Published November 25, 2009
Beauvoir , Existentialism , Feminism , Phenomenology , Philosophy
Tags: Beauvoir, Existentialism, male supremacy, Phenomenology, Philosophy, sexism, simone de beauvoir
Photo by Henri Cartier-Bresson
Barbara S. Andrew writes about Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986) and her phenomenology and views of what it is to be a woman in a male-supremacist society:
For phenomenologists, “the world” usually denotes a combination of the natural world and human relationships. A key aspect of phenomenology is the interaction between self and world, and The Second Sex may be best understood as a work of phenomenlogy in which Beauvior examines the interaction between the gendered self and the gendered world. The Second Sex looks at how social ideas of femininity shape women’s experiences of self. One of the most significant aspects of The Second Sex is its encyclopedic indexing of women’s lived experience: biology, psychology, the experience of living in a female body and developing and living with a feminine mind-set. Many contemporary women’s first reaction to reading it is that they do not experience themselves in the way Beauvior describes. But this is to miss the point. Most of The Second Sex is a phenomenological, descriptive analysis. Beauvoir is not claiming that there is one way that we who are women experience ourselves, our bodies or our minds. Instead, she describes, and argues against taking as perspective, literary representations of femininity, biological sciences’ accounts of femininity, psychoanalytic theories about femininity, and so on. It is easy, initially, to confuse her work as participating in negative stereotypes of femininity, rather than cataloging them and analyzing their effect. Although Beauvoir’s descriptions of women’s bodies may seem negative, Arp argues that she is describing women’s experience of bodily alienation in understanding their social bodies, that is, the body as known through the experience of a sexist world. (Andrew, 30)
Barbara S. Andrew. “Beauvior’s place in philosophical thought.” In The Cambridge Companion to Simone de Beauvoir edited by Claudia Card, 24-44. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003.
Paul Gorner writes:
[A] question…could be asked about all claims that Heidegger makes in Being and Time. Ontological claims are to be established not by argument but phenomenologically. So ultimately it is a matter of seeing that things…are so. In the philosophical sense phenomenology is the letting be seen of being-which primarily and for the most part does not show itself but must be made to show itself. The only kind of verification of which ontological claims are capable is phenomenological. This must be borne in mind throughout one’s reading of Being and Time. It is not just a matter of reading these words and understanding them. The words are intended to let die Sache [things] be seen. In reading the words we have ourselves to engage in phenomenological seeing. (Gorner, 67)
Gorner, Paul. Heidegger’s Being and Time: An Introduction. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
Phenomenlogist Martin Heidegger (1889-1976 CE) explains that:
Dasein does not simply understand its environment as one might understand an alient text or culture from which one is entirely disengaged. It understands it as presenting to it a range of possibilities. If it did not understand it in this way it could not understand its environment as ‘significant’…’as long as it is, Dasein always has understood itself and always will understand itself in terms of possibilities’ (Being and Time, 145)…Dasein is ‘constantly more than it factually is’ (BT, 145), always (unless it is asleep) poised between alternative possible ways of continuing. Man is not a passive creature, roused to activity only by external stimuli; he is constantly up to something. (Inwood, 45)
Heidegger, Martin. Being and Time. Translated by John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1962. Quoted by Inwood in Heidegger.
Inwood, Michael. Heidegger: A Very Short Introduction. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.