Lesson Plans The Ethics of Ambiguity

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An Education in Ethics

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Ambiguity management

Different Seasons lesson plan contains a variety of teaching materials that cater to all learning Different Seasons lesson plan contains a variety of teaching materials that cater to all learning styles. Everlost Lesson Plans. Only equals, Beauvoir argues, can hear or respond to my call.

Only those who are not consumed by the struggle for survival, only those who exist in the material conditions of freedom, health, leisure and security can become my allies in the struggle against injustice. The first rule of justice, therefore, is to work for a world where the material and political conditions of the appeal are secured. Violence is not ruled out. Given that Beauvoir has argued that we can never reach the other in the depths of their freedom, she cannot call it evil. She does not, however, endorse it. Neither does she envision a future without conflict. It is the tragedy of the human condition.

As ethical, we are obliged to work for the conditions of material and political equality. In calling on others to take up our projects and give these projects a future, we are precluded from forcing others to become our allies. We are enjoined to appeal to their freedom. Where persuasion fails, however, we are permitted the recourse to violence. The ambiguity of our being as subjects for ourselves and objects for others in the world is lived in this dilemma of violence and justice.

Becoming lucid about the meaning of freedom, we learn to live our freedom by accepting its finitude and contingency, its risks and its failures. What we do know is that coming face to face with forces of injustice beyond her control, the questions of evil and the Other took on new urgency. Beauvoir speaks of the war as creating an existential rupture in time. She speaks of herself as having undergone a conversion. She can no longer afford the luxury of focusing on her own happiness and pleasure. The question of evil becomes a pressing concern.

One cannot refuse to take a stand. One is either a collaborator or not.

Essay Topic 2

In writing The Ethics of Ambiguity , Beauvoir takes her stand. She identifies herself as an existentialist and identifies existentialism as the philosophy of our her times because it is the only philosophy that takes the question of evil seriously.

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That we are alone in the world and that we exist without guarantees, are not, however, the only truths of the human condition. There is also the truth of our freedom and this truth, as detailed in The Ethics of Ambiguity , entails a logic of reciprocity and responsibility that contests the terrors of a world ruled only by the authority of power.

Dropping the distinction between the inner and outer domains of freedom and deploying a unique understanding of consciousness as an intentional activity, Beauvoir now finds that I can be alienated from my freedom. Here Beauvoir takes up the phenomenologies of Husserl and Hegel to provide an analysis of intersubjectivity that accepts the singularity of the existing individual without allowing that singularity to justify an epistemological solipsism, an existential isolationism or an ethical egoism.

The Hegel drawn on here is the Hegel who resolves the inequalities of the master-slave relationship through the justice of mutual recognition. The Husserl appealed to is the Husserl who introduced Beauvoir to the thesis of intentionality. The Ethics of Ambiguity opens with an account of intentionality which designates the meaning-disclosing, meaning-making and meaning-desiring activities of consciousness as both insistent and ambiguous—insistent in that they are spontaneous and unstoppable; ambiguous in that they preclude any possibility of self-unification or closure.

Beauvoir describes the intentionality of consciousness as operating in two ways. First there is the activity of wanting to disclose the meaning of being.


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Second there is the activity of bringing meaning to the world. In the first mode of activity consciousness expresses its freedom to discover meaning.

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In the second, it uses its freedom to become the author of the meaning of the world. Beauvoir identifies each of these intentionalities with a mood: the first with the mood of joy, the second with the dual moods of hope and domination. Whether the second moment of intentionality becomes the ground of projects of liberation or exploitation depends on whether the mood of hope or domination prevails. Describing consciousness as ambiguous, Beauvoir identifies our ambiguity with the idea of failure.

PHIL Existentialism, Topic: Unit 7: Simone de Beauvoir | Saylor Academy

We can never fulfill our passion for meaning in either of its intentional expressions; that is, we will never succeed in fully revealing the meaning of the world, and never become God, the author of the meaning of the world. From this perspective her ethics of ambiguity might be characterized as an ethics of existential hope. Their apparent differences conceal a common core: both claim to have identified an absolute source for, and justifications of our beliefs and actions. They allow us to evade responsibility for creating the conditions of our existence and to flee the anxieties of ambiguity.

Whether it is called the age of the Messiah or the classless society, these appeals to a utopian destiny encourage us to think in terms of ends which justify means. They invite us to sacrifice the present for the future. They are the stuff of inquisitions, imperialisms, gulags and Auschwitz.

Privileging the future over the present they pervert our relationship to time, each other and ourselves.


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    Can they forge laws binding for all? The Ethics of Ambiguity insists that they can. It does this by arguing that evil resides in the denial of freedom mine and others , that we are responsible for ensuring the existence of the conditions of freedom the material conditions of a minimal standard of living and the political conditions of uncensored discourse and association , and that I can neither affirm nor live my freedom without also affirming the freedom of others. We begin our lives as children who are dependent on others and embedded in a world already endowed with meaning.

    This is a world of ready made values and established authorities. This is a world where obedience is demanded. For children, this world is neither alienating nor stifling for they are too young to assume the responsibilities of freedom. As children who create imaginary worlds, we are in effect learning the lessons of freedom — that we are creators of the meaning and value of the world.

    Free to play, children develop their creative capacities and their meaning-making abilities without, however, being held accountable for the worlds they bring into being.

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