

seeks to provide a concrete analysis of the ongoing demands

ethical

dimensions of human existence-dimensions that cut to the very heart of our being

with

answers.

These

but also

readings have appropriately focused not only on

more questions than it

of an ethical life.

and

for

But despite the

ethics

serious

attention Beauvoir gives to

raises

of Beauvoir's

the

others-the

she offers often

various readings

Commentators

have provided

ethics.

The Ethics ofAmbiguity,

SIMONE DE BEAUVOIR

109

on other texts that take up ethical issues, such as Pyrrhus et Cineas (1944) with its discussion of the inevitability ofviolence and oppression and The Second Sex with its focus on the constraints placed upon women's freedom by their existence within, and subjection to, a set of interlocking patriarchal social systems. Yet despite this interest in the ethical implications of her work, there has been relatively little agreement among Beauvoir's commentators about what the central claims of her ethics are, or even about the role women, men, society, and women's own bodies play in an individual's possibilities for living ethically. A point on which there is relative agreement, however, is that for Beauvoir the ethical cannot be restricted to a separate sphere of existence, since ethical issues underlie all of the projects in which we engage. In other words, we cannot view the ethical as coming into play only on some occasions and not others, since it concerns the very manner in which we live our bodies, our relations with others, and our situations. This point of consensus has given rise to alternative readings, however, precisely because the ethical informs and is informed by all of the other key concepts that motivate Beauvoir's work, including transcendence, immanence, choice, commitment, freedom, oppression, consciousness, the body, the Other, and the situation. One's understanding of the specific moral challenges posed by Beauvoir's conception of the ethical depends, I would argue, upon which aspect of human existence one takes as a starting point for one's analysis. For instance, if one begins from the standpoint of freedom and transcendence, two seemingly essential requirements for ethical existence for Beauvoir as well as for Sartre, then one's emphasis will be placed on how specific individuals can realize what Beauvoir calls "moral freedom." By contrast, if one focuses on the ethical demands placed upon us by the existence of others, then the emphasis will shift from the subjective to the intersubjective domain. The consequences ofemphasizing the subjective dimensions offreedom rather than its intersubjective dimensions (or vice versa) can be quite serious. For if one concentrates too narrowly on those places where Beauvoir describes freedom as the transcendence of the givens of one's own situation, the danger is that her ethics appears to be too solipsistic since the attainment of moral freedom appears to be a purely individual project. On the other hand, if one concentrates too heavily on the passages where she emphatically maintains that one's freedom cannot be achieved unless others are also free, then freedom (and an ethical existence) seems impossible to achieve, since millions of oppressed peoples continue to exist in the world. Rather than privilege one domain at the expense of the other, it is essential to appreciate that for Beauvoir, attaining one's moral freedom is never merely an individual project, but always a social and political project as well. Thus the very project of"willing one's freedom" always occurs within a broader context in which my freedom both enables and is enabled by, constrains and is constrained by, the freedom of others.

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both an

individual and a collective project, let us begin by examining Beauvoir's ethics,

first from the standpoint of what she,

then from the standpoint of what both call being-for-others. After examining these two dimensions of her ethics, I will address another ofBeauvoir's ethical concerns that has hitherto received relatively little attention, namely, the relationship between

morality and deception.

calls being-for-itself, and

To

do justice

to the

ways

in which

"willing

one's

freedom"

is

following Sartre,

3. FREEDOM AND FACT!CITY

Beauvoir repeatedly suggests that the exercise ofmoral

In

an affirmation of our transcendence in the face of the continual

constraints offered by others,

early passages from this

text, the Sartrean tension between the transcendence associated first and foremost

associated with the

materiality of the in-itself is explicitly invoked. "The goal which my freedom aims at," Beauvoir tells us, "is conquering existence across the always inadequate density

with the consciousness

demands of our own bodies.

freedom involves

The Ethics ofAmbiguity,

by the

contingencies

of the situation, and by the

In some of the most famous

of the for-itself and the immanence

ofbeing"

(EA, 30).

