publisher colophon

I argue that Simone de Beauvoir's chapter "Biological Data," from The Second Sex, is grounded in her reading of Hegel's Philosophy of Nature. This reading reveals original formulations of her understanding of the concept of life, the relation of the individual organism to the species, and the supposed necessity of heterosexual reproduction. Beauvoir's strategic engagement with Hegel on the themes of organic life and the rational division of the sexes deepens our understanding of the complexity of Beauvoir's approach in The Second Sex and opens up radically different possibilities regarding the configuration and metaphysical necessity of human sexuality and reproduction.


Beauvoir, Hegel, biology, sexuality, reproduction, feminism

Much maligned for deeply problematic language describing female physiology and its peculiar use of "data," Simone de Beauvoir's chapter on biology from The Second Sex appears to be an unusual entry point into the question of woman as Other. In "Biological Data," Beauvoir traces a relationship between the female animal and the species that becomes more alarming as she moves from unicellular organisms to complex mammalian life. By the time she reaches human beings, we are bombarded with passages emphasizing woman's "enslavement" to the species, the tyranny of [End Page 396] her hormonal and reproductive life, and the impeding effects of physical limitations. Such claims lead commentators to accuse Beauvoir, for example, of adopting an Aristotelian model of women as little more than "deformed males"1 or of parroting Sartre's "master's voice" and his own horror of the flesh.2 Others more charitably remind us that we misread Beauvoir if proper attention is not paid to how all facts are filtered through culturally situated lenses.3 I propose that the "Biological Data" chapter is grounded in Beauvoir's reading of Hegel's Philosophy of Nature. This reading, which infuses the entirety of The Second Sex, reveals original formulations of the concept of life, the relation of the individual organism to the species, and the necessity of heterosexual reproduction.4 Although much work has been done on Beauvoir's engagement with the Phenomenology of Spirit (in particular, the master-slave dialectic),5 little has been done on her utilization of the Philosophy of Nature.6 From this work, Beauvoir takes up Hegel's natural philosophy in two significant ways: a positive adaptation and a ground for critique. First, she adapts Hegel's understanding of "life" as the core component of her formulation of "immanence." However, she understands life not merely as immanence but, rather, as the infinite intertwining of transcendence and immanence, thus allowing her to argue that organic life is integral to our embodiment without being reduced to it. Second, she shows how Hegel's articulation becomes a justification for a rational division of sexes in animal life, thus promoting heterosexual reproduction as nature's highest goal. Beauvoir's strategic engagement with Hegel on these points not only deepens our understanding of the complexity of Beauvoir's approach in The Second Sex but opens radically different possibilities regarding the configuration and metaphysical necessity of human sexuality and reproduction.

Hegel's Philosophy of Nature: On Life and Reproduction

According to Hegel, "life" is that which, through infinite, circular, repetitious processes, maintains the living thing—specifically, the animal organism—thus providing the necessary conditions for the emergence of subjectivity. Life preserves wholeness in the face of opposition and contradiction; it functions at the irrational level to sustain unity while preserving differentiation. In the encyclopedic system, nature—positioned in between Logic and the Philosophy of Spirit—is the ultimate barrier that must be overcome and [End Page 397] incorporated in order for the infinite, self-determining spirit to come to know itself. Hegel explains: "Nature has presented itself as the Idea in the form of otherness. … [E]xternality constitutes the specific character in which Nature, as Nature, exists."7 Caught between abstract and concrete mind, nature is enmeshed in various stages of "externality"—a kind of disassociated, dispersed, side-by-sideness of objects and systems, lacking internal coherence and relationality. The natural world is matter, partes extra partes, yearning for the concept to progressively overcome materiality.8 Nature is merely a product of what came before and a prefiguration of what is to come, but in itself lost in contingency and determinateness—at least, that is, until animal life appears in the final stages of nature's development.

