The Ethics of Ambiguity

by

Simone De Beauvoir

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The Serious Man Character Analysis

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 kind of people who enforce authoritarian governments or proclaim that things should be judged in terms of their “usefulness.” The serious man’s absolute dedication to the values he chooses are a way of “los[ing] himself,” denying his own freedom to choose how to live and what values to pursue. Instead, he takes comfort in letting an external value system dominate his way of thinking. When they fail to realize their singular goals, serious men often turn into sub-men or nihilists.

The Serious Man Quotes in The Ethics of Ambiguity

The The Ethics of Ambiguity quotes below are all either spoken by The Serious Man or refer to The Serious Man. 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 2 Quotes

The thing that matters to the serious man is not so much the nature of the object which he prefers to himself, but rather the fact of being able to lose himself in it. it. So much so, that the movement toward the object is, in fact, through his arbitrary act the most radical assertion of subjectivity: to believe for belief’s sake, to will for will’s sake is, detaching transcendence from its end, to realize one’s freedom in its empty and absurd form of freedom of indifference.

Related Characters: Simone de Beauvoir (speaker), The Serious Man
Page Number: 50-51
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 3, Section 5 Quotes

We repudiate all idealisms, mysticisms, etcetera which prefer a Form to man himself.

Related Characters: Simone de Beauvoir (speaker), The Serious Man, The Tyrant
Page Number: 157
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Serious Man Character Timeline in The Ethics of Ambiguity

The timeline below shows where the character The Serious Man appears in The Ethics of Ambiguity. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 2: Personal Freedom and Others
Existentialism and Ethics Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
...fundamental nothingness of humanity, never humans’ ability to justify their existence. He easily becomes “ the serious man,” denying his freedom by proclaiming his loyalty to absolute values that he believes in... (full context)
Ambiguity, Being, and Existence Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
Politics, Ethics, and Liberation Theme Icon
...people are forced to live seriously because they live in oppressive conditions they cannot escape, the serious man has to hide from himself the fact that he actively chooses his servitude to... (full context)
Ambiguity, Being, and Existence Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
The serious man is constantly afraid and anxious, guarding his “idol” because it is outside himself and his... (full context)
Ambiguity, Being, and Existence Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
...the passionate man has the content, but not the subjectivity. The passionate man is like the serious man, but takes his absolute goal not “as a thing detached from itself” (as the... (full context)
Part 3: The Positive Aspect of Ambiguity, Section 4: The Present and the Future
Ambiguity, Being, and Existence Theme Icon
Politics, Ethics, and Liberation Theme Icon
...in this kind of future “submerge their freedom in it [and] find the tranquility of the serious .” (full context)