Simone de Beauvoir / 1908–1986 / France / Philosopher, Essayist, Novelist, Memoirist
Work almost always has a double aspect: it is a bondage, a wearisome drudgery; but it is also a source of interest, a steadying element, a factor that helps to integrate the worker with society. Retirement may be looked upon either as a prolonged holiday or as a rejection, a being thrown on to the scrap-heap.La vieillesse [Old Age] (1970).
Society cares about the individual only in so far as he is profitable. The young know this. Their anxiety as they enter in upon social life matches the anguish of the old as they are excluded from it.La vieillesse [Old Age] (1970).
In order for the artist to have a world to express he must first be situated in this world, oppressed or oppressing, resigned or rebellious, a man among men.Pour une morale de l’ambiguïté [Towards an Ethics of Ambiguity] (1947).
There is only one good. And that is to act according to the dictates of one’s conscience.Tous les hommes sont mortels [All Men Are Mortal] (1946].
To will freedom and to will to disclose being are one and the same choice.Pour une morale de l’ambiguïté [Towards an Ethics of Ambiguity] (1947).
. . . the individual is defined only by his relationship to the world and to other individuals; he exists only by transcending himself, and his freedom can be achieved only through the freedom of others.Pour une morale de l’ambiguïté [Towards an Ethics of Ambiguity] (1947).
That’s what I consider true generosity. You give your all, and yet you always feel as if it costs you nothing.Tous les hommes sont mortels [All Men Are Mortal] (1946).
One is not born a genius, one becomes a genius; and the feminine situation has up to the present rendered this becoming practically impossible.Le deuxième sexe [The Second Sex] (1949).
I wish that every human life might be pure transparent freedom.Le sang des autres [The Blood of Others] (1945).
What has value in their eyes is never what is done for them; it’s what they do for themselves.Tous les hommes sont mortels [All Men Are Mortal] (1946].
It is impossible to do anything for anyone.Tous les hommes sont mortels [All Men Are Mortal] (1946].
If you live long enough, you’ll see that every victory turns into a defeat.Tous les hommes sont mortels [All Men Are Mortal] (1946].
After wars peace, after peace, another war. Every day men are born and others die.Tous les hommes sont mortels [All Men Are Mortal] (1946].
Men of today seem to feel more acutely than ever the paradox of their condition. They know themselves to be the supreme end to which all action should be subordinated, but the exigencies of action force them to treat one another as instruments or obstacles, as means. The more widespread their mastery of the world, the more they find themselves crushed by uncontrollable forces.Pour une morale de l’ambiguïté [Towards an Ethics of Ambiguity] (1947).
The fact that we are human beings is infinitely more important than all the peculiarities that distinguish human beings from one another.Le deuxième sexe [The Second Sex] (1949).
One’s life has value so long as one attributes value to the life of others, by means of love, friendship, indignation and compassion.La vieillesse [Old Age] (1970).
To emancipate woman is to refuse to confine her to the relations she bears to man, not to deny them to her; let her have her independent existence and she will continue none the less to exist for him also: mutually recognising each other as subject, each will yet remain for the other an other. The reciprocity of their relations will not do away with the miracles—desire, possession, love, dream, adventure—worked by the division of human beings into two separate categories; and the words that move us—giving, conquering, uniting—will not lose their meaning. On the contrary, when we abolish the slavery of half of humanity, together with the whole system of hypocrisy that it implies, then the “division” of humanity will reveal its genuine significance and the human couple will find its true form.Le deuxième sexe [The Second Sex] (1949).
It is for man to establish the reign of liberty in the midst of the world of the given. To gain the supreme victory, it is necessary, for one thing, that by and through their natural differentiation men and women unequivocally affirm their brotherhood.Le deuxième sexe [The Second Sex] (1949).
To “catch” a husband is an art; to “hold” him is a job.Le deuxième sexe [The Second Sex] (1949).
The curse which lies upon marriage is that too often the individuals are joined in their weakness rather than in their strength, each asking from the other instead of finding pleasure in giving.Le deuxième sexe [The Second Sex] (1949).
