Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Simone de Beauvoir, fully Simone-Ernestine-Lucie-Marie Bertrand de Beauvoir

French Writer, Public Intellectual, Political Activist, Feminist Theorist, Social Theorist and Existential Philosopher

"Humanity is not an animal species, it is a historical reality. Human society is an antiphysis - in a sense it is against nature; it does not passively submit to the presence of nature but rather takes over the control of nature on its own behalf. This arrogation is not an inward, subjective operation; it is accomplished objectively in practical action."

"I tore myself away from the safe comfort of certainties through my love for truth; and truth rewarded me."

"All oppression creates a state of war. And this is no exception. The existent who is regarded as inessential cannot fail to demand the re-establishment of her sovereignty."

"If you haven't been happy very young, you can still be happy later on, but it's much harder. You need more luck."

"In the relation of master to slave the master does not make a point of the need that he has for the other; he has in his grasp the power of satisfying this need through his own action; whereas the slaver, in his dependent condition, his hope and fear, is quiet conscious of the need he has for his master. Even if the need is at bottom equally urgent for both, it always works in favor of the oppressor and against the oppressed."

"It is in the knowledge of the genuine conditions of our lives that we must draw our strength to live and our reasons for living."

"It is old age, rather than death, that is to be contrasted with life. Old age is life’s parody, whereas death transforms life into a destiny: in a way it reserves it by giving it the abolute dimension – “As unto himself eternity changes him at last.” Death does away with time."

"Justice can never be done in the midst of injustice."

"Society cares about the individual only in so far as he is profitable. The young know this. Their anxiety as they enter in upon social life matches the anguish of the old as they are excluded from it."

"One is not born a woman – one becomes one."

"What is an adult? A child blown up by age."

"The time that one gains cannot be accumulated in a storehouse; it is contradictory to want to save up existence, which, the fact is, exists only by being spent and there is a good case for showing that airplanes, machines, the telephone, and the radio do not make men of today happier than those of former times."

"The human species is forever in a state of change, forever becoming."

"One is not born a genius; one becomes a genius."

"It’s frightening to think that you mark your children merely by being yourself."

"A child is an insurgent."

"A conquest of this kind is never finished; the contingency remains, and, so that he may assert his will, man is even obliged to stir up in the world the outrage he does not want. But this element of failure is a very condition of his life; one can never dream of eliminating it without immediately dreaming of death. This does not mean that one should consent to failure, but rather one must consent to struggle against it without respite."

"A couple who go on living together merely because that was how they began, without any other reason: was that what we were turning into?"

"A freedom which is interested only in denying freedom must be denied. And it is not true that the recognition of the freedom of others limits my own freedom: to be free is not to have the power to do anything you like; it is to be able to surpass the given toward an open future; the existence of others as a freedom defines my situation and is even the condition of my own freedom. I am oppressed if I am thrown into prison, but not if I am kept from throwing my neighbor into prison."

"A life is such a strange object, at one moment translucent, at another utterly opaque, an object I make with my own hands, an object imposed on me, an object for which the world provides the raw material and then steals it from me again, pulverized by events, scattered, broken, scored yet retaining its unity; how heavy it is and how inconsistent: this contradiction breeds many misunderstandings."

"A man attaches himself to woman -- not to enjoy her, but to enjoy himself."

"All agree in recognizing the fact that females exist in the human species; today as always they make up about one half of humanity. And yet we are told that femininity is in danger; we are exhorted to be women, remain women, become women. It would appear, then, that every female human being is not necessarily a woman; to be so considered she must share in that mysterious and threatened reality known as femininity."

"All the idols made by man, however terrifying they may be, are in point of fact subordinate to him, and that is why he will always have it in his power to destroy them."

"A day in which I don't write leaves a taste of ashes."

"After wars peace, after peace, another war. Every day men are born and others die."

"And without a doubt it is more comfortable to endure blind bondage than to work for one's liberation; the dead, too, are better suited to the earth than the living."

"All the opportunities you let slip by! The idea, the inspiration just doesn´t come fast enough. Instead of being open, you´re closed up tight. That´s the worst sin of all - the sin of omission."

