22.- Existencialismo.

SIMONE DE BEAUVOIR Y ORTEGA Y GASSET.

 

Simone-Ernestine-Lucie-Marie Bertrand de Beauvoir (1908-1986) fue una filósofa y novelista que compartió con Sartre su interés por la libertad y por la responsabilidad de lo que uno es y “de lo que hace con lo que es”. Expresó, como no había hecho su compañero, las implicaciones éticas del existencialismo de Sartre. Beauvoir siempre estuvo fascinada por la capacidad de su sociedad para el olvido y por su resistencia a las cuestiones difíciles, y estaba horrorizada de que su sociedad, y prácticamente todas las sociedades, se ocuparan muy poco de los problemas e injusticias que afligen a la mitad femenina de la humanidad. En consecuencia, aplicó sus teorías existencialistas a las especiales circunstancias “existenciales” de ser mujer en su obra El Segundo Sexo (1949), uno de los libros más influyentes del siglo.

Simone de Beauvoir is one of the most preeminent French existentialist philosophers and writers. Working alongside other famous existentialists such as Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Beauvoir produced a rich corpus of writings including works on ethics, feminism, fiction, autobiography, and politics. A philosopher by training, at age 21 she was the youngest student ever to pass the agrégation examination in philosophy. Her philosophical approach is notably diverse as her influences include not only French philosophy from Descartes to Bergson, but the phenomenology of Husserl and Heidegger, the historical materialism of Marx and Engels, and the idealism of Kant and Hegel. In addition to her philosophical pursuits, Beauvoir was also an accomplished literary figure and her novel, The Mandarins, received the prestigious Prix Goncourt award in 1954. Her most famous and influential philosophical work, The Second Sex, heralded a feminist revolution and remains to this day a central text in the investigation of women's oppression and liberation.

 

 

Born in the morning of January 9, 1908, was a precocious and intellectually curious child from the beginning. Her sister, Hélène (nicknamed "Poupette") was born two years later in 1910 and Beauvoir immediately took to intensely instructing her little sister as a student. In addition to her own independent initiative, Beauvoir's intellectual zeal was also nourished by her father who provided her with carefully edited selections from the great works of literature and who encouraged her to read and write from an early age. His interest in her intellectual development carried through until her adolescence when her future professional carrier, necessitated by the loss of her dowry, came to symbolize his own failure. Aware that he was unable to provide a dowry for his daughters, Georges' relationship with his intellectually astute eldest became conflicted by both pride and disappointment at her prospects. Beauvoir, on the contrary, always wanted to be a writer and a teacher, rather than a mother and a wife and pursued her studies with vigor.

Beauvoir began her education in the private Catholic school for girls, the Institut Adeline Désir where she remained until the age of 17. It was here that she met Elizabeth Mabille (Zaza), with whom she shared an intimate and profound friendship until Zaza's untimely death in 1929. Although the doctor's blamed Zaza's death on meningitis, Beauvoir believed that her beloved friend had died from a broken heart in the midst of a struggle with her family over an arranged marriage. Zaza's friendship and death haunted Beauvoir for the rest of her life and she often spoke of the intense impact they had on her life and her critique of the rigidity of bourgeois attitudes towards women.

Beauvoir had been a deeply religious child as a result of her education and her mother's training, however, at the age of 14, she had a crisis of faith and decided definitively that there was no God. She remained an atheist until her death. Her rejection of religion was followed by her decision to pursue and teach philosophy. Only once had she considered marriage to her cousin, Jacques Champigneulle. She never again entertained the possibility of marriage, instead preferring to live the life of an intellectual.

Beauvoir passed the baccalauréat exams in mathematics and philosophy in 1925. She then studied mathematics at the Institut Catholique and literature and languages at the Institut Sainte-Marie, passing exams in 1926 for Certificates of Higher Studies in French literature and Latin, before beginning her study of philosophy in 1927. Studying philosophy at the Sorbonne, Beauvoir passed exams for Certificates in History of Philosophy, General Philosophy, Greek, and Logic in 1927, and in 1928, in Ethics, Sociology, and Psychology. She wrote a graduate diplôme on Leibniz for Léon Brunschvig and completed her practice teaching at the lycée Janson-de-Sailly with fellow students, Merleau-Ponty and Claude Lévi-Strauss - with both of whom she remained in philosophical dialogue.

In 1929, she took second place in the highly competitive philosophy agrégation exam, beating Paul Nizan and Jean Hyppolite and barely losing to Jean-Paul Sartre who took first (it was his second attempt at the exam). Unlike Beauvoir, all three men had attended the best preparatory (khâgne) classes for the agrégation and were official students at the École Normale Supérieure. Although she was not an official student, Beauvoir attended lectures and sat for the agrégation at the École Normale. At 21 years of age, Beauvoir was the youngest student ever to pass the agrégation in philosophy and thus became the youngest philosophy teacher in France.

