Considered as a pioneer of feminist philosophers, Simone de Beauvoir (1908-1986) was one of the most important French existentialist philosophers and writers. Working alongside other famous existentialists such as Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, de Beauvoir wrote excessively on ethics, feminism, fiction, autobiography, and politics.
In The Ethics of Ambiguity, she developed an existentialist ethics that condemned the “spirit of seriousness” in which people too readily identify with certain abstractions at the expense of individual freedom and responsibility. In The Second Sex, she produced an articulate attack on the fact that throughout history women have been relegated to a passive acceptance of roles assigned to them by society. Freedom, responsibility, and ambiguity are main concepts of existentialist philosophy shown in her works.
Her influences include French philosophy from Descartes to Bergson, the phenomenology of Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger, the historical materialism of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, and the idealism of Immanuel Kant and G. W. F Hegel. Her most famous and influential philosophical work, The Second Sex (1949), remains to this day a central text in the investigation of women’s oppression and liberation.