Whereas plants remain locked in immediacy, exhibiting merely formal unity, the animal organism "exists as subjectivity in so far as the externality proper to shape is idealized into members, and the organism in its process outwards preserves inwardly the unity of the self."9 The animal, unlike the plant, is a subject. This means that rather than being wholly externally determined by environment, animals preserve themselves inwardly, forming a mediated unity that allows for the emergence of self-determination and autonomous action. Hegel finds animal life to be a concrete (that is, differentiated) unity that is relatively free from the externality that dominates nature as such. Somewhat unencumbered by natural forces, the animal exhibits individuality emerging from under the domination of the environment and even of the species.

Animals operate according to complex processes that require entanglement with the outside world (processes such as digestion, sensation, metabolism, etc.) without being wholly determined by it. As such, animal life is sustained through biological repetitions that form a kind of circular infinity—cycles of breathing, eating, defecating, sensing, circulating, and so on—all of which continue, more or less invariably, until the death of the organism. Although these organic cycles never reach stasis, they do not themselves progress but, rather, continue in infinite loops, preserving the organism's vitality. They function as the living background noise necessary for freedom to become actualized. In this vein, Hegel claims that the structure of life "is essentially process … in which the organism converts its own members into a non-organic nature, into means, lives on itself and produces its own self … [and] maintains itself."10 Life is the totality of organic processes that allow the organism to persist in the face of external and internal contradictions.11 The repetitions that are performed [End Page 398] in the organism are marked by a peculiar kind of infinity: "A being which is capable of containing and enduring its own contradiction is a subject; this constitutes its infinitude."12 Maintaining the unity of the body as it struggles with the environment (which can be more or less hostile) and with itself (as various systems conflict with each other and the world) requires constant upkeep. Life is thus characterized by infinite systemic maintenance, cyclical repetitions, and the preservation of unity within difference.

All, however, is rarely harmonious in the animal's experience. The animal's subjective unity suffers from lack, want, need, and a general deficiency marked by its finitude.13 This lack forms the impetus for the organism's motivation to perform particular actions. Actual infinity—true freedom—is the movement of spirit to transcend limitations. Because of their embodied finitude, animals feel needs, accompanied by corresponding urges (in the form of instincts) that motivate them to overcome the feeling of lack. This feeling drives organisms to seek fulfillment in order to purge this defect. Because nature cannot be a site where free recognition happens, there must be something else that functions to drive out biological deficiency. For Hegel, reproduction serves this purpose.

The conflict between the universality of the genus (Gattung) and the immediate singularity of the living (natural) being motivates animals to engage in copulation (itself a kind of prefiguration of the desire felt by self-consciousness for recognition).14 The sex relation is a direct result of the animal feeling a disjunction between its individuality and the higher universality of the genus to which it owes its existence. Hegel describes this feeling of a "defect" on the part of the individual in relation to the genus as the single motivating factor for copulation: "The genus is therefore present in the individual as a straining against the inadequacy of its single actuality, as the urge to obtain its self-feeling in the other of its genus, to integrate itself through union with it and through this mediation to close the genus with itself and bring it into existence."15 The single motivating factor for sexual reproduction is therefore the desire (in the form of instinct) to "fix" the defect of embodied animal finitude.

Unsatisfied with simply claiming that animals are drawn to reproduction through a feeling of deficiency in relation to the universal, Hegel quickly moves to posit an inequality between the sexes, even though both experience the urge (Trieb) to overcome the limits of individuality. Hegel here adopts a thoroughly Aristotelian stance where the genitals [End Page 399] indicate a natural axis of female inferiority and male superiority. At this point, he shares some of his finest gems in defense of sexual inequality: The ovary is likened to an enclosed testicle, which "does not develop on its own account into active brain"; the "clitoris is inactive feeling in general"; the uterus is defined as "a simple retention" that in the male is "split into the productive brain and the external heart"; "the male is the active principle, and the female is the receptive, because she remains in her undeveloped unity"; and finally, "the female contains the material element but the male contains the subjectivity."16 These sorts of conclusions are not only thoroughly outdated; they are in important ways utterly unnecessary for the analysis that Hegel is undertaking—a point made clear by Beauvoir below.17 Animal finitude does not require an inequality of the sexes to motivate copulation. Here is where Beauvoir deconstructs Hegel's rationalization of biological facts, providing one of the first and clearest critiques of Hegelian thinking in The Second Sex.

