“My job is my life,” Simone de Beauvoir once said. She said it was an existentialist: for her, life and thought were inextricably linked; we are what we are doing.
Existentialism is a philosophy that defines the conditions of human existence, but denies any concept of human nature; a philosophy that affirms human freedom, but emphasises that it does not bring empowerment to happiness, but anxiety and despair, a philosophy that states that people have choices, but express little optimism that we will use them properly, either for good, or even what it means to make the right choices.
Precisely, at this point, is the moment that Simone de Beauvoir creates a gap from her living partner Jean-Paul Sartre. Beauvoir’s existence is widespread in her many works, literally and theoretically, including in classic feminism, the Second Sex.
However, it finds its most clear and rigorous form in its book that is relatively underestimated, Ethics of Ambiguity.
The title is intriguing and not even attractive at the same time: The fact that an Existentialist speaks clearly about ethics (instead of easily pointing to our inevitable freedom) is a rare approach, but it is certain that ethics that binds himself to the two-meaning is difficult to think that it may suggest a useful answer to morality problems.
This is exactly as Beauvoir intended.
It accepts the existential principles of Sartre, that has no human nature and that human freedom is absolute.
Since in any situation, we always have the choice of choice. In other words, human life is not on autopilot or at least there is no manual instruction to show how to make the right and correct decision.
This means there is a lot of room for ambiguity, Beauvoir tells us to face and live with it. Starting from this ambiguity, there seems to be little room for moral theorization.
We should not expect absolute solutions and lasting answers: “People fill themselves in transitional fashion, or at all.” This does not mean that all ways of living and all directions are equally good.
The way forward is to look at the nature of our relationship with other people.
Sartre’s existentialism leads to a pure individual, in which the fact that there are other people poses a constant threat to ‘bad faith’. Others judge us and impose limits on us in an unbearable measure that “Hell is the other.” In contrast, Beauvoir’s individualism is more pronounced, in a Kantian way: “Is this kind of individualistic ethics, is it? Yes, if one means that it accords the individual with an absolute value and knows only in that power laid on the foundation of his existence. … The individual gets meaning only from his relationship with the world and with other individuals…. his freedom can only be achieved through the freedom of others. “
And here we are at last: “No existence can be met in a valid way if it is limited in itself.”
Beauvoir’s ethics sees the existence of another as an opportunity. In fact, it is the only opportunity we have to give reality and meaning to what we do, and therefore what we are: We should invite others to join our plans. Beauvoir gives examples of how many of us use the mistake, or at least, the freedom that has been given to you. It also explains how freedom for children differs from that for adults. Children can do what they want to some extent, without being morally judged because they are generally free from obedience by others. But not adults, but still some adults struggle and live in naive childhood freedom. Others try to control or manipulate people in order to limit their freedom – a tactic which, according to Beauvoir, is ironically cursed to end up with self-indulgence and limit your own freedom.
A mature and constructive way of our freedom, our only way of fulfilling ourselves as individuals, involves making a ‘prayer’ to others to attract them and their attention and co-operation.
This short space is completely inadequate to give you an idea of how rich the Beauvoir ethics is. So you will have to read “The Ethics of Ambiguity”. It’s beautifully written – do not forget that Beauvoir was a highly regarded novelist and author and worked hard to show his ideas of importance not only to moral theorists, but to the whole human kind.
Why? Because all our lives are related to others, from ambiguity and freedom. This is completely clear.
Article Contributed by: Spiro Veneti