The Legacy of Simone de Beauvoir

The Legacy of Simone de Beauvoir

The Legacy of Simone de Beauvoir

The Legacy of Simone de Beauvoir

Synopsis

The legacy of Simone de Beauvoir has yet to be properly assessed and explored. The 50th anniversary of the publication ofThe Second Sexinspired this volume, which brings together philosophers and literary critics, some of whom are well known for their books on Beauvoir (Bauer, Le Doeuff, Moi), others new to Beauvoir studies though long familiar with her work (Grosholz, Imbert, James, Stevenson, Wilson).
One aim of this collection is to encourage greater recognition of Beauvoir's philosophical writings through systematic reflection on their place in the canon and on her methods. The Second Sexplayed a central role in the profound shift in philosophy's self-understanding that took place in the latter half of the twentieth century, and today offers new problems for reflection and novel means for appropriating older texts. Its reflective iconoclasm can be compared to that of Descartes'Meditations; its enormous, directly discernible impact on our social world invites comparison with Locke'sTwo Treatises of Government.
The collection also examines the relationship between Beauvoir's literary writing and her philosophical thought. Deeply concerned with the critical and creative powers of reason as well as with the betterment of our suffering world, Simone de Beauvoir wrote in a variety of genres in addition to the philosophical essay: the novel, political journalism, and the memoir. The multiplicity of her voices was closely related to her philosophical project. Since Beauvoir's method (like that of W. E. B. du Bois) proceeded from her own immediate experience, her reflections had to find expression sometimes as narrative, sometimes as autobiography, sometimes as argument.
The Legacy of Simone de Beauvoirdemonstrates the many ways in which Beauvoir's writings, in particularThe Second Sex, can serve as resources for thought, for the life of the mind which is as concerned with the past and future as it is with the present.

Excerpt

The year 1999 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex. When I was reminded of that half-centenary, I started planning a conference as a homage that would achieve two related ends. First, Beauvoir's book should receive greater recognition as a work of philosophy, to encourage more systematic reflection on her methods and aims, on the place of her book in the canon, and on its role in generating social change. Theoretically, The Second Sex offers new problems for reflection and novel means for appropriating older texts, and thus plays a central role in the profound shift in philosophy's self-understanding that took place in the latter half of the twentieth century. Its reflective iconoclasm can be compared to that of Descartes's Meditations. At the same time it has had an enormous, directly discernible, impact on our social world, and so can also be compared to Locke's Two Treatises of Government. Thus I wanted to invite scholars to the conference who could illuminate Beauvoir's place in the canon: Susan James, Catherine Wilson, and Michele Le Doeuff (known for their work on the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries), and Claude Imbert and Seyla Benhabib (known for their work on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries). I also wanted to invite scholars concerned with the intersection of theory and practice, and this made Toril Moi, Michele Le Doeuff, and Seyla Benhabib obvious choices. Many of these scholars were concerned with feminist issues, but some had never before published on the work of Simone de Beauvoir, so I hoped to find new commentators on her.

The second of my intentions is related to the search for new commentary. Simone de Beauvoir has always inspired me, not just because she was an important philosopher, deeply concerned with the critical and creative powers of reason as well as with the betterment of our suffering world, but also because she worked in a variety of genres, including the novel, political journalism, and the memoir. In this respect, she strikingly resembles W E. B. Du Bois, who has also commanded my attention and the homage of an edited volume. I understand the multiplicity of her voices to be closely related to her . . .

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