Beauvoir's Critical Appropriation of Hegel's Philosophy of Nature

To put it gently, Beauvoir's discussion of biology yields often limited and problematic scientific analyses. I will neither defend nor critique Beauvoir's odd descriptions of female weakness and passivity regarding sexuality and maternity. I agree wholeheartedly with Moira Gatens that for Beauvoir, "the situation of the existent is composed of both facts and values, both nature and culture, both biology and consciousness,"18 and thus we have to remember that every so-called datum is always to be understood as part of a complex web of social and historical forces.19 However, to miss the significance of biology and physiology—even in contemporary discussions of sex, gender, and identity—is to do a disservice to feminist analysis, even if those discussions can occasionally veer off the tracks.

It is somewhat surprising that Hegel figures so prominently in the biology chapter. Even more surprising, Beauvoir does not take up the Phenomenology as she does elsewhere but, rather, quotes directly from the Philosophy of Nature—three times, in fact. While this is a text that few Hegel scholars take very seriously, Beauvoir leans on it heavily, alerting her readers to its importance in this first study. Whereas life is something that the Hegelian dialectic is eager to sublate into spirit, for Beauvoir, life is always intimately intertwined with action. In fact, life is not separate [End Page 400] from spirit but is, rather, the infinite exchange between immanence and transcendence.

Beauvoir typically associates transcendence with futurity, creativity, and freedom but always balances it with the equally necessary force of immanence, itself associated with repetition, conservation, maintenance, nourishment, stasis, objectification, and temporal stability.20 Although both transcendence and immanence are necessary forces in the propagation and advancement of human beings, not only does the former movement take on greater esteem than the latter, but transcendence comes to be associated with men, thus imprisoning women in the repetitious and monotonous practices of immanence—those practices that perpetuate and maintain life at the animal level. This is a foundational insight into the historical oppression of the feminine;21 however, Beauvoir constantly challenges this dichotomy throughout the book. There is no transcendence without immanence, no freedom without maintenance: "There are two movements that come together in life, and life maintains itself only by surpassing itself. It does not surpass itself without maintaining itself; these two moments are always accomplished together."22 This claim has profound implications on the rest of her analysis of woman's situation because it shows us something about the human situation in general: "It is true that in both these active operations—maintenance and creation—the synthesis of becoming is not realized in the same way. Maintaining means denying the dispersion of instants, thereby affirming continuity in the course of their outpouring; creating means exploding an irreducible and separate present within a temporal unity."23 For Beauvoir, transcendence and immanence are two interrelated, active, and equal aspects of life. There is no separating them, except in abstraction. In fact, it is the interchange of the two that constitutes the very ambiguity of existence.

Splitting transcendence and immanence creates an artificial division in what Beauvoir conceives life as such to be.24 She insists that the division between maintenance and creativity is not a difference between passivity and activity and therefore, by extension, between women and men (even though historically this is precisely what occurred). Although women become tied to the maintenance of life at the expense of creative activity, this is not to condemn them to the passive side of the equation as if it were a metaphysical fact. Both maintaining (in the sense of continuity and sustenance) and creating (in the sense of disruption, plurality, and novelty) are necessary in the becoming characteristic of life, even at (perhaps especially at) the level [End Page 401] of biology. Here, the echo of Hegel's own division can be heard. Clearly influenced by her reading of The Philosophy of Nature, Beauvoir posits life in the form of immanence as infinite, cyclical processes requiring constant maintenance. But unlike in Hegel, immanence and transcendence together form life as such. Separating natural life as immanence and spiritual life as transcendence proves decisive in the oppression of the feminine other. Assigning immanence to the feminine (in the form of domestic and reproductive labor) bolsters the patriarchy, which promotes itself as autonomous, rational, and transcendent—or as unnatural. But this division does not come from nowhere, which is why the opening chapter on biology plays such a significant role in the work as a whole.

