Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Philosophy



First Advisor

Fritz Wenisch


This study will critically examine the moral philosophy of one of existentialism's leading exponents Simone de Beauvoir, as set forth in The Ethics of Ambiguity. The problem of the nature and status of moral values and moral imperatives arises in Beauvoir’s ethics when she denies the existence of objective moral values. The questions are: Why does Beauvoir deny objective values? How does Beauvoir understand the concept of objective values? And, finally, does Beauvoir actually succeed in her attempt to offer an ethical philosophy in spite of her denial of objective values?

In the Introduction, the distinction between hypothetical and unconditional imperatives is drawn and the ambiguity of the word 'value' is examined. Objective value is defined and it is claimed that Beauvoir does acknowledge the existence of objective values defined in this sense.

The Exposition presents an interpretation and critical analysis of Beauvoir’s ethics and traces the development of her dialectic. Beginning with the Sartrean definition of man, Beauvoir proceeds to discuss ambiguity, freedom and existence, disclosure, subjective attitudes chosen in regard to one’s own freedom and oppression. Each of these topics is examined and shown to be essential to understanding Beauvoir’s views concerning moral values and imperatives.

The Conclusion is addressed to the questions of why Beauvoir rejects objective values, what kinds of things she understands objective values to be and argues that in spite of her denial of objective values, Beauvoir does succeed in offering a moral philosophy.

Finally, Beauvoir’s significance as a moral philosopher is discussed.



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