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Beauvoir, Simone de (1908–86)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-DD078-2
Version: v2,  Published online: 2017
Retrieved July 17, 2024, from

Article Summary

Beauvoir was an existentialist philosopher, novelist and writer. Her early philosophical work (including The Ethics of Ambiguity, 1947) attempted to develop an existentialist ethics, rethinking the ideas of freedom, responsibility and action through the prism of the self–other relation. Her work helped to shift existential thought towards a greater emphasis on embodiment and the analysis of oppression. This approach culminated in The Second Sex (1949), an interdisciplinary study of the oppression and situation of women. This is both a historical investigation into the social conditions that cast women as 'Other' and second to men and a philosophical (existential and phenomenological) account of the lived experience of 'feminine' existence. The Second Sex is of outstanding importance for feminist philosophy and the philosophy of sex and gender, as well as being a major influence on the women's movement since the 1960s. Beauvoir is also well known for her philosophical novels and plays, political essays, travel writing and published letters. Her last book, Old Age (1970), is one of very few philosophical works on ageing and old age. She was co-founder (1945) and lifetime editor of the important political and philosophical journal Les temps modernes. As a prominent public intellectual she was an influential supporter of many leftist and, in later life, feminist causes.

Citing this article:
Sandford, Stella. Beauvoir, Simone de (1908–86), 2017, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-DD078-2. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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