The Philosophy of Simone de Beauvoir

Gendered Phenomenologies, Erotic Generosities

By Debra Bergoffen

Subjects: Women's Studies
Series: SUNY series, Feminist Philosophy
Paperback : 9780791431528, 260 pages, November 1996
Hardcover : 9780791431511, 260 pages, November 1996

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Table of contents



1. The Erotic as a Philosophical Category

2. The Necessity of Violence, The Gift of Generosity: Pyrrhus at Cinéas

3. Contesting Intentional Anxieties: The Ethics of Ambiguity

4. Perversions: "Must We Burn Sade?"

5. Risking: An Ethic of the Erotic: The Second Sex

6. Erotic Generosities




Challenges Beauvoir's self-portrait and argues that she was a philosopher in her own right.


The Philosophy of Simone de Beauvoir: Gendered Phenomenologies, Erotic Generosities sees Beauvoir as engaged in a three-way conversation with Sartre and Merleau-Ponty. Like Sartre and Merleau-Ponty, Beauvoir took up the legacies of the modern and phenomenological philosophical traditions. Unlike them, however, she attended to the phenomenological implications of the sexed body, pursued the idea of ambiguity and developed the philosophical category of the erotic.

This book reads Beauvoir as speaking in two philosophical voices; a familiar existential voice and an unfamiliar voice that speaks of the other, generosity, the gift and the ethical possibilities of the erotic event.

Debra B. Bergoffen is Professor of Philosophy and Women's Studies at George Mason University. She coedited Continental and Postmodern Perspectives in the Philosophy of Science.


"…Bergoffen carefully begins to tease from Beauvoir's work an 'ethic of generosity' and a celebration—absent in Sartre—of the joys of giving and of sustaining human bonds. " — Feminist Studies

"Debra Bergoffen's exceptionally fine Philosophy of Simone de Beauvoir marks an altogether new stage of sophistication in the analysis of Beauvoir's philosophy … indispensable for any serious student of Beauvoir. " — Hypatia

"Bergoffen's book overturns tradition by reading Simone de Beauvoir on her own terms, rather than as a footnote to exclusively male philosophy. Combining incisive explorations of Beauvoir's concepts of the erotic, of generosity, and of her crucial distinction between the two moments of intentionality, this study offers a profoundly original account of Beauvoir's ethics. Lucidly written, boldly conceived, The Philosophy of Simone de Beauvoir: Gendered Phenomenologies, Erotic Generosities establishes Bergoffen's as a major voice in the current, radical assessment of Beauvoir as a philosopher. " — Edward Fullbrook and Kate Fullbrook, authors of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Paul Sartre: The Remaking of the Twentieth-Century Legend"

The author reads Beauvoir as a philosopher in her own right, 'out from under Sartre's shadow,' and that reading is meticulous and dazzling in its originality. Bergoffen has transformed my understanding of Beauvoir's philosophy. The book's greatest achievement is locating Beauvoir's philosophy within the Husserlean phenomenological tradition and defining her original contribution to that tradition. It's wonderful! I love the discussions of Bataille, Lacan, and Irigaray—Bergoffen unites French philosophical traditions that have too long been seen as independent of one another. " — Margaret A. Simons, Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville