The Ethics of Ambiguity

by

Simone De Beauvoir

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Disclosure Term Analysis

A complex term expounded most significantly by Heidegger, the concept of disclosure refers to the sense in which one’s actions meaningfully reveal one’s underlying self: for instance, by choosing to join a certain political struggle, one discloses that one is a person who takes an interest in others’ freedom in general and perhaps has particular personal commitments to the specific others on whose behalf one is fighting. For de Beauvoir, all action discloses people’s being (because it reflects their free choice of what to do in circumstances they never choose). While it is never possible for people to become exactly what they want to be through their own will, it is always possible for them to disclose being through their actions, and so the way to “win” at life (or act ethically) is to simply desire that one’s actions disclose one’s being, or reveal one’s authentic and free self.

Disclosure Quotes in The Ethics of Ambiguity

The The Ethics of Ambiguity quotes below are all either spoken by Disclosure or refer to Disclosure. For each quote, you can also see the other terms 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

My contemplation is an excruciation only because it is also a joy. I can not appropriate the snow field where I slide. It remains foreign, forbidden, but I take delight in this very effort toward an impossible possession. I experience it as a triumph, not as a defeat. This means that man, in his vain attempt to be God, makes himself exist as man, and if he is satisfied with this existence, he coincides exactly with himself. It is not granted him to exist without tending toward this being which he will never be. But it is possible for him to want this tension even with the failure which it involves.

Related Characters: Simone de Beauvoir (speaker), Sartre, Hegel
Page Number: 11
Explanation and Analysis:

We think that the meaning of the situation does not impose itself on the consciousness of a passive subject, that it surges up only by the disclosure which a free subject effects in his project.

Related Characters: Simone de Beauvoir (speaker), Marx
Page Number: 19
Explanation and Analysis:

The characteristic feature of all ethics is to consider human life as a game that can be won or lost and to teach man the means of winning. Now, we have seen that the original scheme of man is ambiguous: he wants to be, and to the extent that he coincides with this wish, he fails. All the plans in which this will to be is actualized are condemned; and the ends circumscribed by these plans remain mirages. Human transcendence is vainly engulfed in those miscarried attempts. But man also wills himself to be a disclosure of being, and if he coincides with this wish, he wins, for the fact is that the world becomes present by his presence in it. But the disclosure implies a perpetual tension to keep being at a certain distance, to tear oneself from the world, and to assert oneself as a freedom. To wish for the disclosure of the world and to assert oneself as freedom are one and the same movement. Freedom is the source from which all significations and all values spring. It is the original condition of all justification of existence.

Related Characters: Simone de Beauvoir (speaker)
Page Number: 23
Explanation and Analysis:

The goal toward which I surpass myself must appear to me as a point of departure toward a new act of surpassing. Thus, a creative freedom develops happily without ever congealing into unjustified facticity. The creator leans upon anterior creations in order to create the possibility of new creations. His present project embraces the past and places confidence in the freedom to come, a confidence which is never disappointed. It discloses being at the end of a further disclosure. At each moment freedom is confirmed through all creation.

Related Characters: Simone de Beauvoir (speaker)
Page Number: 27-28
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 2 Quotes

Every man casts himself into the world by making himself a lack of being; he thereby contributes to reinvesting it with human signification. He discloses it. And in this movement even the most outcast sometimes feel the joy of existing. They then manifest existence as a happiness and the world as a source of joy. But it is up to each one to make himself a lack of more or less various, profound, and rich aspects of being.

Related Characters: Simone de Beauvoir (speaker), The Child
Page Number: 44
Explanation and Analysis:

Ethics is the triumph of freedom over facticity, and the sub-man feels only the facticity of his existence. Instead of aggrandizing the reign of the human, he opposes his inert resistance to the projects of other men. No project has meaning in the world disclosed by such an existence. Man is defined as a wild flight. The world about him is bare and incoherent. Nothing ever happens; nothing merits desire or effort. The sub-man makes his way across a world deprived of meaning toward a death which merely confirms his long negation of himself. The only thing revealed in this experience is the absurd facticity of an existence which remains forever unjustified if it has not known how to justify itself.

Related Characters: Simone de Beauvoir (speaker), The Sub-Man
Page Number: 48
Explanation and Analysis:
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Disclosure Term Timeline in The Ethics of Ambiguity

The timeline below shows where the term Disclosure 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
Ambiguity, Being, and Existence Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
...can still justify themselves. Indeed, the choice of passion “nullifies being” only in order to “disclose being,” to recognize the world’s presence (and allow the world to recognize one’s own). For... (full context)
Existentialism and Ethics Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
...people will always fail to be what they want to be, but always succeed to disclose their being, and therefore “win” when their wish is “to be a disclosure of being.”... (full context)
Part 2: Personal Freedom and Others
Existentialism and Ethics Theme Icon
Ambiguity, Being, and Existence Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
...make themselves “a lack of being.” They take responsibility for “reinvesting [themselves] with human signification,” disclosing the joy of existence through any of a variety of ways of “casting [themselves] into... (full context)
Existentialism and Ethics Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
All that the sub-man’s existence discloses is the fundamental nothingness of humanity, never humans’ ability to justify their existence. He easily... (full context)
Ambiguity, Being, and Existence Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
...“as a thing detached from itself” (as the serious man) but rather “as a thing disclosed by his subjectivity,” like passionate love, which is meaningless without the self’s subjective involvement (although... (full context)
Part 3: The Positive Aspect of Ambiguity, Section 1: The Aesthetic Attitude
Politics, Ethics, and Liberation Theme Icon
...others) free if they (and others) are born free. Similarly, if people everywhere are constantly disclosing being in various ways, why can people not merely take pleasure in “its different transformations”... (full context)
Part 3: The Positive Aspect of Ambiguity, Section 2: Freedom and Liberation
Ambiguity, Being, and Existence Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
...in the world. Willing freedom, de Beauvoir reiterates, is the same thing as willing “to disclose being,” although every time being comes into existence, it is “constantly surpassed.” Perfection—a complete and... (full context)