"Art, literature, and philosophy are attempts to found the world anew on a human freedom: that of the creator; to foster such an aim, one must first unequivocally posit oneself as a freedom. The restrictions that education and custom impose on a woman limit her grasp of the universe... Indeed, for one to become a creator, it is not enough to be cultivated, that is, to make going to shows and meeting people part of one's life; culture must be apprehended through the free movement of a transcendence; the spirit with all its riches must project itself in an empty sky that is its to fill; but if a thousand fine bonds tie it to the earth, its surge is broken. The girl today can certainly go out alone, stroll in the Tuileries; but I have already said how hostile the street is: eyes everywhere, hands waiting: if she wanders absentmindedly, her thoughts elsewhere, if she lights a cigarette in a cafe, if she goes to the cinema alone, an unpleasant incident can quickly occur; she must inspire respect by the way she dresses and behaves: this concern rivets her to the ground and self. Her wings are clipped. At eighteen, T.E. Lawrence went on a grand tour through France by bicycle; a young girl would never be permitted to take on such an adventure...Yet such experiences have an inestimable impact: this is how an individual in the headiness of freedom and discovery learns to look at the entire world as his fief... The girl may feel alone within the world: she never stands up in front of it, unique and sovereign."

"Art is an attempt to integrate evil."

"But I must admit I didn´t like that idea; do the same thing as everyone else. Eating to live, living to eat - that had been the nightmare of my adolescence. If it meant going back to that, if would be just as well to turn on the gas at once. But I suppose everyone thinks of things like that: let´s turn on the gas at once. And you don´t turn it on."

"But all day long I would be training myself to think, to understand, to criticize, to know myself; I was seeking for the absolute truth: this preoccupation did not exactly encourage polite conversation."

"Because we are separated everything separates us, even our efforts to join each other."

"As long as there have been men and they have lived, they have all felt this tragic ambiguity of their condition, but as long as there have been philosophers and they have thought, most of them have tried to mask it."

"At the present time there still exist many doctrines which choose to leave in the shadow certain troubling aspects of a too complex situation. But their attempt to lie to us is in vain. Cowardice doesn’t pay. Those reasonable metaphysics, those consoling ethics with which they would like to entice us only accentuate the disorder from which we suffer."

"Change your life today. Don't gamble on the future, act now, without delay."

"Capabilities are clearly manifested only when they have been realized."

"Buying is a profound pleasure."

"Dare to believe me. Dare!"

"Cloaks to surrender to success"

"Death, death that is the beauty of flowers, the sweetness of his youth, Death Karvkrdar human sacrifice and of generosity and fearlessness and his Khvdgzshthgy means, that all of life to his death ..."

"Defending the truth is not something one does out of a sense of duty or to allay guilt complexes, but is a reward in itself."

"Even if one is neither vane nor self-obsessed, it is so extraordinary to be oneself - exactly oneself and no one else - and so unique, that it seems natural that one should also be unique for someone else."

"Every individual concerned to justify his existence feels that his existence involves an undefined need to transcend himself, to engage in freely chosen projects. pg. xxxiii"

"Fathers never have exactly the daughters they want because they invent a notion of them that the daughters have to conform to."

"Every war, every revolution, demands the sacrifice of a generation, of a collectivity, by those who undertake it."

"Extreme cases we attach, as well as neuroses and psychoses: we found exaggerated, refined, featuring a striking relief the attitudes and passions of the people we call normal."

"For the first time in my life, I took part in a real battle between men. The dead did not come to life again, the vanquished fled in disorder; every thrust of my lance helped save Carmona. That day, I would have died with a smile on my lips, certain of having contributed to a triumphant future for my city."

"Few tasks are more like the torture of Sisyphus than housework, with its endless repetition: the clean becomes soiled, the soiled is made clean, over and over, day after day."

"From the hour you're born you begin to die. But between birth and death there's life."

"For twenty years it seemed to me that I had been taking part in a game, and that one day, at the stroke of midnight, I would return to the land of shadows. ...In a little while, the hands would be pointing to midnight; they would point to midnight tomorrow and the next day, and I would still be here."