Simone de Beauvoir

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For someone who refused to call herself a philosopher, Simone de Beauvoir had quite the influence on philosophy. Her work on existentialism (including The Ethics of Ambiguity, a user-friendly introduction to existentialist ethics) both supported and elevated her partner, Jean-Paul Sartre’s, contributions, as his did for hers in turn. Outside of strict philosophy, de Beauvoir also published The Second Sex, a landmark feminist work, and several novels. In her spare time she joined the movement to get abortion legalized in France and penned a four volume autobiography.

De Beauvoir’s sexuality remains a point of controversy, and not only because she unambiguously had affairs with other women. She and Sartre had an open relationship, with the caveat that they were required to tell each other everything. She would frequently seduce lovers to share with Sartre, a practice that became predatory when she slept with a 17 year-old student and was subsequently banned from teaching in France. Letters between the two of them contemptuously discussing their lovers were published in 1990.

 

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