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Go to the Index of 120 Philosophers Squared

Simone de Beauvoir (1908 – 1986) was a French existential feminist and Marxist. There is only one good. And that is to act according to the dictates of one’s conscience.

Simon de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir when a child

Instead of living out my small private existence, I was participating in a great spiritual epic.

Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir, philosopher

Quotations of Simone de Beauvoir from: WikiQuotes, GoodReads, EGS,


One does not offer an ethics to a God.

I was accused of preaching sexual promiscuity; but at no point did I ever advise anyone to sleep with just anyone at just any time; my opinion on this subject is that all choices, agreements and refusals should be made independently of institutions, conventions and motives of self-aggrandizement.

I tore myself away from the safe comfort of certainties through my love for truth – and truth rewarded me.

Defending the truth is not something one does out of a sense of duty or to allay guilt complexes, but is a reward in itself.

That’s what I consider true generosity. You give your all, and yet you always feel as if it costs you nothing.

We must not confuse the present with the past. With regard to the past, no further action is possible.

Capabilities are clearly manifested only when they have been realized.

Change your life today. Don’t gamble on the future, act now, without delay.

My life was hurrying, racing tragically toward its end. And yet at the same time it was dripping so slowly, so very slowly now, hour by hour, minute by minute. One always has to wait until the sugar melts, the memory dies, the wound scars over, the sun sets, the unhappiness lifts and fades away.

Regardless of the staggering dimensions of the world about us, the density of our ignorance, the risks of catastrophes to come, and our individual weakness within the immense collectivity, the fact remains that we are absolutely free today if we choose to will our existence in its finiteness, a finiteness which is open on the infinite. And in fact, any man who has known real loves, real revolts, real desires, and real will knows quite well that he has no need of any outside guarantee to be sure of his goals; their certitude comes from his own drive.

And without a doubt it is more comfortable to endure blind bondage than to work for one’s liberation; the dead, too, are better suited to the earth than the living.

I wish that every human life might be pure transparent freedom.

One’s life has value so long as one attributes value to the life of others.

To lose confidence in one’s body is to lose confidence in oneself.

She would never change, but one day at the touch of a fingertip she would fall to dust.

Even if one is neither vain nor self-obsessed, it is so extraordinary to be oneself – exactly oneself and no one else – and so unique, that it seems natural that one should also be unique for someone else.

On paper, I make time stand still and I impose my convictions on the whole world; they become the only reality.

I was made for another planet altogether. I mistook the way.

Tragedies are all right for a while: you are concerned, you are curious, you feel good. And then it gets repetitive, it doesn’t advance, it grows dreadfully boring: it is so very boring, even for me.

I could see no reason for being sad. It´s just that it makes me unhappy not to feel happy.

Today, however, we are having a hard time living because we are so bent on outwitting death.

A day in which I don’t write leaves a taste of ashes.

One is not born a genius, one becomes a genius; and the feminine situation has up to the present rendered this becoming practically impossible.

There is not a single line in this diary that does not call for a correction or a denial…Yes: throughout these pages I meant what I was writing and I meant the opposite; reading them again I feel completely lost…I was lying to myself. How I lied to myself!

Self-consciousness is not knowledge but a story one tells about oneself.

To be oneself, simply oneself, is so amazing and utterly unique an experience that it’s hard to convince oneself so singular a thing happens to everybody.

There is only one solution if old age is not to be an absurd parody of our former life, and that is to go on pursuing ends that give our existence a meaning.

Yet such experiences have an inestimable impact: this is how an individual in the headiness of freedom and discovery learns to look at the entire world as his fief…[The girl] may feel alone within the world: she never stands up in front of it, unique and sovereign.

All the opportunities you let slip by! The idea, the inspiration just doesn´t come fast enough. Instead of being open, you´re closed up tight. That´s the worst sin of all – the sin of omission.

Life is occupied in both perpetuating itself and in surpassing itself; if all it does is maintain itself, then living is only not dying.

…but all day long I would be training myself to think, to understand, to criticize, to know myself; I was seeking for the absolute truth: this preoccupation did not exactly encourage polite conversation.

She, like the child, is able to see it objectively; instead of being interested solely in her grasp on things, she looks for their significance; she catches their special outlines, their unexpected metamorphoses.

