SIMONE DE BEAUVOIR Biography - Writers


Biography » writers » simone de beauvoir


De Beauvoir grew up in a respected borgeois family, the eldest of two daughters.         
She adopted atheism while still an adolescent, and decided to devote her life to         
writing and studying.                                                                     
She graduated from the Sorbonne in 1929, writing a thesis on Leibniz. Philosophy         
was, for her a discussion and study of the essentials of existence-- though she           
was also fascinated by beauty and aesthetics.                                             
De Beauvoir taught high school while developing the basis for her philosophical           
thought between 1931 and 1943. Following in the tradition of the 18th century 'gadfly'   
philosophe's, De Beauvoir used her background in formal philosophy to voice her           
sentiments on feminism and existentialism.                                               
Jean-Paul Sartre and De beauvoir met after her studies in the Sorbonne, the               
beginning of a friendship which lasted until his death in 1980. This period               
began what she described as a 'moral' phase of life; the culmination of which             
was her most important philosophical work, The Ethics of Ambiguity(1948). She             
began the phase with an essay entitled Pyrrhus et Cineas(1944), and the earlier           
novel called L'Envitee(1943).                                                             
No doubt born of the confusion and madness of WWII, De Beauvoir included in her           
Ethics Sartre's ontology of being-for-itself and being-in-itself. She also draws         
heavily on his conception of human beings as creatures who are free. Freedom of           
choice, humanity's utmost value, is the criterion for morality and immorality in         
one's acts. Good acts increase one's freedom, while bad ones limit that freedom.         
No doubt, her linkage to Sartre was the reason that she received the unwanted             
title of existentialist. Among other things, she also was an anti-colonialist,           
publicly criticising France's position in Algiers, a pro-abortionist and a               
socialist with Marxist sympathies.                                                       
Her major thrust into philosophical analysis was due to her life-long friendship         
with Sartre. Using some of the ideas she worked with in Ethics and a few of the           
underpinnings of existentialism as described by Sartre, she went on to produce           
her famous work, The Second Sex. Working with the idea that women are the "other,"       
and another statement: "that women is not born, but made," De Beauvoir delves             
deep into the history of women's oppression. This was the definitive declaration         
of woman's independence.                                                                 
Her other works include a four part autobiography, a prize winning novel called           
The Mandarins, and a novel condemning society for its treatment of the elderly,           
The Coming of Age. Writing on her mother's death she produced A Very Easy Death.         
One of her final novels was a diary recording the slow lingering death of her             
friend Sartre, called Adieux: A Farewell to Sartre.                                       
Her final words on Sartre's death(and her own, in Adieux) were:                           
"My death will not bring us together again. This is how things are. It is in             
itself splendid that we were able to live our lives in harmony for so long."