CONCLUSION, pp. 156-159 and INDEX

by Simone de Beauvoir

translated from the French by BERNARD FRECHTMAN

Published by Citadel Press, A division of Lyle Stuart Inc.
120 Enterprise Ave.
Secaucus, N.J. 07094
Copyright 1948 by Philosophical Library
ISBN 0-8065-0160-X


Is this kind of ethics individualistic or not? Yes, if one means by that that it accords to the individual an absolute value and that it recognizes in him alone the power of laying the foundations of his own existence. It is individualism in the sense in which the wisdom of the ancients, the Christian ethics of salvation, and the Kantian ideal of virtue also merit this name; it is opposed to the totalitarian doctrines which raise up beyond man the mirage of Mankind. But it is not solipsistic, since the individual is defined only by his relationship to the world and to other individuals; he exists only by transcending himself, and his freedom can be achieved only through the freedom of others. He justifies his existence by a movement which, like freedom, springs from his heart but which leads outside of him.

This individualism does not lead to the anarchy of personal whim. Man is free; but he finds his law in his very freedom. First, lie must assume his freedom and not flee it by a constructive movement: one does not exist without doing something; and also by a negative movement which rejects oppression for oneself and others. In construction, as in rejection, it is a matter of reconquering freedom on the contingent facticity of existence, that is, of taking the given, which, at the start, is there without any reason, as something willed by man.

A conquest of this kind is never finished; the contingency remains, and, so that he may assert his will, man is even obliged to stir up in the world the outrage he does not want. But this element of failure is a very condition of his life; one can never dream of eliminating it without immediately dreaming of death. This does not mean that one should consent to failure, but rather one must consent to struggle against it without respite.

Yet, isn't this battle without victory pure gullibility? It will be argued that this is only a ruse of transcendence projecting before itself a goal which constantly recedes, running after itself on an endless treadmill; to exist for Mankind is to remain where one is, and it fools itself by calling this turbulent stagnation progress; our whole ethics does nothing but encourage it in this lying enterprise since we are asking each one to confirm existence as a value for all others; isn't it simply a matter of organizing among men a complicity which allows them to substitute a game of illusions for the given world?

We have already attempted to answer this objection. One can formulate it only by placing himself on the grounds of an inhuman and consequently false objectivity; within Mankind men may be fooled; the word "lie" has a meaning by opposition to the truth established by men themselves, but Mankind can not fool itself completely since it is precisely Mankind which creates the criteria of true and false. In Plato, art is mystification because there is the heaven of Ideas; but in the earthly domain all glorification of the earth is true as soon as it is realized. Let men attach value to words, forms, colors, mathematical theorems, physical laws, and athletic prowess; let them accord value to one another in love and friendship, and the objects, the events, and the men immediately have this value; they have it absolutely. It is possible that a man may refuse to love anything on earth; he will prove this refusal and he will carry it out by suicide. If he lives, the reason is that, whatever he may say, there still remains in him some attachment to existence; his life will be commensurate with this attachment; it will justify itself to the extent that it genuinely justifies the world.

This justification, though open upon the entire universe through time and space, will always be finite. Whatever one may do, one never realizes anything but a limited work, like existence itself which tries to establish itself through that work and which death also limits. It is the assertion of our finiteness which doubtless gives the doctrine which we have just evoked its austerity and, in some eyes, its sadness. As soon as one considers a system abstractly and theoretically, one puts himself, in effect, on the plane of the universal, thus, of the infinite. That is why reading the Hegelian system is so comforting. I remember having experienced a great feeling of calm on reading Hegel in the impersonal framework of the Bibliotheque Nationale in August 1940. But once I got into the street again, into my life, out of the system, beneath a real sky, the system was no longer of any use to me: what it had offered me, under a show of the infinite, was the consolations of death; and I again wanted to live in the midst of living men. I think that, inversely, existentialism does not offer to the reader the consolations of an abstract evasion: existentialism proposes no evasion. On the contrary, its ethics is experienced in the truth of life, and it then appears as the only proposition of salvation which one can address to men. Taking on its own account Descartes' revolt against the evil genius, the pride of the thinking reed in the face of the universe which crushes him, it asserts that, despite his limits, through them, it is up to each one to fulfill his existence as an absolute. Regardless of the staggering dimensions of the world about us, the density of our ignorance, the risks of catastrophes to come, and our individual weakness within the immense collectivity, the fact remains that we are absolutely free today if we choose to will our existence in its finiteness, a finiteness which is open on the infinite. And in fact, any man who has known real loves, real revolts, real desires, and real will knows quite well that he has no need of any outside guarantee to be sure of his goals; their certitude comes from his own drive. There is a very old saying which goes: "Do what you must, come what may." That amounts to saying in a different way that the result is not external to the good will which fulfills itself in aiming at it. If it came to be that each man did what he must, existence would be saved in each one without there being any need of dreaming of a paradise where all would be reconciled in death.


