The Ethics of Ambiguity


Simone De Beauvoir

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The Tyrant Character Analysis

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 on others during their quest to fulfill their desires, referring occasionally to normal people who instrumentalize others in their daily lives as well as to actual authoritarian leaders who take their followers and victims alike as faceless objects rather than full people with their own freedom, desires, and rights.

The Tyrant Quotes in The Ethics of Ambiguity

The The Ethics of Ambiguity quotes below are all either spoken by The Tyrant or refer to The Tyrant. 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 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:

Indeed, on the one hand, it would be absurd to oppose a liberating action with the pretext that it implies crime and tyranny; for without crime and tyranny there could be no liberation of man; one can not escape that dialectic which goes from freedom to freedom through dictatorship and oppression. But, on the other hand, he would be guilty of allowing the liberating movement to harden into a moment which is acceptable only if it passes into its opposite; tyranny and crime must be kept from triumphantly establishing themselves in the world; the conquest of freedom is their only justification, and the assertion of freedom against them must therefore be kept alive.

Related Characters: Simone de Beauvoir (speaker), The Tyrant
Page Number: 167-168
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Tyrant Character Timeline in The Ethics of Ambiguity

The timeline below shows where the character The Tyrant 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
Politics, Ethics, and Liberation Theme Icon
...toward those in power—and if he gets political power himself, he becomes a dictator or tyrant. He believes so strongly in his own independence that he refuses to acknowledge that he... (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
Politics, Ethics, and Liberation Theme Icon
...the rest of the world besides his object of desire). He, too, can become a tyrant, treating other people as instruments and things in his path toward fulfilling his passion. (full context)
Part 3: The Positive Aspect of Ambiguity, Section 3: The Antinomies of Action
Ambiguity, Being, and Existence Theme Icon
Politics, Ethics, and Liberation Theme Icon
...child’s smile, for instance, shows that “the living affirmation of human transcendence” can persist despite tyrants’ attempts to reduce people to mere facticity. In losing their “zest for life and the... (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
Politics, Ethics, and Liberation Theme Icon
Tyrants also give their followers (whom they also consider as instrumental objects) an opposite message, emphasizing—much... (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
Politics, Ethics, and Liberation Theme Icon
The tyrant and soldier alike must prevent themselves from individually reflecting on their actions, which is why... (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
Politics, Ethics, and Liberation Theme Icon
Most commonly, tyrants excuse violence by citing its usefulness: the ends are worth the means, they insist. But,... (full context)