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The Ethics of Ambiguity Kindle Edition

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Length: 164 pages

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About the Author

French Existentialist philosopher, intellectual, and social theorist Simone de Beauvoir (1908–1986) was best known for her writings on Existentialist ethics and feminist Existentialism, as well as for her infamous polyamorous relationship with fellow French Existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre. World-renowned for her metaphysical novels She Came to Stay and The Mandarins, de Beauvoir also wrote a number of essays on philosophy, politics, and social issues. Her diverse writings also include biographies, as well as her four-volume autobiography, made up of Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter, The Prime of Life, Force of Circumstance, and All Said and Done. In addition to her philosophical writing, de Beauvoir was an ardent feminist, her most famous philosophical work being The Second Sex, which is consistently referenced in the study of feminism.

Product Details

  • File Size: 578 KB
  • Print Length: 164 pages
  • Publisher: Philosophical Library/Open Road (December 20, 2011)
  • Publication Date: December 20, 2011
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B006CWK8UM
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #74,272 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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186 of 195 people found the following review helpful By John Russon on December 27, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent and original work of philosophy, closely related to the contemporary ideas of Sartre and Merleau-Ponty, but quite unique and not reducible to their work. I find it to be one of the best books (indeed one of the few books) to use to teach existentialism in introductory classes. I recommend skipping the first chapter, because it is self-consciously "literary," (in an obscure way), and contributes nothing essential to the book. Chapter 2 is the core of the book, and it is an incredible and compelling piece of writing that brilliantly discusses the distinctive nature of childhood experience, and then develops a dialectic of "bad faith" that offers a sort of system for understanding personality types--ways, that is, of embracing (imperfectly) our freedom. The third chapter studies politics in a very thoughtful way, (though I find it is often lost on my intro students because they just don't have enough experience of political realities to appreciate the significance of what she is saying). This text is often wrongly belittled by commentators (and, indeed, de Beauvoir herself wrongly said disparaging things about it), but I think it is one of the classic texts of existential phenomenology and deserves to be widely read.
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75 of 80 people found the following review helpful By Katharena M. Eiermann VINE VOICE on November 12, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"There is no more obnoxious way to punish a man than to force him to perform acts which make no sense to him, as when one empties and fills the same ditch indefinitely, when one makes soldiers who are being punished march up and down, when one forces a schoolboy to copy lines."

What will the modern man do when slapped in the face with the absurdity of his own existence? Become an adventurer, passionate, serious, intellectual? Where will his values come from when there are no values -- how will he create them out of nothing? Is it easier to adopt a game full of illusions created by someone else? de Beauvoir forces the reader to come face to face with the absolute absurdity of the human condition, and then, proceeds to develop a dialectic of ambiguity that will enable the reader not to master the chaos, but to create with it. This book will probably alter many well-rooted philosophical perceptions -- so, reader beware! I could have done without the dramatic image of how the Nazi's conditioned themselves to become insensitive to human suffering (de Beauvoir used as an extreme example), but oh well... This book is a keeper, and very quotable! Highly recommended, especially for those diving into the Realm of Existentialism! --Katharena Eiermann, 2006
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45 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Davyde on June 8, 2003
Format: Paperback
By exploring the meaning of "existence before essence" and the fundamental reality of choice, Beauvoir presents the reader with a livable program for life in the modern and multiplicit world; namely existentialism. Ethics is both concise and poetic, maintaining a clarity that Being and Nothingness lacks. The Second Sex is essentially an entailment of the ideas explored in this book. Few other philosophers of the 20th century were able to combine practical philosophy and rigorous metaphysics with such eloquence.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By John Russon on December 26, 2003
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent and original work of philosophy, closely related to the contemporary ideas of Sartre and Merleau-Ponty, but quite unique and not reducible to their work. I find it to be one of the best books (indeed one of the few books) to use to teach existentialism in introductory classes. I recommend skipping the first chapter, because it is self-consciously "literary," (in an obscure way), and contributes nothing essential to the book. Chapter 2 is the core of the book, and it is an incredible and compelling piece of writing that brilliantly discusses the distinctive nature of childhood experience, and then develops a dialectic of "bad faith" that offers a sort of system for understanding personality types--ways, that is, of embracing (imperfectly) our freedom. The third chapter studies politics in a very thoughtful way, (though I find it is often lost on my intro students because they just don't have enough experience of political realities to appreciate the significance of what she is saying). This text is often wrongly belittled by commentators (and, indeed, de Beauvoir herself wrongly said disparaging things about it), but I think it is one of the classic texts of existential phenomenology and deserves to be widely read.
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22 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Nate TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 27, 2009
Format: Paperback
The Ethics of Ambiguity is a first rate philosophical study, and important contribution to ethics, that demonstrates the radical freedom proclaimed by existentialists to carry with it ethical responsibilities. The insight that the essence of human being is freedom, or that we are just what we make of ourselves and there are no absolutes does not lead to nihilism, but rather to the recognition that we are answerable to the others with whom we must collaborate in the construction of human existence.

The core of the book is in the second chapter, where Beauvoir outlines a progressively more adequate series of responses to the awareness of freedom. The child can remain ignorant of the ways in which her choices reflect back upon her, and begin imperceptibly to define who she is and determine a destiny; but in adolescence we all grasp, in varying degrees, that if who we are has been shaped by the free and somewhat arbitrary choices of our parents and guardians, who we will become is up to us. It's easy, at that point, to deny or reject our freedom and fall into complacency or routine, but to do so is to be not fully human, a "sub-man" who rejects responsibility and lives just to live and according to habit. Such are easily manipulated by trends and marketing and political slogans of whatever content.
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