Although Beauvoir contends that she is not trying to propose a "philosophy of life" in her discussion of biology, she does concede a foundational character to the two dynamic forces of maintenance and surpassing: "Without coming to any conclusion about life and consciousness, we can affirm that any living fact indicates transcendence, and that a project is in the making in every function."25 The claim that every biological function is a project in the making is certainly no offhand comment, as she clearly holds that biological and physiological factors are integral to understanding the complexities of lived experience (even as she is cognizant that the interpretation and application of these forces is never disinterested). This awareness of the significance of biology and particularly of its misapplication leads Beauvoir to focus on the animal's relationship to the species through individuation and reproduction. Taking Hegel on directly, she argues that although sexuality holds ontological significance, it—particularly heterosexual reproduction—is not necessarily implied in human being.26

Resonant with The Philosophy of Nature, Beauvoir discusses how simpler life-forms are sacrificed entirely to the repetition of life, whereas more complex organisms display increasingly pronounced individuation. As the male becomes more vibrant and aggressive, the female remains a "slave" of the species.27 Thus, even at the level of sexual difference, there is a "split of the two vital moments, maintaining and creating," which fall to females and males, respectively.28 Such a claim sounds highly suspicious from a philosopher who asks us not to think of the feminine as an inescapable destiny. But Beauvoir clarifies that "the phenomenon of reproduction can be considered as ontologically grounded" without sexual difference being necessary.29 Clearly, as she observes, this is factually true insofar as [End Page 402] many animal species reproduce asexually. But even in mammals—and thus, by direct implication, humans—sexual difference is not an absolute but more a reflection of the current state of patriarchal gender codes. After briefly mentioning the treatment of sexual difference in Plato, Aristotle, and Aquinas, Beauvoir turns to a more extensive treatment of Hegel to make this point clearer. She notes that Hegel "would have been untrue to his rationalist passion had he not attempted to justify it [sexual difference] logically."30 She then twice quotes the Philosophy of Nature. The first deals with the relationship between the genus and the species through copulation, and the second is from the following Zusatz: "The process consists in this, that they become in reality what they are in themselves, namely, one genus, the same subjective vitality."31 I want to pause here to point out something remarkable. This demonstrates not only that Beauvoir read The Philosophy of Nature but that she read both the published paragraphs and the Zusätze. This particular passage concerns the relationship of the individual to the species—the culmination of sexual reproduction for Hegel, where the animal attempts to overcome its subjective defect ("cette disproportion de sa réalité individuelle")32 by merging with the universal genus. Beauvoir zeroes in on this moment where sexual reproduction is motivated by the feeling of a lack in the individual organism. However, she criticizes Hegel for forcing the tripartite dialectical movement onto sexual difference: "His demonstration is not convincing: the preconceived idea of locating the three moments of the syllogism in any operation is too obvious here. The surpassing of the individual toward the species, by which individual and species accomplish themselves in their own truth could occur without the third element, by the simple relation of genitor to child: reproduction could be asexual."33 Since the movement from the individual to the species does not necessarily require sexual difference and copulation, she hypothesizes other ways for animals to relate and differentiate, pointing out asexual reproduction and hermaphroditism as alternatives. Additionally, Beauvoir asks the question that clearly resonates with feminist concerns: Why can't the individual overcome its feeling of lack through the relation of parent to offspring, rather than in the sexual union itself? Perhaps this suggestion is more profound than she realizes. The individual in Hegel seeks to overcome its finitude by merging with the genus through copulation so as to produce offspring for species perpetuation. But the product of copulation equally fulfills this distinctly Hegelian urge without necessitating heterosexual sex or requiring the importation of binaries [End Page 403] of passivity/activity, weakness/strength, undeveloped/developed, and so on produced through rationalized sexual differentiation.34

