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Beauvoir and the Question of Moral Agency
Unformatted Document Text:  15 violence as self-assertion, but also draws attention to the mediated nature of this experience and therefore to the ways in which intersubjectivity holds object and subject, self and other together just as much as is true of the subject. Nature and second nature are irreducible elements of how one experiences oneself as subject, they are also irreducible elements of how subjects relate to subjects, as embodied and socialized beings operating within vocabularies that are neither discovered nor invented, and in relation to which there is no meaningful ‘outside’. Violence, as with any action in the world, is never originary, it is always mediated. It’s existential significance for the subject is indissociable from its instrumental and institutional significance. Thus we should not interpret the above quotation as meaning that only through violence can subjectivity be made concrete and capable of recognition, rather that violence is one mode through which subjectivity is made concrete and capable of recognition, but it is not a privileged mode of expression, or indeed a privileged mode of being, except insofar as it is at least a mode of living subjectivity which, in the case of young men, is recognised as such. In the sentences following, Beauvoir argues that engagement in sport and physical exercise may provide women with modes of self-assertion and recognition, which they are currently denied. The problem for women, in Beauvoir’s argument, is not that they are denied the lessons of violence as such, but that they are radically under-equipped by their current situation to assert themselves in any way at all, their vocabulary is all in the passive. But simply from the fact that liberty in woman is still abstract and empty, she can exercise it only in revolt, which is the only road open to those who have no opportunity of doing anything constructive. They must reject the

Authors: Hutchings, Kimberly.
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violence as self-assertion, but also draws attention to the mediated nature of this experience
and therefore to the ways in which intersubjectivity holds object and subject, self and other
together just as much as is true of the subject. Nature and second nature are irreducible
elements of how one experiences oneself as subject, they are also irreducible elements of
how subjects relate to subjects, as embodied and socialized beings operating within
vocabularies that are neither discovered nor invented, and in relation to which there is no
meaningful ‘outside’. Violence, as with any action in the world, is never originary, it is
always mediated. It’s existential significance for the subject is indissociable from its
instrumental and institutional significance. Thus we should not interpret the above quotation
as meaning that only through violence can subjectivity be made concrete and capable of
recognition, rather that violence is one mode through which subjectivity is made concrete
and capable of recognition, but it is not a privileged mode of expression, or indeed a
privileged mode of being, except insofar as it is at least a mode of living subjectivity which,
in the case of young men, is recognised as such. In the sentences following, Beauvoir
argues that engagement in sport and physical exercise may provide women with modes of
self-assertion and recognition, which they are currently denied. The problem for women, in
Beauvoir’s argument, is not that they are denied the lessons of violence as such, but that
they are radically under-equipped by their current situation to assert themselves in any way
at all, their vocabulary is all in the passive.
But simply from the fact that liberty in woman
is still abstract and empty, she can exercise it
only in revolt, which is the only road open to
those who have no opportunity of doing
anything constructive. They must reject the


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