The Ethics of Ambiguity


Simone De Beauvoir

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Kant Character Analysis

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 ethics: essentially, Kant thought that action is moral when the principles or motives behind an action could hold universally for all rational beings. While de Beauvoir agrees with Kant that freedom is the fundamental characteristic of human life and morality should be tied to the character of the human will (rather than handed down by a Godlike legislator), she does not think that morality is about whether one’s principles are consistent in principle, but rather about the concrete circumstances, conditions, and effects of people’s actions. For instance, whereas Kant would reject all killing in any situation because it would not be consistent with human freedom as a universal principle, de Beauvoir accepts such violence in the kind of particular situations when, even though killing is a violation of freedom, it is likely to ultimately help expand human freedom (for instance, as in killing one’s oppressors).

Kant Quotes in The Ethics of Ambiguity

The The Ethics of Ambiguity quotes below are all either spoken by Kant or refer to Kant. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Existentialism and Ethics Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Citadel edition of The Ethics of Ambiguity published in 1948.
Part 1 Quotes

For existentialism, it is not impersonal universal man who is the source of values, but the plurality of concrete, particular men projecting themselves toward their ends on the basis of situations whose particularity is as radical and as irreducible as subjectivity itself. How could men, originally separated, get together?

Related Characters: Simone de Beauvoir (speaker), Hegel, Kant
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:
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Kant Character Timeline in The Ethics of Ambiguity

The timeline below shows where the character Kant appears in The Ethics of Ambiguity. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1: Ambiguity and Freedom
Existentialism and Ethics Theme Icon a subject unto themselves. Indeed, existentialism continues the tradition of major Western philosophers (like “Kant, Fichte, and Hegel”) as well as “all humanism” by arguing that moral laws and individual... (full context)
Existentialism and Ethics Theme Icon
Ambiguity, Being, and Existence Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
Like Kant, de Beauvoir thinks that people cannot positively decide not to be free. However, existentialists “do... (full context)