It was during her time at the École Normale that she met Sartre. Sartre and his closed circle of friends (including René Maheu, who gave her her life-long nickname "Castor", and Paul Nizan) were notoriously elitist at the École Normale. Beauvoir had longed to be a part of this intellectual circle and following her success in the written exams for the agrégation in 1929, Sartre requested to be introduced to her. Beauvoir thus joined Sartre and his "comrades" in study sessions to prepare for the grueling public oral examination component of the agrégation. For the first time, she found in Sartre an intellect worthy (and, as she asserted, in some ways superior) to her own-a characterization that has lead to many ungrounded assumptions concerning Beauvoir's lack of philosophical originality. For the rest of their lives, they were to remain "essential" lovers, while allowing for "contingent" love affairs whenever each desired. Although never marrying (despite Sartre's proposal in 1931), having children together, or even living in the same home, Sartre and Beauvoir remained intellectual and romantic partners until Sartre's death in 1980.

The liberal intimate arrangement between her and Sartre was extremely progressive for the time and often unfairly tarnished Beauvoir's reputation as a woman intellectual equal to her male counterparts. Adding to her unique situation with Sartre, Beauvoir had intimate liaisons with both women and men. Some of her more famous relationships included the journalist Jacques Bost, the American author Nelson Algren, and Claude Lanzmann, the maker of the Holocaust documentary, Shoah.

In 1931, Beauvoir was appointed to teach in a lycée at Marseilles whereas Sartre's appointment landed him in Le Havre. In 1932, Beauvoir moved to the Lycée Jeanne d'Arc in Rouen where she taught advanced literature and philosophy classes. In Rouen she was officially reprimanded for her overt criticisms of woman's situation and her pacifism. In 1940, the Nazis occupied Paris and in 1941, Beauvoir was dismissed from her teaching post by the Nazi government. As a result of the effects of World War II on Europe, Beauvoir began exploring the problem of the intellectual's social and political engagement with his or her time.

Following a parental complaint made against her for corrupting one of her female students, she was dismissed from teaching again in 1943. She was never to return to teaching. Although she loved the classroom environment, Beauvoir had always wanted to be an author from her earliest childhood. Her collection of short stories on women, Quand prime le spirituel (When Things of the Spirit Come First) was rejected for publication and not published until many years later (1979). However, her fictionalized account of the triangular relationship between herself, Sartre and her student, Olga Kosakievicz, L'Invitée (She Came to Stay), was published in 1943. This novel, written from 1935 to 1937 (and read by Sartre in manuscript form as he began writing Being and Nothingness) successfully gained her public recognition.

The Occupation inaugurated what Beauvoir has called the "moral period" of her literary life. From 1941 to 1943 she wrote her novel, Le Sang des Autres (The Blood of Others), which was heralded as one of the most important existential novels of the French Resistance. In 1943 she wrote her first philosophical essay, an ethical treatise entitled Pyrrhus et Cinéas. Finally, this period includes the writing of her novel, Tous Les Hommes sont Mortels (All Men are Mortal), written from 1943-46 and her only play, Les Bouches Inutiles (Who Shall Die?), written in 1944.

Although only cursorily involved in the Resistance, Beauvoir's political commitments underwent a progressive development in the 1930's and 1940's. Together with Sartre, Merleau-Ponty, Raymond Aron and other intellectuals, she helped found the politically non-affiliated, leftist journal, Les Temps Modernes in 1945, for which she both edited and contributed articles, including in 1945, "Moral Idealism and Political Realism," "Existentialism and Popular Wisdom," and in 1946, "Eye for an Eye." Also in 1946, Beauvoir wrote an article explaining her method of doing philosophy in literature in "Literature and Metaphysics." The creation of this journal and her leftist orientation (which was heavily influenced by her reading of Marx and the political ideal represented by Russia), colored her uneasy relationship to Communism. The journal itself and the question of the intellectual's political commitments would become a major theme of her novel, The Mandarins (1954).

Beauvoir published another ethical treatise, Pour une Morale de l'Ambiguïté (The Ethics of Ambiguity) in 1947. Although she was never fully satisfied with this work, it remains one of the best examples of an existentialist ethics. In 1955, she published, "Must We Burn Sade?" which again approaches the question of ethics from the perspective of the demands of and obligations to the other.

