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Beauvoir and the meaning of life

Webber, Jonathan 2018. Beauvoir and the meaning of life. In: Leach, Stephen and Tartaglia, James eds. The Meaning of Life and the Great Philosophers, Abingdon and New York: Routledge,

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Simone de Beauvoir's short book Pyrrhus and Cineas articulates a response to the problem of absurdity that deserves to be more widely known in both existential philosophy and moral philosophy. Her formulation of the problem is grounded in the existentialist theory that we are the set of projects we pursue and so cannot exist without valuing some ends. But we are aware, she points out, that our ends seem to lose their value when they are no longer pursued. We therefore seem to be in the absurd position of having to value our ends while being aware that they are not really valuable. Beauvoir takes this to be both an existential problem, threatening our lives and endeavours with meaninglessness, and a moral problem, leaving all possible projects equally acceptable. She addresses the existential problem through the moral problem. Valuing our ends, she argues, logically entails the categorical imperative to treat human agency as objectively valuable. Ends that obey that imperative are truly valuable as expressions of human agency. Ends that contravene it are absurd because they are immoral.

Item Type: Book Section
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BJ Ethics
Publisher: Routledge
ISBN: 9781138220935
Last Modified: 13 Dec 2018 12:19

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