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Beauvoir and Western Thought from Plato to Butler

Shannon M. Mussett, William S. Wilkerson

Publication Year: 2012

Essays on Beauvoir’s influences, contemporary engagements, and legacy in the philosophical tradition. Despite a deep familiarity with the philosophical tradition and despite the groundbreaking influence of her own work, Simone de Beauvoir never embraced the idea of herself as a philosopher. Her legacy is similarly complicated. She is acclaimed as a revolutionary thinker on issues of gender, age, and oppression, but although much has been written weighing the influence she and Jean-Paul Sartre had on one another, the extent and sophistication of her engagement with the Western tradition broadly goes mostly unnoticed. This volume turns the spotlight on exactly that, examining Beauvoir’s dialogue with her influences and contemporaries, as well as her impact on later thinkers—concluding with an autobiographical essay by bell hooks discussing the influence of Beauvoir’s philosophy and life on her own work and career. These innovative essays both broaden our understanding of Beauvoir and suggest new ways of understanding canonical figures through the lens of her work.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-11

As is only fitting, my first thank you is to Bill Wilkerson, who instantly took up this project from my first pitch to a table of Beauvoireans many years ago. Working with him has been nothing short of ideal. he is generous, intelligent, hardworking, and philosophically imaginative. he is also a dear friend. I would also like to thank all of the contributors to this collection. your work has inspired me deeply and will ...

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Editor’s introduction

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pp. 1-13

More than twenty years after her death, the magnetism and authority of Simone de Beauvoir’s writings continue to inspire new theories and connections in philosophical thinking. the resulting explosion of interest and scholarship treats her as a fully independent thinker, expressing her own views on ethics, politics, sexuality, literature, existentialism, and phenomenology. although she now stands ...

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The Literary Grounding of Metaphysics: Beauvoir and Plato on Philosophical Fiction

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pp. 15-33

Simone de Beauvoir’s essay, “literature and Metaphysics” (1946) advocates for the metaphysical novel on the grounds that it provides a rich dialogue between lived experience, artistic creation, and philosophical practice. outright rejecting the possibility of philosophers like Aristotle, Spinoza, or Leibniz writing novels because of the absence of subjectivity and temporality in their works, Beauvoir finds the case ...

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Existence, Freedom, and the Festival: Rousseau and Beauvoir

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pp. 35-54

Festivals, those often creative, frequently spontaneous, and always exuberant celebrations, hold us captive only for a short time, perhaps in spite of our efforts to forestall their demise. But the importance of festivals is not just in the revelry. as Simone de Beauvoir reminds us, they also exhibit aspects of the relation between the self and the other that have implications for ontology, ethics, and politics. as ...

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A Different Kind of Universality: Beauvoir and Kant on Universal Ethics

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pp. 55-73

Beauvoir’s ethics reconciles individual freedom with the need for the other. from her moral conversion during the war,1 through the moral and philosophical essays of the 1940s, to Le deuxième sexe and Les Mandarins, one idea characterizes this reconciliation: all free individuals have a reciprocal need for the other, which only mutual generosity satisfies. another’s freedom both completes and sustains my ...

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Simone de Beauvoir and the Marquis de Sade: Contesting the Logic of Sovereignty and the Politics of Terror and Rape

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pp. 75-89

Sade the person was a torturer and a rapist. Sade the author created characters and spectacles that justified torture and rape. yet Simone de Beauvoir refused to dismiss him as a mere pornographer or a common criminal. in accordance with the principles of The Ethics of Ambiguity, she credited him with having formulated an authentic ethics. She recognized him as articulating and epitomizing the existential ...

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Beauvoir and Marx

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pp. 91-102

For someone like me whose early exposure to philosophy as a student occurred in the united States of the mid-twentieth century, when the heavy Cold War atmosphere so well described by Simone de Beauvoir in The Mandarins1 was still quite prevalent (though somewhat modified by virtue of the real though tenuous “thaw” resulting from Nikita Khrushchev’s acknowledgment of Stalinist atrocities), it is ...

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Saving time: Temporality, Recurrence, and Transcendence in Beauvoir’s Nietzschean Cycles

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pp. 103-123

in The Second Sex Simone de Beauvoir primarily uses Fiedrich Nietzsche as a source of quotations that convey, like stinging arrows, exactly what is wrong with the feminine condition. although she writes in her autobiography that she read Nietzsche with enthusiasm as a student, and she quotes very different, and more positive passages from his work in her ...

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Beauvoir and Husserl: An Unorthodox Approach to the Second Sex

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pp. 125-151

With these very explicit words Beauvoir breaks away from two frameworks that have structured and overshadowed our theorization of the mind-body relationship since early modernity. on the one hand, she rejects all versions of psycho-physical parallelism, the earlier ontological versions as well as more recent methodological versions;1 on the other hand, she also abandons all varieties of ethical naturalism ...

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Beauvoir and Bergson: A Question of Influence

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pp. 153-170

Simone de Beauvoir’s early enthusiasm for the philosophy of henri Bergson (1859– 1941)—denied in her 1958 autobiography, Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter—is a surprising discovery in her 1927 handwritten student diary, as I reported in 1999 and explored at more length in 2003 (Simons 1999; Simons 2003). Discovered by Sylvie le Bon de Beauvoir after Beauvoir’s death in 1986, and now housed in ...

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Beauvoir and Merleau-Ponty: Philosophers of Ambiguity

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pp. 171-189

Most often, when we attempt to chart the influence of one scholar on another, what we are seeking to describe is a one-way relationship; we are usually trying to determine how one person’s work set the stage for those who followed him or her. famous examples of these types of relationships in the continental philosophical tradition include those in which the later thinker’s work builds on themes addressed ...

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From Beauvoir to Irigaray: Making Meaning out of Maternity

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pp. 191-209

While Simone de Beauvoir and Luce Irigaray may differ on questions of sameness and difference, I believe that they share a common feminist project. Both Beauvoir and Irigaray work to articulate what is required for women to become subjects; both argue that woman is a project, a becoming. In this essay, I explain what I take to be their underlying shared phenomenological-existentialist approach to the question ...

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Ambiguity and Precarious Life: Tracing Beauvoir’s Legacy in the Work of Judith Butler

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pp. 211-226

The review of a new English translation of Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex that appeared in the New York Times Book Review (May 27, 2010) raised the question of Beauvoir’s relevance today. Francine du Plessix Gray, while conceding that the book was “passionate,” and “awesomely erudite,” nonetheless dismissed the book as antiquated in terms of its contemporary relevance. She did so in quite strong terms: ...

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True Philosophers: Beauvoir and bell

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pp. 227-236

often in scholarly works focused on Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre critics dedicated to separating truth from fiction insist on accurately identifying Beauvoir as a philosopher, refusing to simply lay claim to her self-chosen identity as writer. She insisted: “I am a writer. . . . I have written novels, philosophy, social ...


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pp. 237-240


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pp. 241-248

Back Cover

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p. 266-266

E-ISBN-13: 9781438444567
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438444550

Page Count: 272
Publication Year: 2012