Simone de Beauvoir
1908-1986
Feminism, Existentialism, Moral Philosophy



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Simone de Beauvoir was a French existentialist philosopher who published philosophical books and essays,

Chronology

1908: Born in Paris on January 9.

1947: Publishes her work of ethics, Pour une morale de l’ambiguïté, released in English in 1970 as The Ethics of Ambiguity. She conceived this project as being to write an ethics based on Sartre’s major work, Being and Nothingness, but with this important change: “(to) convert the vain desire to be into an assumption of existence.”

However, she wrote later that of all her writings, this was the work that “irritated” her the most. FC, I, 66-67. Contemporary feminist philosophers have returned to The Ethics of Ambiguity and value it much higher than Beauvoir herself did.

1949: After publishing parts of in Les Temps Modernes (LTM), the journal she, Sartre, and Merleau-Ponty co-edited, Le Deuxième Sexe is published in Paris by Gallimard.

1953: The English translation of Le Deuxième Sexe, The Second Sex , commissioned by Alfred Knopf Publishers and done by H.M. Parshley, Harvard University zoologist, is published. Though it had been significantly abridged, as demanded by the publisher, Knopf never acknowledged that within the book’s covers. This plus serious errors in the translation itself, came to light due to the work of feminist scholars.

1955: Privilèges, a collection of her essays, is published; it includes the important essay, “Merleau-Ponty et le pseudo-sartrisme,” her defense of Sartre’s notion of phenomenology (and Marxism?) against Merleau-Ponty’s attack on it.

1958: Mémoires d’une jeune fille rangée, the first volume of her autobiography is published; the English translation, Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter, is published in 1974.

1960: La Force de l’âge, her second volume of autobiography, is published; the English translation, The Prime of Life, came out in 1966.

1963: La Force des choses, her third volume of autobiography, is published; the English translation, The Force of Circumstance, is published in 1977 in two volumes: After the War, Vol. I; Hard Times, Vol. II.

1963: L’Existentialisme et la sagesse des nations, a collection of her essays, is published.

1978: The Simone de Beauvoir Institute, honoring Beauvoir and “dedicated to studying the conditions of women’s lives,” is founded at Concordia University, in Montreal, Canada.

1979: A 30th anniversary conference honoring the 1949 publication of The Second Sex is held at New York University; this will be the first of a series of such anniversary conferences.

1980: Feminist Studies devotes its Summer issue to a selection of papers from the 1979 conference. Some consider these 1979-1980 events as turning points in creating a foundation for serious interest in Beauvoir by American feminist academics.

1986: April 14. Simone de Beauvoir dies in Paris.

1990: Deirdre Bair’s long-awaited biography is published: Simone de Beauvoir: A Biography. It is based on interviews with Beauvoir, as well as other research, and it produces discussion among a whole new cadre of readers and scholars about how closely Beauvoir’s life conformed to “feminist politics.”

2006: The Passerelle Simone-de-Beauvoir, a footbridge across the Seine in Paris, opens.

2010: After decades of lobbying by English-speaking feminist scholars, particularly Americans, for a new English translation of The Second Sex, and joined by French-speaking feminist scholars and editors, a translation by Constance Borde and Sheila Malovany-Chevallier, was published by Jonathan Cape (England) and is released by Random House (United States) in 2010.

Resources on Beauvoir are numerous. Those interested in studying her life and work have a great deal of scholarship upon which to draw; much of it is currently in print, as is evident through online searches or a search in any large university library. In addition to books and articles on her work and her life, there have also been whole conferences devoted solely to Beauvoir, over the years, and some of that scholarship has been published as well.

Special thanks to Jo-Ann Pilardi, a de Beauvoir scholar for this material.

Click here to read some works of Simone de Beauvoir .

Simone de Beauvoir is among the more than 100 women featured in A Pictorial History of Women Philosophers photo album, and is featured on the cover of

Busted!! A Pictorial History of Women Philosophers Volume 4.

This page was last updated 12/15/14.

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