Simone de Beauvoir’s Critical Hegelianism
In: Critique: Hegel and Contemporary Critical Theory LII , No. 1 ( 2023 )
Sezione Saggi / Articles
In this paper, I argue for the inclusion of Simone de Beauvoir’s feminist Hegelian thought under the heading of critical theory. I show that, beginning in The Second Sex, Beauvoir employs a methodological approach that shares an epistemic goal in common with Frankfurt School critical theory: namely, the rejection of a traditional theory of knowledge in favor of an historically contextual theory that is functionally directed at the transformation of a shared social world. I claim, further, that Beauvoir’s critical method derives in large part from her Hegelianism: namely, from her understanding of the account of self-consciousness in the Phenomenology of Spirit. I then show how Beauvoir’s critical Hegelianism makes positive sense of her turn away from philosophy toward literature in the course of her career: contrary to those who see this as an intellectual shift on Beauvoir’s part, I demonstrate that it is emblematic of her efforts to produce material social change.