Quite simply, sexuality itself, for Beauvoir, is not necessarily implied in human being: "Hegel's description brings out a very important significance of sexuality: but he always makes the same error of equating significance with reason."35 The Hegelian move to force a necessary sexual division in animal reproduction inaugurates the pernicious binary that oppresses the feminine. Quoting the Philosophy of Nature again, Beauvoir rebukes Hegel for replicating the Aristotelian fallacy: "Because of this differentiation, man is thus the active principle while woman is the passive principle because she resides in her non-developed unity."36 Although Beauvoir's (often incorrect) presentation of biological and physiological facts can be suspect, they still serve the primary purpose of showing us that though they matter, they do not determine. Hegel is useful insofar as he illustrates the philosophical moment where life is riven and heterosexual reproduction becomes the zenith of woman's oppression. But as Beauvoir argues, there is no reason to posit a fixed destiny: "Presence in the world vigorously implies the positing of a body that is both a thing of the world and a point of view on this world: but this body need not possess this or that particular structure."37


Beauvoir observes that "most philosophies have taken sexual differentiation for granted without attempting to explain it."38 Hegel is formative insofar as he not only explains it—he bases social inequality on it. This is not to say that Beauvoir does not take the biological body seriously, only that she refuses to grant it ontological primacy as she sees the potentially unavoidable myopia and practical inequality it engenders. Beauvoir's reading of The Philosophy of Nature provides her with a framework to interpret immanence as the work necessary for maintaining and nourishing the biological body, without it producing sexually differentiated bodies and tasks.39 Hegel's notion of life becomes one-half of the ambiguous and dynamic interplay of the forces of preservation (immanence) and disruption (transcendence) in Beauvoir's analysis, a thread traceable throughout The Second Sex. The originality of her reading begins when she notes not only the necessity of both forces in the phenomenon of life but what happens when—through a variety [End Page 404] of historical and cultural impositions—transcendence and immanence are split between men and women. As Beauvoir adopts another Hegelian insight, namely, that consciousness defines itself oppositionally through an other that it seeks to dominate, such a diremption contributes formidably in the oppression of woman.

With the separation of these interrelated and equal aspects of life onto two different sexes, we see how Beauvoir is able to dismantle Hegel's rationalization of sexual difference. Recall that in the Philosophy of Nature, the organism seeks union with another of its kind through sexual reproduction in order to rid itself of the feeling of a defect in relationship to the genus. Even if there is any value to this notion, Beauvoir underscores the fundamental misstep taken by Hegel (one that illuminates much of western thinking on this point). This "defect" or "lack" comes to be part of the very definition of the feminine as Other,40 rather than something that is simply human (or even animal). And this occurs largely—just as it does in Hegel's analysis of animal reproduction—through a wholly unnecessary distinction between male and female reproductive bodies and functions. Beauvoir is critical not only of this distinction as one resulting in bodily allocations of activity/passivity and superiority/inferiority but also of the entire structure that it gives rise to and perpetuates: sexual reproduction as the necessary goal of animality and thus an inexorable dimension of human being. This is why she makes what remains a truly radical claim: "One of the essential features of man's destiny is that the movement of his temporal life creates behind and ahead of him the infinity of the past and the future: the perpetuation of the species appears thus as the correlative of individual limitation, so the phenomenon of reproduction can be considered as ontologically grounded. But this is where one must stop; the perpetuation of the species does not entail sexual differentiation. … [A] society can be imagined that reproduces itself by parthenogenesis or is composed of hermaphrodites."41 In short, sexual difference is not necessary for the continuation of human society. And if sexual difference is not necessary, then neither is heterosexual reproduction. Life, conceivably, could be sustained and advanced through completely different structures—ones that could potentially reinstate and even heighten the dynamic and ambiguous interplays of existence. The possibilities of myriad lived experiences of hermaphroditism alone push us to imagine differently sexed beings and novel forms of sexual expression. [End Page 405]

