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The Ethics of Ambiguity

A foundational text of existentialist philosophy

By Simone de Beauvoir
13-minute read
Audio available
The Ethics of Ambiguity by Simone de Beauvoir

The Ethics of Ambiguity (1947) is one of the foundational texts of existentialist philosophy. It's both a succinct summary of existentialist thought and a thorough interrogation of its ethical ramifications in the real world. By reflecting on what it means to be human, this book is a call to recognize and act upon one fundamental truth of our existence: that we are free.

  • Philosophically minded people who want to understand their existence.
  • Activists who seek to make the world a better place.
  • Anyone who exists and wants to know what to do about it.

Simone de Beauvoir was a French intellectual, writer, activist, feminist, and philosopher. A prolific writer, de Beauvoir wrote across multiple genres, including literature, social commentary, and biography, although she's most famous for her contributions to existentialist philosophy and feminism. She's noted especially for her groundbreaking book The Second Sex, which has since become one of the foundational texts of contemporary feminism.

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The Ethics of Ambiguity

A foundational text of existentialist philosophy

By Simone de Beauvoir
  • Read in 13 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 9 key ideas
Upgrade to Premium Read or listen now
The Ethics of Ambiguity by Simone de Beauvoir
Synopsis

The Ethics of Ambiguity (1947) is one of the foundational texts of existentialist philosophy. It's both a succinct summary of existentialist thought and a thorough interrogation of its ethical ramifications in the real world. By reflecting on what it means to be human, this book is a call to recognize and act upon one fundamental truth of our existence: that we are free.

Key idea 1 of 9

What's in it for me? Embrace your inherent freedom to determine your own life and achieve your full potential. 

If you're reading this, it means you exist. It also means that, at this moment, you made the decision to learn about an aspect of philosophy. You could have done any number of other things, but you chose to be right here, right now.

At every moment of your life, you make decisions just like this. Although you've got to wonder: are you really making the best choices in every situation and taking advantage of your freedom to live the life you want? Or are you merely playing a character in someone else's script?

These aren't easy questions to answer, which shouldn't be surprising since they're the central ethical questions of human existence. That's where these blinks come in. They're based on a classic text from 1947, and are designed to help you find practical advice from the world of existentialist thought so that you can decide for yourself how to live your life.

In these blinks, you'll learn

  • which personality type you fall under in de Beauvoir's moral taxonomy of people;
  • how Salazar, the Fascist Portuguese dictator, squandered public money; and
  • when, if ever, violence is justified.
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