26 May 07

Two Tonys on the Philosophy of Simone de Beauvoir

“Whattaya readin’?” Two Tonys asked.
The Ethics of Ambiguity,” I said, “by Simone de Beauvoir.”
“Whothafuck's she?”
“She was an author and feminist existentialist philosopher. Her and Jean-Paul Sartre had an open relationship. When nihilists claimed life is meaningless, de Beauvoir responded that it is up to us to put meaning into our lives. I like that idea. It puts the meaning of my life in my hands. She also wrote The Second Sex.”
“Of course we hafta put meanin’ into our own fuckin’ lives, 'cause each and every one of us values different things. What is important to you isn’t important and meaningful to an ant. Findin’ a grasshopper’s leg and draggin’ it down a hole in the ground may be meaningful to an ant. Winnin’ an Academy Award may be meaningful to Dustin Hoffman. And I’m fuckin’ sure that developin’ the polio vaccine put meanin’ in Salk’s life."
“That’s exactly right. Just like talking to you and writing up blogs are ways I put meaning into my life. De Beauvoir had some other interesting ideas and quotes I’d like to run by you.”
“OK.”
“She wrote about women who mindlessly adopt the opinions and values of their husbands.”
“For thousands of years women were treated as fuckin’ prisoners. It’s thanks to women’s lib that durin’ the past two-hundred years women have been encouraged to think for themselves. All of the major religions – Christianity, Islam, and the Jews – claim God is a man, recruit men to be their top dogs, and have treated women as second-class citizens or worse for centuries.”
“Saint Ambrose claimed it was the feminine instability of Eve that caused Adam to sin,” I said. “And one of the Pope Leo's said the husband is the head of the wife who by nature is fitted for housework.”
“It’s been the same on all continents. The bottom line is: we’ve all gotta think for our fuckin’ selves. Look at how many dumb motherfuckin’ men there are in this world.”
“De Beavoir also claimed that ignorance and error are facts as inescapable as prison walls.”
“Ignorance and error are different from plain dumbness. The fucks who voted for Bush are plain dumb. But who hasn’t made mistakes? Have you ever been ignorant?”
“Yeah,” I said.
“Has your dad at some point in his life been ignorant?”
“Yeah.”
“Exactly. My point is: we all get a little ignorant from time to time.”
“What do you think about de Beauvoir writing that life imprisonment is the most horrible of punishments because it preserves your existence while preventing you from doing what you’d most like to be doing?”
“De Beauvoir is fulla shit on that one. What about the motherfucker workin’ for Intel in his cubicle? How’s life imprisonment worse than bein’ a corporate fuckin’ slave? So what if he gets a lunch break. He’s gotta punch in again at 12:30. So what if he gets to check out the women in business suits kickin’ it at Starbucks drinkin’ their frappuccinos. He’s still just a fuckin’ slave like I am. Instead of whippin’ him, they dangle him stock options. He’s fuckin’ his life off for the benefit of corporate slave drivers. It boils down to different degrees of slavehood, and there’s motherfuckers on the outs whose minds put them through worse punishments than imprisonment – that’s inner slavery.”
“She wrote that if your future is blocked off you can revolt and reject it via suicide.”
“When you’ve been locked up for most of your life, you learn that you hafta adapt. Who do you think lasted the longest in concentration camps?”
“People who put meaning in their lives, like Viktor Frankl.”
“Exactly. The ones who survived had adapted. Didn’t you say that de Beauvior encouraged people to put meanin’ in their lives?”
“Yes.”
“But now she’s sayin' if the shit hits the fan commit suicide?”
“Yes. Are you saying her theory is flawed?”
“I’m just wonderin’ where she’s comin’ from?”
“The way I read it, she meant that suicide is a choice that puts you back in control of the situation.”
“That makes sense.”
“The question of suicide seemed to weigh heavily on the minds of the French existentialists. Camus said the most import question was whether to commit suicide or not.”
“And the Schop said death is what makes most motherfuckers philosophise in the first place."
“Good point.”

“Death is the true inspiring genius, or the muse of philosophy…. Indeed, without death man would scarcely philosophise.” – Arthur Schopenhauer The World as Will and Idea: (1819)

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Copyright © 2006-2007 Shaun P. Attwood

4 comments:

Alex D said...

The obvious point that Two Tonys fails to mention is that the Intel worker in the cubicle has the choice to quit if he so chooses. If and when the ennui and banality of his life hits him, he has the freedom(and likely the bankroll) to make a change for the better, unlike the prisoner.

Anonymous said...

Another question for thought related to the previous comment and one for Jon to mull over and perhaps ask Two Tonys more about.

Which do you think is more tragic, the person unwillingly forced into a condition of "slavery" like prisoners, or the person unwittingly living a life of "slavery"?

For as clever as Two Tonys seems to be, I just can't believe that he holds the belief that he's better off than the average joe on the outside. I suppose he comes off as a temporal person, but I guess thats just a normal and healthy reaction, getting used to and content with your environment.

joannie said...

Great post-this begs tons of comment and questions, but I would focus on thing-being a Christian and female, it's always been my belief that Jesus Christ was the consummate feminist in the truest sense. His treatment of women was revolutionary for it's time, never condescending or enslaving. Many followers were women with equal status. It was the Apostle Paul who wrote to the Galatians that believers in Christ are either slave nor free, Jew nor Greek, male nor female, but all the same in Him.

As far as marriage goes, partners are to be mutually submitted to each other. Human being interpret, or misinterpret meanings as the case may be. Equal status begs equal responsibility in any relationship. As many women hide behind their husbands and blame as do husbands lord it over their wives.

Liam said...

It seems to me that the French philosophers all had the same idea - Camus, Simone and Sartre may have pretended to be different but essentially they all said that: When one comes to the conclusion that life is meaningless, which he will inevitably do, he must embrace life or commit suicide.

It seems to me, as a naive 16 year old, that the revolt, the rebellion, the embracing of life is the natural occurance. It seems that some turn to religion, they delude themselves, they try and convince themselves that their personal philosophical revelation was false. Yet occasionly somebody decides to kill themselves. It is a sad state of affairs when such a person is labled as "mentally ill", unfit, unstable, depressed. It's so negative compared to the person who deludes himself of the "Essential concept and the first truth" and is considered healthy.