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The Ethics of Ambiguity [Kindle Edition]

Simone de Beauvoir
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

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Book Description

In de Beauvoir’s second major essay, the renowned French philosopher illustrates the ethics of Existentialism by outlining a series of “ways of being”

In this classic introduction to Existentialist thought, French philosopher Simone de Beauvoir’s The Ethics of Ambiguity simultaneously pays homage to and grapples with her French contemporaries, philosophers Jean-Paul Sartre and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, by arguing that the freedoms in Existentialism carry with them certain ethical responsibilities. While contemplating Nihilism, Surrealism, Existentialism, Objectivity, and human values, The Ethics of Ambiguity is a thorough examination of existence and what it means to human life.

To do this, de Beauvoir outlines a series of “ways of being” (the adventurer, the passionate person, the lover, the artist, and the intellectual), each of which overcomes the former’s deficiencies, and therefore can live up to the responsibilities of freedom. Ultimately, de Beauvoir argues that in order to achieve true freedom, one must battle against the choices and activities of those who suppress it.


Editorial Reviews

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: 341 KB
  • Print Length: 164 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 080650160X
  • Publisher: Philosophical Library/Open Road (December 20, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B006CWK8UM
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #28,053 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
(28)
4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
175 of 183 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Teaching Text for Existentialism 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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43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Concise Existential Account June 8, 2003
By Davyde
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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68 of 73 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the Realm of Existentialism 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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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Teaching Text for Existentialism. 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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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book changed my life. October 6, 2002
By Michael
Format:Paperback
This book changed my life. In precise, but understandable terms, this book offered a compelling view of existentialism, devoid of the terminological wilderness of other books on the subject (e.g. Being and Nothingness).
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Like Sarte but Better Written, More Lucid
On Being and Nothingness and Existentialism is a Humanism might cast long shadows but Simone de Beauvoir is often overlooked, despite her crisp, accessible prose and salient style. Read more
Published 24 days ago by David Peters
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Needed it for class. Same as the copy that was sold in the campus bookstore for a higher price.
Published 26 days ago by LL93
5.0 out of 5 stars Love her
My daughters middel name is Simone, just to let you know how much I love this author. Not sure if typical americans will like this somewhat depressing, melancholic, and sometimes,... Read more
Published 3 months ago by darlene rae
5.0 out of 5 stars Must Read
de Beauvoir has insights that I wish others would also learn from her, as I do today, yesterday and always.
Published 6 months ago by moises nadal
5.0 out of 5 stars The Existentialist's Handbook
Once in a while I need to be reminded what I believe. As one gets older and more feeble, courage to face the world becomes more and more difficult to muster. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Constance T. Barker
2.0 out of 5 stars Not well versed enough in her philosophy. . .
I was not educated enough in the appropriate disciplines to really understand the premise(s) of this author. Read more
Published 10 months ago by DoubleM
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful book, a must read!
Simone de Beauvoir's prose is beautifully written and packed with meaning. This is a must read for anyone interested in existentialism and ethics.
Published 11 months ago by Heather Kinney
5.0 out of 5 stars Must Read
In depth insight to the human problem of the Love-Hate relationships. de Beauvoir opens doors in our mind and heart to an area of ourselves which most people are unaware. Read more
Published 13 months ago by James
2.0 out of 5 stars Very Dense
Perhaps I should have expected this, but this work is extremely dense and requires some background reading of Beauvoir's work. Read more
Published 15 months ago by A&P
4.0 out of 5 stars I love this book
An unparalleled elegance of thought about a topic that is very important for our time, when the desire to control our world has backfired so profoundly.
Published 18 months ago by Emily Bercir Zimmerman
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