My transcendence only becomes meaningful, for Beauvoir,

if it is positively

assumed

through

a concrete

engagement

with the

givens

of the situation. The

situation therefore provides

the content

as

well

as

the

context for

an ethical

existence, but my ability to detach myself consciously (through reflection) from my

is absolutely

situation

essential to the ethical "justification" of my existence. On this account, the situation

provides a necessary obstacle to my freedom. The situation is necessary because it forces me to engage my freedom concretely, which is the only way in which my

freedom

obstacle

because my freedom must triumph over the constraints the situation places upon the

always a

realization of my projects. As a necessary

danger that the situation will triumph over me, and that I will fail to transcend it but

will instead become mired in its immanence. Beauvoir herself recognizes this possibility. She

the constant threat of failure that haunts my existence from one moment to the next.

"one may

hesitate to make oneself a lack of being, one may withdraw before existence, or one

may

may

realize his freedom only as an abstract independence, or, on the contrary, reject with

despair the distance which separates us

man is a negativity, and they are motivated by the anguish he feels in the face of his

freedom. Concretely, men slide incoherently from one attitude to another" (EA, 34).

are possible since

For as Beauvoir makes

describes it as contributing to

in

order

to evaluate

the possibilities

it presents to me

can become meaningful to

myself and

to others.

It

is

also an

obstacle, however, there

is

clear, there are not one but many ways

being, or

assert oneself as

from being.

to fail:

falsely

assert oneself as

nothingness.

One

All errors

SIMONE DE BEA UVOIR

111

Undoubtedly, these are all very different kinds of failures, and Beauvoir goes on to discuss them through the examples she provides of the subman, the serious man, the nihilist, and the adventurer. The subman clings to his facticity, thereby failing to recognize and act upon his transcendence, while the serious man's unquestioning acceptance of a set of fixed values absolves him of the need to take responsibility for them. The nihilist responds to the anxiety of his freedom by attempting to be nothing (EA, 52). The adventurer comes closest to living ethically because the meaningfulness of his actions flows from the commitments he has made to them, but he operates too solipsistically to be granted ethical standing unless he wills the freedom of others at the same time that he wills his own freedom. In all these examples, with the exception of the adventurer, the individual's failure to become ethical is directly due to his failure to live the tension between freedom and facticity; instead of affirming this tension as an inescapable feature of human existence, he tries to resolve it by negating his freedom (subman), by negating his facticity (nihilist), or by sacrificing his freedom to a self-created facticity (the serious man). The adventurer alone does justice to both his freedom and his facticity, but he too fails if he does not recognize that his own freedom depends upon his securing the freedom of others. The failure of the adventurer is qualitatively different from the failures of these others because it highlights the indispensable role the Other plays in determining the ethicality of my existence. Indeed, the limitations of viewing the tension between freedom and facticity as the sole ground for Beauvoir's ethics is revealed especially poignantly at this point in her discussion. Before moving on to discuss the possibilities and failures associated specifically with the Other, however, it is important to take stock of what is at stake in Beauvoir's depiction of ethical existence as seeking to affirm freedom as an "absolute end" over and against the factical demands of the situation. Precisely because this account is so Sartrean, understanding the ethical primarily as an exercise of transcendence over the immanent aspects of existence exposes Beauvoir to the same criticisms Sartre faced regarding the dualist ontology

of L 'etre et le neant (translated into English as Being and Nothingness and

hereafter

abbreviated as BN). Not merely the situation as such, but also the individual's own body is relegated to the sphere of immanence that threatens, if one's will is not strong enough, to lead one to abandon the movement of transcendence. Indeed, the claims Beauvoir makes about women's bodies, for instance, in "The Data of Biology" chapter of The Second Sex, frequently relegate their bodies to the status of immanent objects that represent an ongoing threat to their transcendence as this latter is apprehended both by the individual herself and by others. It is paradoxical, Beauvoir observes, that female members of the species that is the most independent and individualized are also the most enslaved by the