Abraham, 138
Adventurer, the 58-62, 68
Alencon point, 94
Alexandria, 76
Algeria, 101
Ambiguity, 57, 68, 68, 129, 189, 142, 152-154
America, 68, 90
Anti-fascism, 154
Arabs, the 101
Aragon, 182
Arrivisme, 59
Athens, 75, 76
Atom, 26
Barren, 182
Bataille Georges., 70, 126
Baudelaire, 58
Bolshevism, 45
Breton, 55
British Empire, the 98
Buchenwald, 9, 74, 101
Bukharin, 146 Byzantium, 75
Carolinas, the 85
Catholic Church, 132
Catholics, the 50
Cezanne, 129
Childhood, 141, 142
Claudel, 188
Cleopatra, 147
Coimbre, 98
Comte, 116
Cortez, 59
Crevelf 54
Christ, 66
Christian charity, 185
Christian Church, 48
Christian myth, 71
Coliseum, 75
Communist Party, 48
Cromwell, 147
Dachau, 101
Descartes, 28, 35, 105, 159
Don Juan, 60, 61
Dos Passos John, 151
Dostoievsky, 15
Driev la Rochelle, 56, 57
Egoism, 70
Elvira, 60, 61
England, 124
Epicurean cult, 135
Ethics, 23, 32-34, 55, 59, 95,
126, 129, 131, 134, 154, 156
Ethics of autonomy, 33
Existentialism, 10, 18, 34, 59, 72,
Fanaticism, 66
Fascism, 45, 62, 138, 154
Fichte, 17
Florence, 76
France, 132, 140
French, the 139
French Union, the 140
Future, the 115, 116, 118-120,
123, 124, 126-128, 180-132,136, 144
Germany, 150
Germans, the 76, 126
Gilles, 56
Giotto, 129
Girondists, the 149
Goering, 42
Goethe, 132
Greece, 124
Hegel, 8-10, 17, 18, 22, 46, 62,
69, 70, 84, 103-105, 112, 116,
117, 122, 153, 158
Hegelian ethics, 104
Heidegger, 102, 116
Hitler, 98
Hitlerians, the 103
Humanism, 21
Humanists, the 92
Husserl, 14
Hysteria, 25
Ibsen, 143
India, 150
Indians, the 60, 61
Individualism, 156
Intelligence, 41
Isaac, 133
Italians, the 75
Italy, 31, 61
Jew, the 103, 144
Joubandeau, 53
Kant, 17, 18, 22, 33, 69, 105, 188
Kantian moralism, 135
Kantianism, 144
Kantism, 33
Kierkegaard, 9, 46, 138
Koestler, 110, 132
Korai of Athens, 130
Lawrence, 61
Lenin, 22, 23
Lespinasse, Mademoiselle de, 66
Lyons, 150
Malaparte, 153
Marx, 18, 20, 21, 84, 85, 87, 118
Marxism, 18-20
Materialism, 20
Mathematics, 79
Marseilles, 92
Maurras, 85
Metaphysics, 34
Middle Ages, the 92
Montaigne, 7
Moralism, 21
Moscow trials, 146
Mythomaniac, the 47
Nazis, the 95, 101, 158
Nazism, 56
Nietzsche, 46, 72
Nihilism, 54, 56, 58, 65, 68, 100
Nihilist, the 52, 55, 57, 61
Nirvana, 8
Nuremberg, 42
Obidos, 93
Palestine, 124
Paris, 76, 125, 150
Passion, 64, 66, 72
Passionate man, the 63, 64, 66
Paternalism, 138
Philosophy, 46
Physics, 79
Pierrefeu, 129
Pizarro, 61
Plato, 33, 80, 157
Pompeii, 92
Ponge, 88, 115
Portugal, 93
Proust, 50
P. R. L. (Parti Republicain de'la Liberte) 90
Protestantism, 133
Rauschning, 56
Realism, 21
Reformation, the 133
Renaissance, the 93
Revolution, Of 46, 49
Robespierre, 149
Rome, 76
Roque dela, Colonel 163
Rousseau, 141, 142
Rousset David, 114
Russia, 68, 125, 146
Saint-Just, 108, 111, 149
Salazar, 93
Sartre, 10-12, 24, 58, 122
Scepticism, 58, 59
Science, 46
Serious man, the 45-62, 64
Sickness, 45
Signification, 31, 41, 71
Socialism, 154
Socrates, 33
Spain, 124, 144
Spaniard, the 144
Sparta, 76
Spartacus, 182
Spinoza, 33
Spontaneity, 26, 41
Stalingrad, 91, 146
Stalinists, the 125
Steinbeck, 150-152
Stoicism, 81
Stoics, the 29, 144
Subman, the 43-47, 58, 56
Surrealism, 54
Syracuse, 75
Technics, 79, 80
Titian, 129
Tristan Flora, 86
Trotsky, 119
Tyrant, the 62, 71
United States, 151
Universe, the 121
U.S.S.R., 146
Vache, 54
Valery, 121
Van Gogh, 29
Vichyites, the 131
Vigilantes of America, 60
War, 45
Wright Richard, 89
Yankees, the 90
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