This collection of humanist readings of Simone de Beauvoir’s work is a novel contribution to contemporary research on Beauvoir, and a defense of the importance of the humanities. It demonstrates the significance and value of humanistic research through the work of Beauvoir, and argues that the reception and influence of her works demonstrate the transformative potential of humanistic research.
Organized around three topics, each chapter ascertains Beauvoir’s relation to the humanities and the humanist tradition. The first group focuses on Beauvoir’s interdisciplinary methodology and critical thinking, the second on her ethics of freedom and the construction of values. The last section explores how Beauvoir uses literature as a laboratory for developing her ideas on human interaction. The chapters can be studied as independent essays, or read together as a whole.
Simone de Beauvoir—A Humanist Thinker reveals new and previously unexplored dimensions of Beauvoir’s work by exposing her as a significant and inspiring humanist thinker. This volume attests that Beauvoir’s works continue to offer conceptual tools and insights enabling readers to critically analyze their own situation. In today’s world, where religious fanaticism and totalitarian ideologies are gaining ground, humanist values and humanistic research are more important than ever.

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Biographical Note

TOVE PETTERSEN is Professor of Philosophy at the Faculty of Humanities, University of Oslo (UiO), Norway. She specializes in moral philosophy and ethics, especially in the ethics of care and the existential ethics of Simone de Beauvoir. She received her Doctor Artium (equivalent to PhD) in philosophy from the University of Oslo, Norway (UiO), in 2004, with a dissertation on the ethics of care. She completed her Candidatus Philologiae (equivalent to MA) in the history of ideas on postmodern philosophy, and has also studied economics and holds a Candidata Magisteri (equivalent BA) in political science. In 2004–2006, Pettersen was granted a Postdoctoral Fellowship to work on Simone de Beauvoir’s ethics. She has also been the Director of Research at the Ethics Programme, UiO, and has been teaching philosophy at UiO since 1990. In 2012, Pettersen recived a Norwgian award—På Kanten-prisen—for her work in feminist philosophy. Her publications include “Conceptions of Care: Altruism, Feminism, and Mature Care” (2012), “The Ethics of Care: Normative Structures and Empirical Implications (2011), Filosofiens annet kjønn (Philosophy’s second sex) (2011), “Acting for Others: Moral Ontology in Simone de Beauvoir’s Pyrrhus and Cinéas” (2010), Comprehending Care. Problems and Possibilities in The Ethics of Care (2008) and “Freedom and Feminism in Simone de Beauvoir’s Philosophy” (2008). Pettersen has written the introduction to the Norwegian translation of Phyrrhus and Cinéas and The Ethics of Ambiguity (2009), and her articles have been translated into French and Italian.

ANNLAUG BJØRSNØS is Professor of French Literature in the Department of Language and Literature at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim, Norway, where she has also served for eight years as Vice Dean for Education. Her areas of specialization include surreal- ism, existentialism, and the works of Simone de Beauvoir. Her doctoral thesis, on French surrealism, focusing on the poetic works of Joyce Mansour, was published in 1998. She has published several articles on Beauvoir’s literary and philosophical writings. Besides the feminist perspectives, which Beauvoir and Mansour have in common, the topic of identity construction, from a textual-historical perspective, has been a major area of her research activity. She has also participated in the eighteenth-century research network established by her department and has explored “individuality in literature,” with particular reference to the fictional works of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. She started working on Paul Ricoeur some years ago, paying special attention to the relevance of his philosophy to the study of literature.

Review Quotes

"Rather than dispute Beauvoir's claim that she was an author rather than a philosopher, the ten essays Pettersen (Univ. of Oslo, Norway) and Bjørsnøs (Norwegian Univ. of Science and Technology) have collected variously contend that Beauvoir’s work effectively blurs the boundary between literature and philosophy. Four of the essays deal specifically with philosophical themes Beauvoir explores in fiction (in particular in Les Belles images, Les Mandarins, Pyrrhus et Cineas, and Tous les hommes sont mortels); the other essays take up various aspects of her interdisciplinary approach in exploring philosophical questions. Among the more interesting contributions are Stève Bessac-Vaure’s account of Beauvoir’s influence as editor of Les Temps modernes, Erika Ruonakoski’s critique of the attempt to combine existential phenomenology and psychoanalysis in Le Deuxième sexe, and especially Pettersen’s extended discussion of Beauvoir’s concept of moral freedom. For the most part the essays are accessible to a broad range of readers, but the book will be of particular interest to those seeking to link Beauvoir’s philosophical and literary endeavors."
Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty; general readers.
CHOICE - October 2015

Table of contents


CHRISTINE DAIGLE: Making the Humanities Meaningful: Beauvoir’s Philosophy and Literature of the Appeal
LOUISE RENÉE: Existential Awakening in Simone de Beauvoir’s Les belles images
ERIKA RUONAKOSKI : Interdisciplinarity in The Second Sex: Between Phenomenology and Psychoanalysis
STÈVE BESSAC-VAURE: Simone de Beauvoir as Mediator for Foreign Literature in Les Temps Modernes

TOVE PETTERSEN: FIVE Existential Humanism and Moral Freedom in Simone de Beauvoir’s Ethics
SAMANTHA BANKSTON: Becoming-Ambiguous: Beauvoir, Deleuze, and the Future of the Humanities
GWENDOLYN DOLSKE: Embodiment and Contemplation of Death: A Beauvoirian Analysis

JULIANA DE ALBUQUERQUE KATZ: The Relevance of Simone de Beauvoir’s Ethic/Aesthetic Project to the Humanities
ANNLAUG BJØRSNØS: Representing Time: On the Experience of Temporality in The Mandarins by Simone de Beauvoir
BARBARA KLAW: The Relevance of Woolf’s Orlando and Beauvoir’s Tous les hommes sont mortels



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