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requirements of its perpetuation. Menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, lactation, all represent, for Beauvoir, obstacles that women must contend with to realize their freedom. While, she argues, "the male finds more and more varied ways in which to employ the forces he is master of; the female feels her enslavement more and

more keenly,

heightened" (SS, 25, emphasis added). Of all female mammals, it is woman, Beauvoir concludes, "who most dramatically fulfills the call of destiny and most profoundly differs from her male" (SS, 25). If freedom and transcendence are associated with escaping the restrictions placed upon us by our bodies and our situations, and if this latter effort is necessary to secure an ethical existence, then difficulties arise in assessing the ethicality of individuals who seem unable to move beyond these constraints or who do not see the "call of destiny" as constraining in the first place. Beauvoir, as many commentators have observed, does address the status ofsuch individuals, whom she

often characterizes as "the oppressed." She also recognizes that failure to transcend the "givens" of existence need not be due to a "weak will" or a desire to escape the anguish of taking responsibility for one's own choices and the unknown consequences that follow from them; rather, such failure is often due to the mental and physical domination of oneself by others, a domination that can lead to what Beauvoir calls mystification.

the conflict between her own interests and the reproductive forces is

4. MYSTIFICATION AND OPPRESSION

Mystification, she suggests, involves the belief that one has no control over one's situation, that the givens of the situation wholly constitute the situation as such and that they alone define its meaning and possibilities. The mystified individual does not seek to transform the situation through her free choices because she does not see herself as having any choices to begin with. "Ignorance and error," Beauvoir asserts, "are facts as inescapable as prison walls" (EA, 38). Although Beauvoir seeks to differentiate the case of the severely oppressed person from the case of the subman and the serious man, who also fail to enact their freedom positively, this description of the phenomenon of mystification-as well as the word "mystification" itself-suggests that the oppressed individual exists in a state of false consciousness, unaware of the "true" nature of the situation in which she is immersed. Ignorance and error, however, are often considered to be morally blameworthy (especially within a Sartrean framework), and it is because Beauvoir has not yet seriously addressed the role that others play in enabling or inhibiting my freedom that this acknowledgment of the constraints placed upon one by an oppressive situation seems rather unsatisfactory. Hence it seems clear that Beauvoir cannot give a comprehensive account of ethical ambiguity if she relies solely upon the opposition between transcendence

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and immanence, since the Other introduces further ambiguities into the situation with which each of us must contend. Moreover, if we try to reduce the role played by the Other to that of another for-itself who is also trying to secure (or flee from) an ethical existence and who, in doing so, may engage in projects that often conflict with and even threaten my own, then the Other becomes another potential obstacle to my freedom rather than a means of achieving it. It is a virtue ofBeauvoir's account that she moves away from both Sartre's and her own negative descriptions of the inevitable conflicts that characterize intersubjective relationships to introduce and defend the claim that my own freedom requires (rather than merely tolerating) the freedom ofothers. And if one begins an examination ofBeauvoir's ethics by unpacking the significance of this latter claim, a claim that is made not once but several times across different works, the focus of her ethics changes dramatically.

5. ETHICS AND THE OTHER

One danger of viewing an ethics predicated on the opposition between transcendence and immanence as the sole voice in Beauvoir's work is that we fail to see how she moves beyond not only the Cartesian ontological framework employed by Sartre, but also Hegel's depiction of the "master-slave dialectic" as models for intersubjective relationships! In both Sartre's and Hegel's accounts of what Sartre calls "being-for-others," my relations to others are characterized by structural inequalities that must continually be renegotiated but can never be eradicated. Garcin's famous proclamation that "hell is-other people" in Sartre's play No Exit, and Sartre's claim that "I grasp the Other's look at the very center of my act as the solidification and alienation of my own possibilities" (BN, 352) are just two examples ofthe constant conflict that marks our relations with others in his work. If the look of the Other, as Sartre asserts, reveals no more and no less than "my transcendence transcended," then it is indeed difficult to see how the Other can be other than an obstacle to the exercise of my freedom. It cannot be denied that Beauvoir also repeatedly emphasizes the inevitable conflicts that characterize intersubjective relationships. "To be sure," she tells us in The Second Sex, "every human relationship implies conflict, all love brings jealousy" (SS, 347). And yet, as one contemporary Beauvoir scholar has persuasively argued, this conflictual model of intersubjectivity, a model that is so in keeping with both Sartre's and Hegel's respective accounts, is not the only framework to which Beauvoir appeals in order to describe our relations with

1 See Debra Bergoffen, The Philosophy ofSimone de Beauvoir: Gendered Phenomen- ologies, Erotic Generosities (Albany, NY: State University ofNew York Press, 1997).

