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Simone de Beauvoir

French-born author Simone de Beauvoir was passionate and ardent philosophical explorer.  Her basic tenet stemmed from her beliefs in existentialism – a philosophical doctrine or belief claiming that “existence takes precedence over essence and holds that man is totally free and responsible for his acts, and that this responsibility is the source of the dread and anguish that encompass him”.  Her focus became studying the role of individual choice.

Simone de BeauvoirDe Beauvoir was born in 1908 into a middle-class Parisian family.  Her father was a lawyer and her mother was a strict Catholic.  Flaherty wrote of Simone that she was probably “inspired to become an intellect because she was caught between her father’s pagan morals and her mother’s rigid religious standards.”

She shared a normal and contented childhood with a younger sister.  But as she grew, her belief in God diminished and she gave up religion.  She chose instead to embrace earthly joys rather than follow traditional Catholic views of abstinence.  By the age of 21, de Beauvoir was studying philosophy at Sorbonne.

Crucial to her development as both an author and philosopher was her well-published relationship with the famous existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre.  From the first meeting in 1929, and continuing throughout life, the two became best friends, lovers, and intellectual equals.  They began to engage in meeting with a small, close-knit circle of friends (fellow students) at local cafes to write and give talks.  These activities served as encouragement for de Beauvoir, inspiring her to become stronger, free from submissiveness.  She boldly broke away from the traditional social patterns and taboos of her day.

Some knowledge about de Beauvoir’s younger life is found in excerpts from her 1927 diary, written while she was a philosophy student at the Sorbonne.  In this work, she “lays out the foundation of her later philosophy in The Second Sex, including the conflict of the self and other, and the interaction of choice and childhood socialization in shaping ones life.”.  The writings in this diary give insight to the historical influences of the times in which she was living and how these events affected her beliefs.

Early twentieth century Roman Catholicism had placed a profound influence on de Beauvoir in her early childhood.  The following passage from her 1927 diary illuminates this influence:

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