Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1996)
Simone de Beauvoir was born in Paris to an
upper-class family, but when she was young her family lost their
money. Without servants to do the work, her mother took over the
domestic chores. Watching her mother, who resented the unfairness,
but didn’t question that it was her duty, affected de Beauvoir
greatly. She decided that people should be free from prejudices
about the sexes.
De Beauvoir was a part of a school of philosophy called existentialism,
which focused on individual human existence. Among the animals
only people are creative and can rise above their creaturehood
to create their own lives. De Beauvoir incorporated what she learned
watching her mother into her book The Second Sex, which was the
first time anyone had explored why women allowed themselves to
be dominated by men. She decided that “women are not born,
but made.” Because of this book and her work for the independence
of women, de Beauvoir is known as “the mother of feminism.”
De Beauvoir believed that one way for women to achieve their freedom
was through education. They could only rise above the oppression
by using their brainpower. She also believed that freedom of choice
was the measure of morality and immorality. Good acts increase
one’s freedom, while bad ones limit ones freedom.
De Beauvoir went to university at the Sorbonne in Paris, where
she met Jean-Paul Sartre, another existentialist philosopher.
They were partners until his death in 1980. She considered this
period to be a moral phase of her life and it led to the writing
of most of her books and essays.
Classroom Discussion Questions:
Simone de Beauvoir were alive today, how would she answer the
question, "Which is more powerful, love or hate "?
- In a historical context, what would Simone
de Beauvoir think was the greatest
challenge facing humankind during her lifetime?
- How was existentialism different from earlier
philosophies, such as the writings of Kant, Plato, Dewey, and
- De Beauvoir never married, never had children,
and refused the conventional female role. According to her philosophy,
why were these choices more moral than following “the
- Would de Beauvoir believe that women still
are oppressed? Why or why not? Do you think women are oppressed?
Why or why not?
To learn more about
Simone de Beauvoir, follow these links:
TO LEARN ABOUT OUR OTHER "PHILOSOPHERS
OF THE WEEK" CLICK ON ONE OF THE LINKS BELOW.
• Dewey • Socrates
• Plato • Confucius
• Rand• Locke
• Camus • Cavendish
• Sartre •
Rousseau • King• Descartes
• Spinoza • de
Beauvoir • Nietzsche
• Kant •
Hypatia • Thoreau