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others. 2 For instance, in The Second Sex, Beauvoir also describes the possibility of an ethical, erotic encounter between two lovers in which neither dominates the other, and in which each recognizes the transcendence of the other (SS, 401 ). In this encounter, the two lovers freely give themselves to one another without one seeking to entrap the other or to lose herself in the other. As Beauvoir observes, "Under a concrete and carnal form there is mutual recognition of the ego and of the other in the keenest awareness of the other and of the ego" (SS, 401). This mutual celebration of the intertwining of my own freedom and facticity with that of the other offers a positive model of ethical engagement that moves us beyond the limitations of the for-itself/in-itself and transcendence/immanence dichotomies. Nonetheless, it remains to be seen how well the early version of Beauvoir's existential ethics, with its emphasis on individual freedom and responsibility for one's situation, can simultaneously encourage the development oflong-lasting, nonhierarchical relationships with others outside as well as within the erotic domain. The key to reconciling my own freedom with an affirmation of the freedom of the other whose projects may and often do conflict with my own lies in Beauvoir's conception of the "existential conversion" that she claims is necessary to transform my original freedom into moral or genuine freedom. I perform this existential conversion by willing myself free, a paradoxical project insofar as I actively will to possess the freedom I already possess. Moreover, Beauvoir claims that I must will to possess my freedom in an indefinite movement, that is, I must actively affirm my freedom through all ofmy actions in such a fashion that my freedom will realize itself through its own self-perpetuating movement. One danger of willing my freedom, however, is that I may end up willing it in the form of the in-itself, that is, as something given, rather than as a perpetual accomplishment. The opposite danger is that I will become so entranced with the movement of transcendence that is synonymous with my freedom that I will fail to realize my freedom in a specific project, a project that in tum will result in a concrete tranforrnation ofmy situation. We can better understand these dangers as well as how to avoid them through Beauvoir's distinction between what she calls the "will to be" and the "will to disclose" the world of my concern. Both draw upon my freedom. The will to be, however, causes my freedom to tum against itself by willing itself as facticity (and this is precisely what Beauvoir accuses the serious man of doing). The will to disclosure, she suggests, reveals the limits of the will to be precisely because it is attuned to the ambiguities of human existence that preclude fixed and fmal meanings. According to Beauvoir, "the disclosure implies a perpetual tension to keep being at a certain distance, to tear oneselffrom the world, and to assert oneself

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as a freedom" (EA, 23-24). Thus the requirements for ethical existence demand that

I disengage myself from the world in order to make its disclosure possible, but I

must also exercise my transcendence concretely upon the world of my concern through the pursuit of a specific project. For if the will to disclose the world does not issue in action, then it becomes an empty intellectual exercise, devoid ofethical

significance. Whereas death would seem to present a natural limit to my efforts to will my freedom in an indefinite movement, Beauvoir argues that "just as life is identified with the will-to-live, freedom always appears as a movement ofliberation.lt is only by prolonging itself through the freedom of others that it manages to surpass death itself and to realize itself as an indefmite unity" (EA, 32). Insofar as the will to disclose the world discloses a world in which I coexist with others, I cannot will to disclose the world without willing that the world should be equally disclosed to them. And Beauvoir suggests that this is a movement that I will to continue even when I am no longer part of that world and when other wills must take up my projects and transform them.

6. AN EMBODIED ETHICS

I earlier claimed that the varying interpretations offered ofBeauvoir's ethics depend

largely upon which of her existential concepts is used as the starting point for analysis. While Beauvoir's emphasis upon ethically realizing my freedom through the transformation of the givens of my situation relies primarily upon the notion of transcendence (and thereby sets up a tension between transcendence and immanence that makes the situation of the oppressed individual who does not and/or cannot seek to alter the situation extremely problematic), she also recognizes that my freedom is dependent upon the freedom of others and that actively working toward the latter is the only way of giving lasting meaning to the former. Clearly, the notion oftranscendence has not been abandoned with this focus on my relations with others; quite the contrary, the intersubjective dimensions of my existence deepen the significance of human transcendence by presenting it as a collective achievement rather than an individual project. The question remains, however, how

