Honors College Theses

Publication Date



Philosophy (B.A.)

Document Type and Release Option

Thesis (open access)

Faculty Mentor

Dr. Elizabeth Butterfield


In her book The Ethics of Ambiguity, French existentialist writer Simone de Beauvoir delves into the human condition and the possibilities for morality that arise from her understanding of such. Beginning with the assumption that there is no externally objective meaning or value to humanity, Beauvoir presents humanity as fundamentally free to create meaning and values for themselves. Beauvoir argues that humans are all simultaneously free to choose, yet limited in our choice by the facts of our situations, a paradoxical state of being she labels as our fundamental ambiguity. It is because of this ambiguity, she asserts, that we must will ourselves free in order to intentionally create meaning for ourselves and assume our ambiguity. It is only once one has done this that they can become genuine moral agents. However, Beauvoir concludes that one who denies the freedom of others has an evil and contradictory will, for one must will all humans free in order to be free themselves. Through an examination of her use of the word “evil” and the extent to which her process of assuming ambiguity translates into the objective existence of any value, particularly the “absolute” of freedom, this paper seeks to determine whether or not Beauvoir is justified in asserting the existence of good and evil, particularly in declaring any act or intention “absolutely evil.”