The Ethics of Ambiguity

by

Simone De Beauvoir

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A term with a variety of meanings in different philosophical contexts, but which for de Beauvoir and Sartre specifically refers to the brute facts about any given individual, divorced from their freedom and will. Objects have facticity alone, and treating someone in terms of their facticity (an attitude de Beauvoir criticizes throughout this book) is equivalent to reducing someone to an object by focusing on their externally visible traits and not on their subjective freedom and capacity for transcendence.

Facticity Quotes in The Ethics of Ambiguity

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

Men of today seem to feel more acutely than ever the paradox of their condition. They know themselves to be the supreme end to which all action should be subordinated, but the exigencies of action force them to treat one another as instruments or obstacles, as means. The more widespread their mastery of the world, the more they find themselves crushed by uncontrollable forces. Though they are masters of the atomic bomb, yet it is created only to destroy them. Each one has the incomparable taste in his mouth of his own life, and yet each feels himself more insignificant than an insect within the immense collectivity whose limits are one with the earth’s. Perhaps in no other age have they manifested their grandeur more brilliantly, and in no other age has this grandeur been so horribly flouted. In spite of so many stubborn lies, at every moment, at every opportunity, the truth comes to light, the truth of life and death, of my solitude and my bond with the world, of my freedom and my servitude, of the insignificance and the sovereign importance of each man and all men.

Related Characters: Simone de Beauvoir (speaker)
Page Number: Part 1: Ambiguity and Freedom 7-8
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

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:

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:
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Facticity Term Timeline in The Ethics of Ambiguity

The timeline below shows where the term Facticity appears in The Ethics of Ambiguity. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 3: The Positive Aspect of Ambiguity, Section 3: The Antinomies of Action
Freedom Theme Icon
Politics, Ethics, and Liberation Theme Icon
...impossible ideal, however—instead, the fight against oppression should fight for “the triumph of freedom over facticity,” the latter of which the oppressors exemplify. As they are “enem[ies] of man,” oppressors must... (full context)
Ambiguity, Being, and Existence Theme Icon
Politics, Ethics, and Liberation Theme Icon
...living affirmation of human transcendence” can persist despite tyrants’ attempts to reduce people to mere facticity. In losing their “zest for life and the readiness to risk it,” the oppressed also... (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
Politics, Ethics, and Liberation Theme Icon
...people are seen as identical to one another, and (since this reduction of individuality to facticity is the basis of all violence) violence inevitably tramples on the innocent. Unwilling to admit... (full context)
Conclusion
Existentialism and Ethics Theme Icon
Politics, Ethics, and Liberation Theme Icon
...wherever possible. In “taking the given […] as something willed by man," one turns apparent facticity into genuine free existence. But this is a constant and unending process, inevitably doomed to... (full context)