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Authenticite, ambiguity and freedom : recuperating the philosophy of Simone de Beauvoir for a contemporary ethics of ambiguity

Saunders, TM 2009 , 'Authenticite, ambiguity and freedom : recuperating the philosophy of Simone de Beauvoir for a contemporary ethics of ambiguity', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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The existentialism of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir has been criticised for being a "rniserablism"; for throwing us into an absurd universe with no meaning; and for giving an account of freedom which concludes that each can do 'as one pleases' without regard for others due to an inherent lack of meaning in the world. It has been argued that, due to its insistence on an irreducible, 'radical' freedom, it is not possible to develop an ethics based on existentialism and, therefore, that it is of little use in providing any grounds for an ethics today.
In this thesis, I argue against such a reading of de Beauvoir' s existentialism, and for a recuperation of the existential notion of authenticite for a contemporary ethics.
In order demonstrate the importance of the concept of authenticite, I make an explicit distinction between two conceptions of the 'authentic' self. The more common understanding is of the decontextualised, autonomous and disembodied individual/subject evident in traditional philosophical accounts of the 'authentic' self. The second is what I identify as the authentique self described by de Beauvoir, understood as embodied, situated and contextualised - the self as related ambiguously to others and the world. A primary aim of this thesis is to demonstrate the important interconnections between the concepts of ambiguity and authenticite, and to reveal that the more common notion of 'authenticity' is based (often implicitly) upon a denial of our ambiguous freedom.
Taking up the more recent reclamation of the unique philosophical importance of de Beauvoir's account of ambiguity and freedom, which has strong affinities with the existential phenomenology of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, I apply de Beauvoir's account of authenticite, based on ambiguous freedom, to the examination of limits within feminist theory and within the debate over Aboriginal identity in the Tasmanian context. I argue that both of these debates have been limited by their understandings of 'authenticity' and that both would find within de Beauvoir's philosophy of ambiguous freedom a way to move beyond, or at least question, this understanding.
I conclude that, by taking seriously the account of ambiguous freedom described throughout de Beauvoir's texts, we are provided with an ethics that allows for openness and joy in our relations with others and which offers a powerful descriptive and explanatory account of some complex contemporary social and political situations.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Saunders, TM
Keywords: Beauvoir, Simone de, 1908-1986, Authenticity (Philosophy), Group identity
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Copyright 2009 the author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s).

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Thesis (PhD)--University of Tasmania, 2009. Includes bibliographical references. Introduction -- Section 1. Reclaiming ambiguity and authenticite in Simone de Beauvoir's existentialism -- Ch. 1. Overcoming individualism - reuniting ambiguity and authenticite -- Ch. 2. Interpretations of Simone de Beauvoir - re-thinking the importance of ambiguity for authenticite -- Ch. 3. An ambiguous freedom -- Section 2. Exploring the contemporary application of an ethics of ambiguity -- Ch. 4. Reclaiming ambiguity for a feminist authenticite -- Ch. 5. Authenticity, ambiguity and the threat of the other -- Ch. 6. Responding ethically to the freedom of the other.

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