The Ethics of Ambiguity; Themes

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Freedom and Ambiguity

One key element of existentialist thought is that value is subjective and that essences do not exist. In short, there are no external standards of nature and value that can bind human beings. Humans project value onto the world and have no determinate nature. Instead, they are radically free in the sense that they can imbue a valueless universe with value and can create their own natures freely from a prior existence. "Existence proceeds essence" was Sartre's existentialist motto. We exist prior to having a nature. Our nature or essence arises from our own free choices.

In The Ethics of Ambiguity, Beauvoir adopts this idea of freedom. It leads her to focus on the reality of the individual and to de-emphasize the primacy of the universal and the abstract. Attending primarily to the universal and abstract creates the illusion of uniformity among human beings and thus...

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