The Ethics of Ambiguity

Powerful Essays
Ambiguity can be defined as a lack of precise meaning or interpretation, so how can we describe human existence as “ambiguous”? Surely, there must be some essence, or characteristic thing, that we can use to solidify the meaning of our existence. However, it becomes difficult to pin down exactly what every human existence has in common. Dreams of fame and fortune motivate and consume the lives of some people, others dedicate their lives to help people less fortunate, and still there are those that sit on a couch all day watching TV as their years monotonously pass by. In The Ethics of Ambiguity, Simone de Beauvoir develops an existentialist view that explains the details of an ambiguous existence and how those who exist should act in this world. De Beauvoir relies on an individual’s freedom to argue that existence is ambiguous and that each individual should act with the intention of securing this freedom in herself and others. I find Simone de Beauvoir’s analysis on an ambiguous existence to be logical, as I tend to think and act in ways that may constitute my being an existentialist. Throughout The Ethics of Ambiguity, de Beauvoir contrasts the facticity of the world with the individual’s freedom to choose how to shape an otherwise ambiguous existence. Facticity is an undeniable truth that stands in the world, whether it details those who existed in a past event, one’s own birthday, or the force that is gravity. De Beauvoir would argue that, based on pure facticity, an individual’s existence becomes absurd: “Life imprisonment is the most horrible of punishments because it preserves existence in its pure facticity but forbids it all legitimation” (31). Imprisonment has a defined rigid structure with defined schedules and define... ... middle of paper ... ...gical argument for that of existence that parallels Wittgenstein’s investigations on the meanings of words. In my own life, I accept that my existence is largely ambiguous and that I am disclosing who I am every instant I make a choice, even if I direct that choice toward a goal. The indeterminate characteristic of ambiguity may make some uneasy when applying the word to their existence, but I find comfort in knowing that my existence can ultimately be defined as I see fit. I am glad that, through my own freedom, I am able to live and make sense of the world; I exist. Works Cited De Beauvoir, Simone. The Ethics of Ambiguity. Trans. Frechtman Bernard. New York: Kensington Pub., 1976. Print. Wittgenstein, Ludwig; G. E. M. Anscombe, P.M.S. Hacker and Joachim Schulte (eds. and trans.). Philosophical Investigations. 4th edition, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009. Print.
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