Lecture 2: Beauvoir Pt. 1

Dualism or Binaries- one term that’s set up in relation to another term. 





No absolute exclusion, we can live both lives, due to temporality. Understand their ambiguity

We Begin as Children

  1. The Serious World of ready-made values and established authorities
  2. We are creators of the meaning and value
  3. Metaphysically privileged existence 

Enslavement and Complicity

  1. For Beauvoir, those enslaved may be forced into a serious world of imposed values that belongs to childhood
  2. While the child’s situation is imposed, Western women (here she is writing primarily about white European woman of the mid-twentieth century) who accept their situation are complicit with it
  3. With the possibility of liberation, one gives up one’s freedom if one does not grasp it. 

The Crisis of Adolesence

  1. The time of moral decision
  2. They notice contradictions and weaknesses among adults
  3. They have to choose and decide, and assume their subjectivity
  4. They are abandoned
  5. It is the collapse of the serious world. 

Disclosed Being

  1. We cast ourselves into the world by making ourselves a lack of being in order to disclose it, to bring it into existence, to create it. 
  2. We have different bodies, but the physiological possibilites of the body are not “brute facts”. They express our relationship to the world. 
  3. Disclosing being requires an attentiveness to the world and to one’s self, that accompanies the making of signifigances and goal in the world. 


  1. Take on ready-made values of the serious world
  2. They are in denial and flight from existence
  3. They take shelter behind labels
  4. They live boredom
  5. To hide their indifference, they will readily abandon themselves to verbal outbursts or even physical violence
  6. They are more readily racist, anti-semitic. 
  7. They live in a world “deprived of meaning” and experience the absurd facticity of existence because they do not know how to justify their own experience. 

The Serious Human

  1. Even when someone choose to deny their presence in the world, they cannot keep themselves from existing, so submen can become serious humans. 
  2. Unlike the sub-humans who reject existence from the beginning, serious humans raise these questions but after a crisis turn back to a world of given values. 
  3. They lose themselves in the object in order to annihilate their subjectivity 
  4. They give up their freedom by trying to subordinate it to unconditional values. 
  5. They try to escape the stress of existence
  6. The serious emerges when freedom denies itself in face of absolute ends. 
  7. They must ceaselessly deny their freedom. 

The Fanaticism of Serious Humans. 

  1. In denying “the subjective tension of freedom” serious humans don’t allow themselves to “will freedom in an indefinite movement”. Freedom requires this movement of existence-it can never settle into being as such
  2. Serious humans refuse to recognize that they are freely establishing the value of the ends they set up, which means they give up their freedom to these ends. 
  3. For Beauvoir, goals are departures and not ends, and freedom is the “ultimate, the unique end to which humans should destine” themselves. 
  4. Serious humans engulf their “transcendence in the object which bars the horizon and bolts the sky. The rest of the world is a faceless desert”. 
  5. They try to “realize the impossible synthesis of the in-itself and the for-itself”

The Nihilist

  1. Is someone who realizes they cannot BE something, anything, and thus choose to be nothing. 
  2. Is similar to the serious humans. “Instead of realizing their negativity as a living movement, they conceive their annihilation as substance. They want to be nothing.
  3. Is “disappointed seriousness which has turned back upon itself”
  4. They wish to “rid themselves of the anxiety of their freedom by denying the world and themselves”
  5. Nonetheless, they began by throwing themselves into the world. “They exist and they know” they exist. 

The Demonical Human

  1. Is similar to the serious human
  2. They maintain the values of childhood, of a society, or of a church in order to be able to trample upon them.
  3. They want to believe in them, and confirm this belief in their revolt. 
  4. They feel themselves as a negation and a freedom but they do not realize this freedom as a “positive liberation”. 
  5. They annihilate the aims they aim at. 
  6. They are “right in thinking that the world possesses no justification that they are themselves nothing. But they forget it is up to them to justify the world” and themselves. 


  1. Throw themselves into their projects (exploration, conquest, war, speculation, love, politics). 
  2. But they do not attach themselves to the end at which they aim, only to the conquest itself. 
  3. But if the adventurer’s aim is “the liberation” of themselves and others, and they force themselves to “respect this end through the means which they use to attain it” we can no longer call them adventurers, because, they seek to extend their “freedom to an open future by means of the freedom of others”
  4. The adventurer is indifferent to both the content of the goal and to others.

Passionate Humans

  1. While in the adventurer it is the content that does not succeed in “being genuinely fulfilled”, in the passionate human “it is subjectivity which fails to fulfill itself genuinely”. 
  2. The object is set up as an absolute-not as a thing detached from themselves (like the serious human) but as a thing that is disclosed through their subjectivity
  3. The passionate man seeks possession of his lover, he seeks to attain possession of her being. 
  4. “No existence can be validity fulfilled if it is limited to itself. It appeals to the existence of others”. 

The Critic

  1. In the name of some kind of absolute truth, the critic “understands, dominates and rejects...the necessarily partial truths” disclosed by other humans. These truths are necessarily partial because no one access to an absolute truth
  2. Even the “independent” human has a “particular situation in the world”. 
  3. What they define “as objective truth is the object of their own choice”
  4. If they do not assume the subjectivity of their judgments, they ultimately revert to the serious

The Artist and the Writer

  1. Find another way to transcend existence
  2. They attempt to realize it is an absolute
  3. Their effort however is genuine because they do not claim to attain being 

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