However, Beauvoir's rejection of sexual difference and heterosexual reproduction as necessary features of human society is not to be taken lightly. Particularly in the age of looming global catastrophe, confronting what it means for the species to reproduce itself takes on heightened urgency. Though Beauvoir was not thinking in terms of whether or not we should continue to reproduce (worrying more about forced reproduction and its role in the oppression of women), we would do well to think through to the conclusion of what Beauvoir raises in her discussion of biological data. We must ask, even more pointedly: If heterosexual reproduction is not ontologically grounded, is reproduction itself so grounded? And if not, what does this mean regarding our commitments to the species and the earth upon which it lives? Clearly these are questions far too great to answer in this article but questions my argument presses us to engage directly and honestly, in the spirit of Beauvoir's own project of emancipation and ethical commitment.

Shannon M. Mussett
Utah Valley University


1. Charlene Haddock Seigfried, "Second Sex: Second Thoughts," Hypatia 8, no. 3 (1985): 226.

2. Toril Moi, "Existentialism and Feminism: The Rhetoric of Biology in The Second Sex," Oxford Literary Review 8, no. 1 (1986): 91.

3. See, for example, Judith Butler, "Sex and Gender in Simone de Beauvoir's Second Sex," in Simone de Beauvoir: A Critical Reader, ed. Elizabeth Fallaize (London: Routledge, 1998), 29–42; Elizabeth Fallaize, "A Saraband of Imagery: The Uses of Biological Science in Le deuxième sexe," in The Existential Phenomenology of Simone de Beauvoir, ed. Wendy O'Brien and Lester Embree (Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Press, 2001), 67–84; Moira Gatens, "Beauvoir and Biology: A Second Look," in The Cambridge Companion to Simone de Beauvoir, ed. Claudia Card (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 266–85; and Julie K. Ward, "Beauvoir's Two Senses of 'Body' in The Second Sex," in Feminist Interpretations of Simone de Beauvoir, ed. Margaret A. Simons (University Park: Penn State Press, 1994), 223–42.

4. The edition of The Philosophy of Nature that Beauvoir used included the Zusätze from Michelet's text (1847). Hegel's three Encyclopedias offer dense claims followed by Zusätze (explanations) where he elaborates and clarifies his main arguments. Although there is justified concern in Hegel scholarship about the inclusion of the Zusätze, Beauvoir clearly utilizes them, thus removing any concerns about their inclusion in this article.

5. See, for example, Nancy Bauer, Simone de Beauvoir, Philosophy, and Feminism (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001); Eva Lundgren-Gothlin, Sex and [End Page 406] Existence: Simone de Beauvoir's "The Second Sex" (Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 1996); and Shannon M. Mussett, "Conditions of Servitude: The Peculiar Role of the Master-Slave Dialectic in Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex," in The Philosophy of Simone de Beauvoir: Critical Essays, 276–93.

6. Both Kimberly Hutchings, in Hegel and Feminist Philosophy (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2003), and Alison Stone, in "Matter and Form: Hegel, Organicism, and the Difference Between Women and Men" (in Hegel's Philosophy and Feminist Thought: Beyond Antigone? ed. Kimberly Hutchings and Tuija Pulkkinen [Basingstoke, U.K.: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010], 211–32), address the presence of the Philosophy of Nature in The Second Sex, but neither develops how profoundly it colors Beauvoir's overall philosophical framework.

7. G. W. F. Hegel, Philosophy of Nature: Being Part Two of the Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences, trans. A. V. Miller (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1970), 14.

8. Stone, "Matter and Form," 225.

9. Hegel, Philosophy of Nature, 351; last italics my own.

10. Ibid., 376.

11. For a similar claim, see G. W. F. Hegel, The Phenomenology of Spirit, trans. A. V. Miller (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977), 108.

