The Ethics of Ambiguity


Simone De Beauvoir

Teachers and parents! Our Teacher Edition on The Ethics of Ambiguity makes teaching easy.

The Ethics of Ambiguity Characters

Simone de Beauvoir

The author of the work, de Beauvoir was a prominent 20th century French existentialist philosopher, feminist theorist, and novelist, still best known for her historical and theoretical study of women’s oppression, The Second Sexread analysis of Simone de Beauvoir


A famous 20th century French philosopher and Simone de Beauvoir’s lifelong partner, both intellectually and romantically. In his landmark treatise Being and Nothingness, he developed the basic philosophical framework upon which de Beauvoir… read analysis of Sartre


A groundbreaking early 19th-century German philosopher who, through a notoriously complicated philosophical system, essentially argued that all binaries—such as those between the self and the other or the mind and the world—would eventually become integrated… read analysis of Hegel


An 18th-century German philosopher whose monumental influence on all subsequent Western philosophical thought is difficult to understate. Although Kant’s complex writings covered (and revolutionized) virtually every field of philosophy, de Beauvoir focuses on his ethicsread analysis of Kant


A 19th-century German economist, sociologist, and philosopher best known for his theory of class struggle and its profound impact on subsequent politics across the globe. While existentialism has close affinities with Marxism, de Beauvoirread analysis of Marx
Get the entire The Ethics of Ambiguity LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Ethics of Ambiguity PDF

The Child

The first of various figures that de Beauvoir uses to illustrate people’s moral development and varying attitudes toward their freedom, the child sees the world of adult values as distant, inaccessible, and absolutely serious… read analysis of The Child

The Sub-Man

For de Beauvoir, the ethically worst kind of person is the “sub-man.” “Sub-men” spend their energies trying to reject their own freedom and hide from the world, often because they fear the consequences and… read analysis of The Sub-Man

The Serious Man

The serious man dedicates his life and energies to some cause, values, or “idol” that he considers absolutely good, and for which he is willing to sacrifice absolutely anything. Serious men tend to be the… read analysis of The Serious Man

The Nihilist

When they reach adolescence and learn that the serious values of the adult world are actually flimsy and subjective, some people take this realization in stride and begin to form their own value system, while… read analysis of The Nihilist

The Adventurer

The adventurer correctly recognizes that there are no absolute, readymade values in the world, and then takes advantage of this ambiguity in order to zealously pursue personal projects. However, unlike a genuinely free person, the… read analysis of The Adventurer

The Passionate Man

Whereas the adventurer takes advantage of his freedom but directs it wrongly, the passionate man directs himself toward a worthy end but attaches himself so seriously that he loses his freedom and can never move… read analysis of The Passionate Man

The Tyrant

Unlike de Beauvoir’s other figures, the tyrant does not fall in any particular part of the moral hierarchy, although tyrants are clearly evil. Rather, the tyrant is a catch-all category for people who trample… read analysis of The Tyrant