Centre for Continuing Education

Philosophy Course: Simone de Beauvoir

Philosophy. Study the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality and existence.

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We are now delivering courses both online and in-person. Please check the delivery format for each class before you enrol.

Please note that course materials for all classes (excluding prescribed textbooks) are shared electronically within 48 hours of a course starting. Printing is not available.

Since the publication of the 2010 new, unabridged English translation of The Second Sex, there has been a growing interest in the extent and complexity of de Beauvoir’s philosophical ideas. Some of these ideas are: The nature and limits of human freedom (She Came to Stay, Pyrrhus and Cineas); The role of imagination in the authentic construction of self (The Ethics of Ambiguity); The phenomenology of sex and violence ("Must We Burn Sade?"); The mechanics of time in the construction of desire (All Men are Mortal); And her insightful work on aging, loss and death (Adieux: A Farwell to Sartre: Finitude, Passion and the Body). Beauvoir was also an astute political observer as the essays collected in Political Writings (2012) show. This course will examine her philosophical books, essays, and novels.


By the end of this course, you should be able to:

  • discuss the main features of the philosophy of Simone de Beauvoir
  • discuss the philosophy in her works on ethics, politics and feminism
  • compare the implications of her ideas with others thinkers of the time
  • use the insights of the course to examine their individual ideas of the purpose of human life and how to live it
  • apply some of the ideas to the contemporary situation and its ethical implications.


This course covers the following topics:

Introduction and biography

The connection between her life and work, and an introduction to some of the central issues of Beauvoir philosophy.

The metaphysical novel

She Came to Stay (1943) deals with the dynamics of desire; our relationship to time; and the temporal structure of our relationship to ourselves and others. It also introduces the issue of violence and its legitimacy in the quest for freedom. The work can also be read as a meditation on the philosophy of the German Idealist: Hegel.

The philosophical essay

Pyrrhus and Cineas (1944) From Part 1: “A man alone in the world would be paralyzed by the vanity of all of his goals. But man is not alone in the world.” This essay asks how we create values and what values are worth creating.

Literature and The Metaphysical Essay (1946)

Influenced by Husserl, focused on the significance of lived experience and how meaning is revealed in language.

The Ethics of Ambiguity (1947)

The Second Sex (1949)

Considered to be the foundational text of second wave feminism, we will reconsider this text using the unabridged 2010 translation (translated by C.Borde, S. Malovany-Chevallier), which has been hailed as returning her feminism to its broader existential and phenomenological implications.

Joy and generosity

Sartre may have said that ‘hell is other people’ but Beauvoir also explores the way we construct our identity through the recognition of ourselves in others.

"Must We Burn Sade" (1952)

This much discussed essay concerns the issues of how sexuality and freedom are connected together. It also discusses the ‘authenticity’ of desire, when sexuality is based on sadism.

The Mandarins (1954)

For which she won the prestigious French literary award. The novel is concerned with playing out the ambiguous nature of human existence: our drive for self-realization and our dependence on others.

Age, loss, death. A Very Easy Death (1964)

Coming of Age (1970); Adieux: A Farwell to Sarte: Finitude, Passion and the Body (1981).

Intended audience

This philosophy course is suitable for personal interest learners: school, university students, adult and active retirees.

Delivery style

Delivered as an interactive lecture/seminar where questions and discussions are facilitated wherever possible.

Recommended reading

To be provided in class.


To be provided in class.


  • Expert trainers
  • Central locations
  • Course materials – yours to keep
  • CCE Statement of Completion

What others say.

  • The presenter of this course always surprises and delights.

  • Another great course from this legendary presenter.

  • The tutor provided a very interesting course with beautifully prepared notes. The sessions were conducted to encourage audience participation and definitely expanded everyone’s knowledge in a most enjoyable way.

What others say.

  • The presenter of this course always surprises and delights.
  • The tutor provided a very interesting course with beautifully prepared notes. The sessions were conducted to encourage audience participation and definitely expanded everyone's knowledge in a most enjoyable way.
  • Another great course from this legendary presenter.
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