In her book The Ethics of Ambiguity, the philosopher Simone de Beauvoir asks us to consider what it means to exercise individual freedom and to live in community with others. Where does our individual freedom begin and end? Simone de Beauvoir claims that our personal freedom can be manifest only when we “will others free.” How do we create a life where we protect our individual freedom and work toward the freedom of our neighbor? Can both forms of freedom truly exist?
de Beauvoir wrote The Ethics of Ambiguity in 1947, and she questions and seeks to define personal ethics and freedom in the wake of Nazi atrocities and totalitarianism. We will read The Ethics of Ambiguity in its entirety.
At first glance, Franz Kafka may seem like an odd pairing with Simone de Beauvoir but a step inside Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, and it’s clear that we entering the mind of a character who seeks the type of personal freedom Simone de Beauvoir claims is available to us.
Participants will explore questions about freedom in our own lives: Can we be as free as we are “meant” to be despite the gaze and expectations of those around us? Can we be free as individuals even if we have jobs that bind us to institutions and norms that may run counter to our freedom? Can we live freely if those around us suffer?
The Ethics of Ambiguity by Simone de Beauvoir
The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
(participants purchase their own books for the seminar)