The Second Sex

The Role of Existentialism in Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex College

While Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex is known primarily as a feminist text, it is Jean-Paul Sartre’s existentialist philosophy that influenced Beauvoir’s writings. As existentialists, these philosophers argue that philosophical thinking begins with the human subject and not the thinking subject alone. Sartre argues that philosophical thinking starts with the acting, feeling, living human individual. For an existentialist, the starting point of a being is when one senses disorientation or dread when looking at the world. For existentialists, it is the individual and not society that determines and is responsible for the meaning of their own life. Beauvoir takes existentialist philosophy and transforms it into a discussion on feminism, racism, motherhood and many other topics. In this essay, I will show how Jean-Paul Sartre’s philosophy influenced Simone de Beauvoir’s theories on feminism. It is through Sartre’s use of the character, Inez, in “No Exit” that show how existentialist philosophy’s role is played in the discussion of Hell. It is Sartre’s thoughts that influence Beauvoir’s thoughts on topics in this life rather than in the afterlife. In Margaret A. Simons’ book, Beauvoir and The Second Sex: Feminism, Race, and the...

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