The Attempt to Author the World: How Intellectualism Denies the Individual


Simone de Beauvoir

How to Cite

Wheelock, E. R. (2012). The Attempt to Author the World: How Intellectualism Denies the Individual. Vanderbilt Undergraduate Research Journal, 8.


Although primarily known as a feminist scholar and author of such works as She Came to Stay and The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir contributed heavily to French existential thought. The two writings upon which this paper focuses, The Ethics of Ambiguity and The Woman Destroyed, deal with the existential issues involved in human interactions and personal relationships. The Ethics of Ambiguity, famous as an exploration of the ethical code created by existential theory, begins with a criticism of Marxism and the ways in which it deviates from existentialism. Similarly, the first of the three short stories that make up de Beauvoir’s fictional work The Woman Destroyed follows the French intelligentsia and their similarities and digressions from Marxist and existential thought. In this paper, I seek to analyze Simone de Beauvoir’s criticism of Marxist theory in The Ethics of Ambiguity and its transformation into the critique of intellectualism found twenty years later in The Woman Destroyed. I will investigate Marxism’s alleged attempts to constrain the group it wishes to lead and the motivation behind these actions. Finally, I conclude with a discussion of the efficacy of fiction as a medium for de Beauvoir’s philosophy.