a collective affirmation of human freedom can be achieved in and through the various conflicts and tensions that mark intersubjective existence. Perhaps the most serious challenge to the possibility ofprolonging my freedom through assisting in the realization of the freedom of others is offered through an

extended autobiographical example provided by Beauvoir herself-namely her description ofher mother's fmal illness and subsequent death from stomach cancer in Une mort tres douce (1964; translated and published in English as A Very Easy Death, 1965). This autobiographical narrative itself has an ambiguous place in Beauvoir's work. It is not fiction, not philosophy, and not quite like her earlier

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autobiographies either, since the focus is not primarily on herselfbut on her mother, Franc;oise de Beauvoir. 3 Despite the fact that it is by no means a formal ethical treatise and has not received much philosophical attention, it is an important work to discuss because it offers a very poignant description of the challenges that deception poses to ethics. In the course of A Very Easy Death, Beauvoir reveals the limits not only of a Kantian, disembodied ethics, but also a Sartrean morality that seems inevitably to align any form of deception with bad faith. Moreover, I would argue that the ethics that appears in an unthematized form in this narrative cannot be subsumed within the disclosure of individual freedom discussed in The Ethics ofAmbiguity or within the model ofmutually confirming subjectivities that Beauvoir provides in the erotic encounter described in The Second Sex. This is because neither of these accounts can do justice to the paradoxically enabling consequences of the deception practiced by Beauvoir and her sister toward their mother in the face of her impending death. In A Very Easy Death, Simone de Beauvoir painstakingly describes the roles she, her sister, the doctors, and the nurses all played in deceiving her mother about the seriousness of her illness and the imminence of her death. Beauvoir willfully (albeit with much anguish) participates in the deception, because she recognizes that although her mother tacitly knows that she is dying, Franc;oise is not emotionally, intellectually, or physically equipped to acknowledge the diagnosis explicitly. Significantly, Beauvoir's participation in her mother's self-deception appears within the text to be an ethical response to her mother's desire even though this desire demands responses that are at odds with Beauvoir's own ethical inclinations. These latter, rejecting the path of willful self-deception, privilege the lucid evaluation of the situation that characterizes the will to disclosure. An emphasis on lucidity and a disavowal of deception is not only a key feature ofBeauvoir's and Sartre's existential frameworks, but also is foundational to the Kantian, deontological model and to the entire rationalist tradition. Indeed, Kant argues that we must abstract from the particularities of the individuals involved in a given situation in order to determine a universal ethical response to that situation. Insofar as a moral response, for Kant, rests solely on reason and must be applicable to any situation in which questions of deceiving another might arise, his ethics demands that we ignore those aspects ofFranc;oise de Beauvoir's personality that explain her desire for deception. Undoubtedly, there are many individuals (including Simone de Beauvoir herself) who would prefer the additional suffering that comes with knowing the

3 Beauvoir pursues a similar strategy in her later volume Adieux: A Farewell to Sartre, trans. Patrick O'Brian (New York: Pantheon, 1984).

