Simone de Beauvoir, Philosophy, and Feminism

Simone de Beauvoir, Philosophy, and Feminism

Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Simone de Beauvoir, Philosophy, and Feminism
    Book Description:

    In the introduction to The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir notes that "a man never begins by establishing himself as an individual of a certain sex: his being a man poses no problem." Nancy Bauer begins her book by asking: "Then what kind of a problem does being a woman pose?" Bauer's aim is to show that in answering this question The Second Sex dramatizes the extent to which being a woman poses a philosophical problem.

    This book is a call for philosophers as well as feminists to turn, or return to, The Second Sex. Bauer shows that Beauvoir's magnum opus, written a quarter-century before the development of contemporary feminist philosophy, constitutes a meditation on the relationship between women and philosophy that remains profoundly undervalued. She argues that the extraordinary effect The Second Sex has had on women's lives, then and now, can be traced to Beauvoir's discovery of a new way to philosophize -- a way grounded in her identity as a woman. In offering a new interpretation of The Second Sex, Bauer shows how philosophy can be politically productive for women while remaining genuinely philosophical.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-52917-4
    Subjects: Philosophy, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Introduction: Recounting Woman
    (pp. 1-18)

    Then what kind of problem does being a woman pose? The burden of this book is to show that in formulating this question and enacting answers to it, Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex dramatizes the extent to which being a woman poses a philosophical problem—which is to say, a problem for and of philosophy. To say that it is a problem for philosophy is to propose that insofar as philosophy fails to take account of the being of woman it cannot lay claim to the universality for which, by its own lights, it must strive; it lacks the...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Is Feminist Philosophy a Contradiction in Terms? First Philosophy, The Second Sex, and the Third Wave
    (pp. 19-45)

    Although most of us have come to terms politically with the idea of feminist philosophy, there is ample evidence that for the most part neither feminists nor philosophers wish to bestow unqualified intellectual approval on it.¹ From the point of view of skeptical feminists, philosophy—with its emphasis on passionless thinking, reason, objectivity, universality, essences, and so forth apotheosizes a way of encountering the world that is inherently and hopelessly tailored to serve the interests of men and thwart those of women. From the point of view of skeptical philosophers, on the other hand, philosophy’s unimpeachable commitment to open inquiry...

  6. CHAPTER 2 I Am a Woman, Therefrom I Think: The Second Sex and the Meditations
    (pp. 46-77)

    Suppose that we take seriously Simone de Beauvoir’s claim that a mark of (male) arrogance is the refusal to acknowledge that someone’s words are uttered on, or from, the side of objectivity. Then to accuse someone of arrogance is to suggest that he or she is unjustly seizing the authority to judge the authority of another person’s words. But what is to count as a just claim to the authority to do this judging? Does Beauvoir wish to contradict herself when she speaks of her objectivity in The Second Sex and implies that it is fueled by what she has...

  7. CHAPTER 3 The Truth of Self-Certainty: A Rendering of Hegel’s Master-Slave Dialectic
    (pp. 78-103)

    Anyone interested in inaugurating an investigation from the inside into the nature of philosophy’s relationship with women must be sensitive to the possibility that her very starting points or methods are part of the problem. The question is how to conduct a genuinely philosophical investigation into the nature of sex bias in philosophy—that is, an investigation that does not take its own immunity from such bias for granted. I’m going to claim in the course of the next five chapters that Simone de Beauvoir provides an answer to this question. In her work, I want to argue, we find...

  8. CHAPTER 4 The Conditions of Hell: Sartre on Hegel
    (pp. 104-135)

    At the end of his play No Exit, written directly after Being and Nothingness, Jean-Paul Sartre famously has the protagonist, Garcin, come to the scandalous conclusion that “hell is other people!” Although as his thinking progressed Sartre was increasingly at pains to distinguish Garcin’s outburst from his own considered opinion on the role other people play in an individual’s life, I want to argue here that in both content and tone the line accurately emblematizes his appropriation in Being and Nothingness of Hegel’s master-slave dialectic. For Sartre, the dialectic is to be interpreted as allegorizing the general nature of interaction...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Reading Beauvoir Reading Hegel: Pyrrhus et Cinéas and The Ethics of Ambiguity
    (pp. 136-171)

    My task in this chapter is to begin to indicate why I believe that it is not until Beauvoir goes through the process of writing The Second Sex that she hits her philosophical stride. Unlike many early readers and critics of The Second Sex, however, I wholeheartedly embrace the view, espoused by most contemporary revisionist readers, that it is ludicrous to see Beauvoir, even in her pre–Second Sex philosophical writings, as simply parroting or in some minimally creative way defending the views of Jean-Paul Sartre. Any serious reader of Beauvoir cannot help but notice that much of what Beauvoir...

  10. CHAPTER 6 The Second Sex and the Master-Slave Dialectic
    (pp. 172-199)

    “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.” These words, which open the second volume of The Second Sex, are without doubt the most famous ever penned in the service of liberating human beings from the constraints imposed upon them by, or that they impose on themselves through, sex difference. One finds them cited everywhere in the literature on sex roles; for feminists, Beauvoir’s famous sentence is no less of a landmark, of no less historical import, than Neil Armstrong’s assessment of the significance of his first steps on the moon. Indeed, the ritualistic intoning of this line has...

  11. CHAPTER 7 The Struggle for Self in The Second Sex
    (pp. 200-238)

    These three sentences, which close the “History” section of The Second Sex, are to be read, I want to argue, as a reminder of the precarious position from which Beauvoir authors her book. Unless we read her as wishing to exempt herself from being a woman—something that, in the light of my reading of her ambitions in chapter 2 I hope seems highly implausible—then the constraints on women Beauvoir is referring to here, summed up by the idea that their “being-for-men” is an essential part of their lives, are to be seen as constraints on Beauvoir herself. For...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 239-280)
    (pp. 281-292)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 293-306)