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Situating ExistentialismKey Texts in Context$
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Robert Bernasconi and Jonathan Judaken

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780231147750

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: November 2015

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231147750.001.0001

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Simone de Beauvoir in Her Times and Ours

Simone de Beauvoir in Her Times and Ours

The Second Sex and Its Legacy in French Feminist Thought

(p.360) 13 Simone de Beauvoir in Her Times and Ours
Situating Existentialism

Debra Bergoffen

Columbia University Press

This chapter examines Simone de Beauvoir’s 1949 book The Second Sex and its place in contemporary French feminist discussions. In particular, it discusses the issues The Second Sex raises, the analyses it provides, and the criteria of justice it invokes in relation to de Beauvoir’s claim, in The Ethics of Ambiguity (1947), that existentialism is the philosophy for our times because it is the only philosophy that takes the question of evil seriously. It also argues that The Second Sex is relevant today not only as an analysis of patriarchy but also because it is grounded in the categories and claims of The Ethics of Ambiguity about the need to confront evil, which continue to provide insight into a host of contemporary issues such as gender oppression. Finally, the chapter outlines a genealogy of postwar French feminism that interprets their critical voices as commentators on the tensions already signaled in de Beauvoir’s scrutiny of gender oppression, giving rise to multiple avenues for feminist thought.

Keywords:   feminism, Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, The Ethics of Ambiguity, existentialism, philosophy, evil, patriarchy, gender oppression, justice

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