It was said that I refused to grant any value to the maternal instinct and to love. This was not so. I simply asked that women should experience them truthfully and freely, whereas they often use them as excuses and take refuge in them, only to find themselves imprisoned in that refuge when those emotions have dried up in their hearts.La force des choses [The Force of Circumstance] (two volumes) (1963).
At the present time there still exist many doctrines which choose to leave in the shadow certain troubling aspects of a too complex situation. But their attempt to lie to us is in vain. Cowardice doesn’t pay. Those reasonable metaphysics, those consoling ethics with which they would like to entice us only accentuate the disorder from which we suffer.Pour une morale de l’ambiguïté [Towards an Ethics of Ambiguity] (1947).
From the very beginning, existentialism defined itself as a philosophy of ambiguity.Pour une morale de l’ambiguïté [Towards an Ethics of Ambiguity] (1947).
It’s frightening to think that you mark your children merely by being yourself. . . . It seems unfair. You can’t assume the responsibility for everything you do—or don’t do.Les Belles Images [The Beautiful Images] (1966).
To be gazed at is one danger; to be manhandled is another. Women as a rule are unfamiliar with violence, they have not been through the tussles of childhood and youth as have men; and now the girl is laid hold of, swept away in a bodily struggle in which the man is the stronger. She is no longer free to dream, to delay, to maneuver: she is in his power, at his disposal.Le deuxième sexe [The Second Sex] (1949).
What did today’s sacrifices matter: the Universe lay ahead in the future. What did burnings at the stake and massacres matter? The Universe was somewhere else, always somewhere else! And it isn’t anywhere: there are only men, men eternally divided.Tous les hommes sont mortels [All Men Are Mortal] (1946].
. . . the Sahara was a spectacle as alive as the sea. The tints of the dunes changed according to the time of day and the angle of the light: golden as apricots from far off, when we drove close to them they turned to freshly made butter; behind us they grew pink; from sand to rock, the materials of which the desert was made varied as much as its tints.La force des choses [The Force of Circumstance] (two volumes) (1963).
We were two of a kind, and our relationship would endure as long as we did: but it could not make up entirely for the fleeting riches to be had from encounters with different people.Reported by Lisa Appignanesi in “Did Simone de Beauvoir’s Open ‘Marriage’ Make Her Happy?,” The Guardian, June 9, 2005.
Self-knowledge is no guarantee of happiness, but it is on the side of happiness and can supply the courage to fight for it.La force des choses [The Force of Circumstance] (two volumes) (1963).
From primitive times to our own, intercourse has always been considered a “service” for which the male thanks the woman by giving her presents or assuring her maintenance; but to serve is to give oneself a master; there is no reciprocity in this relation.Le deuxième sexe [The Second Sex] (1949).
They were walking side by side, but each was alone.Tous les hommes sont mortels [All Men Are Mortal] (1946].
I tore myself away from the safe comfort of certainties through my love for truth—and truth rewarded me.Tout compte fait [All Said and Done] (1972).
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. There was Stalingrad and there was Buchenwald, and neither of the two wipes out the other. Since we do not succeed in fleeing it, let us therefore try to look the truth in the face. Let us try to assume our fundamental ambiguity. 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.Pour une morale de l’ambiguïté [Towards an Ethics of Ambiguity] (1947).
Insects were scurrying about in the shade cast by the grass, and the lawn was a huge monotonous forest of thousands of little green blades, all equal, all alike, hiding the world from each other. Anguished, she thought, “I don’t want to be just another blade of grass.”Tous les hommes sont mortels [All Men Are Mortal] (1946]; Regina.
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.Tous les hommes sont mortels [All Men Are Mortal] (1946]; Regina.
All agree in recognising the fact that females exist in the human species; today as always they make up about one half of humanity. And yet we are told that femininity is in danger; we are exhorted to be women, remain women, become women. It would appear, then, that every female human being is not necessarily a woman; to be so considered she must share in that mysterious and threatened reality known as femininity.Le deuxième sexe [The Second Sex] (1949).
One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.Le deuxième sexe [The Second Sex] (1949).