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truth to any relief from suffering that might follow from allowing oneself to be deceived about one's situation. Moreover, the wish to be deceived, as Sartre points out in Being and Nothingness, is itself contradictory and doomed to failure, since one must know what one wants to be deceived about in order to engage actively in the project ofself-deception. Despite these and other difficulties with the project of self-deception, much less Fran9oise's tacit demand that her daughters assist her in realizing this project, a surprising, very un-Kantian and un-Sartrean result occurs from the family's collusion-namely, Fran9oise de Beauvoir experiences a sense of moral agency that she has perhaps never before realized (or at least has not realized since her childhood and early adolescence). The affirmation that she can demand and receive respect and consideration from others because of her bodily suffering, Beauvoir implicitly suggests, is precisely what allows Fran9oise to experience the transcendent dimensions of her own embodiment in the final days of her life. What is paramount here, just as in the erotic encounter discussed earlier, is an affirmation ofthe other as subject rather than as object. As a distinctively embodied subjectivity, the desires of the other can never be reducible to my own. However, the "bodily imperatives" that motivate Beauvoir's acceptance of her mother's wishes cannot be done justice through the model of an erotic relationship (though there are undoubtedly, as Freud and even Beauvoir herself point out, strong erotic dimensions in the child's relation to her mother). 4 The insufficiency of the erotic model provided in The Second Sex to account for these bodily imperatives becomes abundantly clear when these latter emerge from the bodies ofstrangers or even from my own body. The poignant picture Beauvoir offers in A Very Easy Death of an ethical relationship between a mother and her daughters that paradoxically arises through a shared deception requires a rethinking of the sufficiency of earlier existentialist as well as deontological models in providing a comprehensive account of our moral possibilities. This means that there is much more work to be done if we are to plumb the depths of Beauvoir's ethical insights. The challenge of such a project should not discourage us, however, since as Beauvoir herself notes in The Ethics ofAmbiguity, "There is an ethics only if there is a problem to solve" (EA, 18). In closing, I would argue that the tensions that arise among the various depictions of ethical encounters that Beauvoir offers, must be taken not as a failure on her part, but as emblematic of the multiple ambiguities that characterize human

in-depth discussion of the expression "bodily imperatives" please see chapter

seven ofmy Body Images: Embodiment as Intercorporeality (New York: Routledge, 1999). This term is intended to stress the tension between Beauvoir's embodied ethics and Kant's categorical imperative.

4 For an

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existence, ambiguities that we must all contend with on a daily basis. If it is indeed true, as she observes, that "without failure, no ethics," (EA, 10), then we must seek ethics in and through this failure rather than by striving to transcend the very need for ethics itself.

SELECTED BIBUOGRAPHY

Primary Sources

Beauvoir, Simone de. Pyrrhus et Cineas. Paris: Gallimard, 1944.

---.Pour une morale de I 'ambiguite. Paris: Gallimard, 1947; The Ethics ofAmbiguity.

Trans. Bernard Frechtman. New York: Philosophical Library 1948; rpt. Citadel Press,

1997.

---. Le deuxieme sexe. 2 vo1s. Paris: Gallimard, 1949; The Second Sex.

Trans. H.M.

Parshley. New York: Knopf, 1952; rpt. Vintage, 1989.

---. Une mort tres douce. Paris: Gallimard, 1964; A Very Easy Death. Trans. Patrick

O'Brian. New York: Pantheon, 1965.

---. La Ceremonie des adieux suivi de Entretiens avec Jean-Paul Sartre. Aout- Septembre 1974. Paris: Gallimard, 1981; Adieux: A Farewell to Sartre. Trans. Patrick

O'Brian. New York: Pantheon, 1984.

Hegel, G.W.F. Phiinomenologie des Geistes [1806]; The Phenomenology ofMind. Trans.

J.B. Baillie. London: MacMillan, 1910.

Kant, Immanuel. Grundlegung zur Metaphysik der Sitten [1785]; Groundwork of the

Metaphysic ofMorals. Trans. H.J. Paton. New York: Harper & Row, 1964. Sartre, Jean-Paul. L 'etre et le neant. Paris: Gallimard, 1943; Being and Nothingness. Trans. Hazel E. Barnes. New York: Philosophical Library, 1956.

Secondary Sources Bergoffen Debra. The Philosophy of Simone de Beauvoir: Gendered Phenomenologies,

Erotic Generosities. Albany, NY: State UniversityofNew York Press, 1997. Fallaize, Elizabeth, ed. Simone de Beauvoir: A Critical Reader. London: Routledge, 1998.

Kruks, Sonia. Situation and Human Existence: Freedom, Subjectivity, and Society. New

York: Routledge, 1990.

Lundgren-Gothlin, Eva. Sex and Existence: Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex. Trans.

Linda Schenck. Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, 1996.

Simons, Margaret. Beauvoir and The Second Sex: Feminism, Race, and the Origins of

Existentialism. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1999.

---, Pennsylvania State University Press, 1995.

Weiss, Gail. Body Images: Embodiment as Intercorporeality. New York: Routledge, 1999.

PA:

ed. Feminist Interpretations of Simone de Beauvoir.

University Park,