Colette Audry pointed to a mystery in observing that during the 1930s Simone de Beauvoir had not been concerned with the “woman question” and that her friend must have encountered a “serious obstacle” that “made her change her mind” and write The Second Sex. Unfortunately, Beauvoir obscured the genesis of her most important work. Using evidence uncovered by her biographers about her relationship with Sartre, and digging more deeply into their posthumously published letters and diaries, this paper uncovers a series of events that together tell a likely story of Beauvoir’s feminist turning point.
The author argues, with reference to a number of Merleau-Ponty’s unpublished manuscripts, that the philosopher’s notion of encroachment (empiétement) has origins in Simone de Beauvoir’s 1945 novel The Blood of Others. He examines how the two philosophers approach the encroachment of freedoms, the political stance of pacifism, and the interpretation of Voltaire’s Candide (Part I). The impact of Élisabeth Lacoin’s death on Beauvoir’s and Merleau-Ponty’s philosophies, as well as their relationships with Jean-Paul Sartre is also considered (Part II).