Post-Kantian European Philosophy Seminar (Tuesday - Week 6, HT23)
In the introduction of The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir warns her reader against an evaluation of women’s situation through the prism of women’s happiness and affirms instead: ““The perspective we adopt is the one of existentialist ethics.” For a long time, people have taken this sentence to mean she was applying Sartre’s philosophy to the problem of gender inequality and a significant amount of Beauvoir scholarship is devoted to disproving this view. In this paper, I aim to show, however, that understanding what Beauvoir meant by this “perspective” of “existentialist ethics” involves understanding how she appropriated and transformed Heideggerian ontology in order to guard existentialism of the solipsistic pitfall threatening it. In other words, Beauvoir’s reading of Heidegger is what enables her to transform existentialism into a moral, social, and finally political philosophical movement. To establish this, I focus, first, on the centrality of Heideggerian ontology in her “moral period” (Pyrrhus and Cineas and Toward an Ethics of Ambiguity) before demonstrating how this appropriation of Heideggerian ontology allows her, in The Second Sex, to overcome the tension between essentialism and social constructionism in her understanding of femininity through the concept of “situation”.
Post-Kantian European Philosophy Seminar Convenors: Joseph Schear, Manuel Dries, and Mark Wrathall