You have never had any confidence in him. And if he has no confidence in himself it is because he sees himself through your eyes.

He formed his sentences hesitantly and then threw them at me with such force that I felt as if I were receiving a present each time

A freedom which is interested only in denying freedom must be denied. And it is not true that the recognition of the freedom of others limits my own freedom: to be free is not to have the power to do anything you like; it is to be able to surpass the given toward an open future; the existence of others as a freedom defines my situation and is even the condition of my own freedom. I am oppressed if I am thrown into prison, but not if I am kept from throwing my neighbor into prison.

To will oneself moral and to will oneself free are one and the same decision.

There is no justification for present existence other than its expansion into an indefinitely open future.

I was very fond of Lagneau’s phrase: “I have no comfort but in my absolute despair.”

Every individual concerned to justify his existence feels that his existence involves an undefined need to transcend himself, to engage in freely chosen projects.

No group ever defines itself as One without immediately setting up the Other opposite itself. It only takes three travelers brought together by chance in the same train compartment for the rest of the travellers to become vaguely hostile ‘others’.

one can never know oneself but only narrate oneself

Time is beginning to flow again.

He walks in the street, a picture of modesty in his felt hat and his gabardine suit, and all the while he’s thinking, “I’m immortal.” The world is his, time is his, and I’m nothing but an insect.

One day I’ll be old, dead, forgotten. And at this very moment, while I’m sitting here thinking these things, a man in a dingy hotel room is thinking, “I will always be here.”

Dare to believe me. Dare!

You’re unique like all other women.

There is only one good. And that is to act according to the dictates of one’s conscience.

What has value in their eyes is never what is done for them; it’s what they do for themselves

It is impossible to do anything for anyone.

Try to stay a man amongst men … There’s no other hope for you.

It is old age, rather than death, that is to be contrasted with life. Old age is life’s parody, whereas death transforms life into a destiny: in a way it preserves it by giving it the absolute dimension. Death does away with time.

Those reasonable metaphysics, those consoling ethics with which they would like to entice us only accentuate the disorder from which we suffer.

In spite of so many stubborn lies, at every moment, at every opportunity, the truth comes to light, the truth of life and death, of my solitude and my bond with the world, of my freedom and my servitude, of the insignificance and the sovereign importance of each man and all men.
It is in the knowledge of the genuine conditions of our life that we must draw our strength to live and our reason for acting.

I am incapable of conceiving infinity, and yet I do not accept finity. I want this adventure that is the context of my life to go on without end.


COMMENTS
I read Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex the month before I entered the US Air Force, that would have been October 1958. It was the last book I had time to read for several years as after that I was totally involved in flight training to become a pilot. When I read that book it had been a year and a half since my close friend Cynthia Schuster had been fired from her job as professor of Philosophy at Washington State College, because of her corrupting the youth. I was that exact youth that was being corrupted, but the authorities had it exactly backwards, it was my behavior of inviting J. Robert Oppenheimer to speak at our school that was corrupting her. That was the era of the Red Scare brought about by Senator Joe McCarthy and his paranoid hatred that came precisely down upon the two of us. I knew that Cynthia had spent WWII in France with some philosophers, but it wasn’t until doing this post that it became apparent that Cynthia was a “twin sister” of Simone. That’s the way she looked and that’s the way she acted – totally self-willed and independent and expecting that of her friends.

In doing these posts I call Philosophers Squared it became apparent that the Classic Stoics were my underpinnings of habitual behavior, the philosophers of modern science like Karl Popper my intellectual ones, but it now feels like the French Existentialists were my emotional ones. How strange it seems to be so old and finally realizing these things. This curious knowledge of my past will give me some clear direction going forward. There is only one solution if old age is not to be an absurd parody of our former life, and that is to go on pursuing ends that give our existence a meaning.

It never occurred to me but, [S]He formed his sentences hesitantly and then threw them at me with such force that I felt as if I were receiving a present each time. What memories, blurred by more than half a century of wandering, but they were somehow bored into my core. I remember going to the library and looking at the check-out cards in the philosophy books to see which ones Cynthia had checked out, and reading those.

There is only one good. And that is to act according to the dictates of one’s conscience.

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