12. Hegel, Philosophy of Nature, 385.

13. Luca Illeterati explains it succinctly: "If a living being did not have needs or deficiencies, it would not be a living being anymore" ("The Concept of Organism in Hegel," Verifiche 42, nos. 1–4 [2014]: 159).

14. Hegel, Philosophy of Nature, 410; Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, 109.

15. Hegel, Philosophy of Nature, 411; also directly quoted by Beauvoir in "Biological Data."

16. Hegel, Philosophy of Nature, 413.

17. Stone argues that "if Hegel is an essentialist with respect to sex, he is a metaphysical rather than a biological essentialist" ("Matter and Form," 222).

18. Gatens, "Beauvoir and Biology," 281.

19. In fact, Beauvoir's reading of biology "may yield a more radical view of the human subject than feminists have hitherto supposed her to have held" (ibid., 267).

20. Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, trans. Constance Borde and Sheila Malovany-Chevallier (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010), 17, 73, 82, 468.

21. Andrea Veltman elaborates how transcendence, as creative, constructive, and active, remains somewhat free from biological fate, whereas immanence involves uncreative chores that sustain life, thus submitting more readily to biological fate. Andrea Veltman, "Transcendence and Immanence in the Ethics of Simone de Beauvoir," in The Philosophy of Simone de Beauvoir, ed. Margaret Simons (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006), 119.

22. Beauvoir, Second Sex, 28.

23. Ibid., 38. [End Page 407]

24. Beauvoir's take on the distinction between life and existence in Hegel is one in which the former is a condition for the latter but yet remains "radically distinct." As a condition, nature is such in two ways: "first because existence is always embodied and therefore mortal (temporal); second, because nature provides the raw material of the situation which existence is defined as oriented to negate and transcend" (Hutchings, Hegel and Feminist Philosophy, 63).

25. Beauvoir, Second Sex, 26. This position is very close to the one held by Maurice Merleau-Ponty in his Phenomenology of Perception, trans. Donald A. Landes (London: Routledge, 2014); and his The Structure of Behavior, trans. Alden L. Fisher (Boston: Beacon Press, 1963).

26. The emphasis that sexual difference and reproduction are not essential for human being is repeated in the following chapter of Beauvoir's The Second Sex, "The Psychoanalytic Point of View" (55–56).

27. Beauvoir writes that "in the higher forms of life, reproduction becomes the production of differentiated organisms; it has a twofold face: maintenance of the species and creation of new individuals" (ibid., 33). What is surprising to Beauvoir is that these two moments of perpetuation and creation "break" and "divide" along sexually differentiated lines (34).

28. Ibid., 35.

29. Ibid., 24. In addition, "it has to be pointed out first the very meaning of division of the species into two sexes is not clear" (21). Consistently, Beauvoir follows Hegel's analysis of sexual difference, where males are associated with activity and individuality and females are associated with passivity and species identification, while vigilantly remaining "critical" of it (Hutchings, Hegel and Feminist Philosophy, 66).

30. Beauvoir, Second Sex, 23.

31. Ibid., quoting G. W. F. Hegel.

32. Simone de Beauvoir, Le deuxième sexe, vol. 1 (Paris: Gallimard, 1976), 39.

33. Beauvoir, Second Sex, 23–24.

34. Beauvoir quips, "Perhaps man's cooperation in procreation would one day become useless: that seems to be many women's desire" (ibid., 26).

35. Ibid., 24.

36. Ibid., 25, quoting Hegel.

37. Ibid., 24; italics my own.

38. Ibid., 23.

39. This is where Luce Irigaray's philosophy of sexual difference must be addressed, as Ann V. Murphy pointed out in her commentary on the present article presented at the 2016 annual meeting of the Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy in Salt Lake City, Utah. Although this is the next logical step, it requires greater attention than it can be given here.

40. Beauvoir, Second Sex, 5.

41. Ibid., 24. [End Page 408]

Additional Information

Print ISSN
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.