The Ethics of Ambiguity

by

Simone De Beauvoir

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Morality Term Analysis

A term closely related to ethics. In general, at least as the terms are used in this book, ethics is a field of philosophical inquiry that tries to understand morality, or what is good and right for people to do.

Morality Quotes in The Ethics of Ambiguity

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

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:

To will oneself free is to effect the transition from nature to morality by establishing a genuine freedom on the original upsurge of our existence.

Related Characters: Simone de Beauvoir (speaker)
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:

Not only do we assert that the existentialist doctrine permits the elaboration of an ethics, but it even appears to us as the only philosophy in which an ethics has its place. For, in a metaphysics of transcendence, in the classical sense of the term, evil is reduced to error; and in humanistic philosophies it is impossible to account for it, man being defined as complete in a complete world. Existentialism alone gives—like religions—a real role to evil, and it is this, perhaps, which make its judgments so gloomy.

Related Characters: Simone de Beauvoir (speaker)
Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:
Part 2 Quotes

It is obvious that this choice is very close to a genuinely moral attitude. The adventurer does not propose to be; he deliberately makes himself a lack of being; he aims expressly at existence; though engaged in his undertaking, he is at the same time detached from the goal. Whether he succeeds or fails, he goes right ahead throwing himself into a new enterprise to which he will give himself with the same indifferent ardor. It is not from things that he expects the justification of his choices. Considering such behavior at the moment of its subjectivity, we see that it conforms to the requirements of ethics, and if existentialism were solipsistic, as is generally claimed, it would have to regard the adventurer as its perfect hero.

Related Characters: Simone de Beauvoir (speaker), The Adventurer
Page Number: 63
Explanation and Analysis:
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Morality Term Timeline in The Ethics of Ambiguity

The timeline below shows where the term Morality 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
Many people accuse existentialism of making morality meaningless and subjective—but it is a universal, objective truth that everyone is a subject unto... (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
Politics, Ethics, and Liberation Theme Icon
...means “giv[ing] up justifying one’s acts” and therefore “betray[ing] the cause.” While they insist on moral action, they also reject abstract morality and insist on absolute loyalty to the Party, or... (full context)
Existentialism and Ethics Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
...gap between oneself and the world (namely, freedom). And so freedom is its own, original moral justification, the foundation of all other values, which means it can never deny itself. (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
...continuous free action. Therefore, “will[ing] oneself free” can be understood as meaning turning natural into moral freedom. (full context)
Freedom Theme Icon
...cowardice, [and] impatience,” some continue living out this freedom and choose not to will themselves (morally) free (even though it is still impossible to affirmatively will oneself unfree). Conversely, by reflecting... (full context)
Existentialism and Ethics Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
...will oneself free’ have a positive and concrete meaning.” This meaning is “original spontaneity” willing “moral freedom” in relation to particular goals, and thereby becoming that freedom. (full context)
Existentialism and Ethics Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
...Beauvoir cannot accept the classical answer of philosophers like Plato, who think evil is just moral error, because she argues that humans create all morality through their will. (full context)
Part 2: Personal Freedom and Others
Ambiguity, Being, and Existence Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
There is “still another aspect” of the misfortune of having been a child: although moral choices are completely free, they are also dependent on what one has been in the... (full context)
Existentialism and Ethics Theme Icon
Ambiguity, Being, and Existence Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
In the move from childhood’s “contingent spontaneity” to adulthood’s moral freedom, people make themselves “a lack of being.” They take responsibility for “reinvesting [themselves] with... (full context)
Existentialism and Ethics Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
The adventurer is “very close to a genuinely moral attitude,” choosing to become “a lack of being” in order to “aim expressly at existence,”... (full context)
Ambiguity, Being, and Existence Theme Icon
Freedom Theme Icon
Politics, Ethics, and Liberation Theme Icon
...the world, de Beauvoir writes, but it is also possible for people to achieve a moral attitude here in the world. Freedom aims toward its own ends without either letting any... (full context)
Part 3: The Positive Aspect of Ambiguity, Section 2: Freedom and Liberation
Politics, Ethics, and Liberation Theme Icon
...utopia. Ultimately, the oppressed are most involved in the struggle for liberation, but this struggle morally involves everyone. (full context)
Part 3: The Positive Aspect of Ambiguity, Section 3: The Antinomies of Action
Freedom Theme Icon
Politics, Ethics, and Liberation Theme Icon
...are reluctant to acknowledge the freedom of those they oppress, this is necessary for true moral liberation and the “reconciliation of all freedoms.” This is an impossible ideal, however—instead, the fight... (full context)
Part 3: The Positive Aspect of Ambiguity, Section 5: Ambiguity
Politics, Ethics, and Liberation Theme Icon
In fact, politicians rarely pursue the careful moral analysis they ought to—one might suggest that “hesitation and misgivings only impede victory,” and that... (full context)