Following advance extracts which appeared in Les Temps Modernes in 1948, Beauvoir published her revolutionary, two-volume investigation into woman's oppression, Le Deuxième Sexe (The Second Sex) in 1949. Although previous to writing this work she had never considered herself to be a "feminist," The Second Sex solidified her as a feminist figure for the remainder of her life. By far her most controversial work, this book was embraced by feminists and intellectuals, as well as mercilessly attacked by both the right and the left. The 70's, famous for being a time of feminist movements, was embraced by Beauvoir who participated in demonstrations, continued to write and lecture on the situation of women, and signed petitions advocating various rights for women. In 1970, Beauvoir helped launch the French Women's Liberation Movement in signing the Manifesto of the 343 for abortion rights and in 1973, she instituted a feminist section in Les Temps Modernes.

Following the numerous literary successes and the high profile of her and Sartre's lives, her career was marked by a fame rarely experienced by philosophers during their lifetimes. This fame resulted both from her own work as well as from her relationship to and association with Sartre. For the rest of her life, she lived under the close scrutiny of the public eye. She was often unfairly considered to be a mere disciple of Sartrean philosophy (in part, due to her own proclamations) despite the fact that many of her ideas were original and went in directions radically different than Sartre's works.

During the 1940's, she and Sartre, who had at one time relished in the café culture and social life of Paris, found themselves retreating into the safety of their close circle of friends, affectionately named the "Family." However, her fame did not stop her from continuing her life-long passion of traveling to foreign lands which resulted in two of her works, L'Amérique au Jour le Jour (America Day by Day) first published in 1948 and La Longue Marche (The Long March) published in 1957. The former was written following her lecture tour of the United States in 1947, and the latter following her visit with Sartre to communist China in 1955.

Her later work included the writing of more works of fiction, philosophical essays and interviews. It was notably marked not only by her political action in feminist issues, but also by the publication of her autobiography in four volumes and her political engagement directly attacking the French war in Algeria and the tortures of Algerians by French officers. In 1970, she published an impressive study of the oppression of aged members of society, La Vieillesse (The Coming of Age). This work mirrors the same approach she had taken in The Second Sex only with a different object of investigation.

Beauvoir saw the passing of her lifelong companion in 1980, which is recounted in her 1981 book, La Cérémonie des Adieux (Adieux: A Farewell to Sartre). Following the death of Sartre, Beauvoir officially adopted her companion, Sylvie le Bon, who became her literary executor. Beauvoir died of a pulmonary edema on April 14, 1986.

 

José Ortega y Gasset (1883-1955) nació en Madrid, estudió en Alemania –donde recibió influencia del maestro neokanteano H. Cohen-, y a los 28 años fue nombrado catedrático de Metafísica en la universidad de Madrid. En 1914 publica el libro Meditaciones del Quijote, y por esta época funda la “Liga de Educación Política”, desde la que defiende sus postulados liberales y modernizadores de España. Participó activamente en la vida política de los años anteriores a la II República Española y en los primeros de ésta, y abandonó España para exiliarse voluntariamente en 1936. (En 1945, tras la Segunda Guerra Mundial volvió para fundar el Instituto de Humanidades.) Sus obras más conocidas son La Rebelión de las Masas y La Deshumanización del Arte, en las que caracteriza el siglo XX como una sociedad dominada por masas de individuos mediocres e informes en detrimento de las minorías capacitadas. Consideraba el comunismo y el fascismo como síntomas de esta tiranía de la mayoría convertida en masa. Ha tenido una influencia enorme en España y en América Latina, donde introdujo el pensamiento alemán y divulgó su metafísica raciovitalista y su perspectivismo, una teoría del conocimiento opuesta igualmente al realismo y al idealismo. Su filosofía se caracteriza por una interacción dinámica en la que la vida se concibe como un intenso diálogo entre el yo y sus circunstancias. Ejemplificó esto en su vida como político liberal. Se opuso a la dictadura de Primo de Rivera, en la década de 1920, y renunció a su cátedra como protesta. En 1936, al comenzar la Guerra Civil, abandona España, y se pasa los veinte años siguientes dando cursos y conferencias en Europa y América. Durante este tiempo sigue escribiendo y publicando libros: Ideas y creencias, La historia como sistema.
Ortega y Gasset murió el año 1955 en Madrid, adonde había regresado poco antes. Tras su muerte aparecieron de forma póstuma otras obras destacables, como Unas lecciones de metafísica y ¿Qué es filosofía?

Como filósofo Ortega creó una especie de existencialismo español. Al igual que sus contemporáneos franceses, señaló que la vida es un conjunto de problemas dentro de una situación histórica dada. Una de las metáforas favoritas de Ortega compara la vida con un naufragio, que requiere desesperadamente intervención y creatividad para poder sobrevivir.