Simone de Beauvoir, Philosophy & and Feminism

Simone de Beauvoir, Philosophy & and Feminism

Simone de Beauvoir, Philosophy & and Feminism

Simone de Beauvoir, Philosophy & and Feminism

Synopsis

In the introduction to The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir notes that "a man never begins by establishing himself as an individual of a certain sex: his being a man poses no problem." Nancy Bauer begins her book by asking: "Then what kind of a problem does being a woman pose?" Bauer's aim is to show that in answering this question The Second Sex dramatizes the extent to which being a woman poses a philosophical problem. This book is a call for philosophers as well as feminists to turn, or return to, The Second Sex. Bauer shows that Beauvoir's magnum opus, written a quarter-century before the development of contemporary feminist philosophy, constitutes a meditation on the relationship between women and philosophy that remains profoundly undervalued. She argues that the extraordinary effect The Second Sex has had on women's lives, then and now, can be traced to Beauvoir's discovery of a new way to philosophize -- a way grounded in her identity as a woman. In offering a new interpretation of The Second Sex, Bauer shows how philosophy can be politically productive for women while remaining genuinely philosophical.

Excerpt

What I call something, what I count as something, is a function of how I recount it, tell it.

—Stanley Cavell, The Claim of Reason

A man never begins by establishing himself as an individual of a certain sex: his being a man poses no problem.

—Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex

Then what kind of problem does being a woman pose? The burden of this book is to show that in formulating this question and enacting answers to it, Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex dramatizes the extent to which being a woman poses a philosophical problem—which is to say, a problem for and of philosophy. To say that it is a problem for philosophy is to propose that insofar as philosophy fails to take account of the being of woman it cannot lay claim to the universality for which, by its own lights, it must strive; it lacks the standards, one might say, by which to interpret its own use of the word “man” in the absence of an account of woman. To say that it is a problem of philosophy is to propose that insofar as one fails to explore the bearing of philosophy on the being of woman, one will not be able to give an adequate account of what kind of a problem being a woman poses and, therefore, may close off certain possibilities for addressing this problem. A central achievement of The Second Sex, I want to show, is in the ways it forges connections between the idea of being a woman and the idea of philosophy, ways that bind the overcoming of the problem of being a woman with the overcoming of a certain conception of the philosophical. The ambition of this book is to specify these modes of affiliation.

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