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Simone de Beauvoir's Philosophy of Individuation

The Problem of The Second Sex

Laura Hengehold

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An experimental reading of The Second Sex through the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze

Laura Hengehold presents a new, Deleuzian reading of Simone de Beauvoir's phenomenology, the place of recognition in The Second Sex, the philosophical issues in her novels and the important role of her student diaries. Hengehold clarifies the elements of Deleuze's thought – alone and in collaboration with Guattari – that may be most useful to contemporary feminists who are simultaneously rethinking the becoming of gender and the becoming of philosophy.

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List of Abbreviations

1. Introduction: Blocked Singularities
Sense and the Event
Historicity of the Problem

2. The Problem of Sexist Sense
Representation and the Creation of Concepts
Conceptual personae and the Prephilosophical Plane

3. Lived Experience
Consciousness and habit
Varieties of Immanence
Narcissism, Love, and Mysticism

4. The Freedom of Others
Pyrrhus and Cineas
The Ethics of Ambiguity
Communication and Recognition
Back to Mitsein

5. Territories and Assemblages
Philosophy and Literary Problems
Ambiguities of sex
Universal or Just Common?

6. Virtual Conflicts
Ethics and Politics from the Milieu
Equal how?
Whose History? Which Event?
What can Institutions do?

7. Conclusion

Works Cited

About the Author

Laura Hengehold is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Case Western Reserve University. She is the author of The Body Problematic: Political Imagination in Kant and Foucault (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2007) and co-editor of The Blackwell Companion to Simone de Beauvoir (Wiley/Blackwell, 2017). She is also translator and editor of Law and the Public Sphere in Africa: La Palabre and Other Writings by Jean Godefroy Bidima (Indiana University Press, 2013) and translator of Kafka’s Monkey and Other Phantoms of Africa by Seloua Luste Boulbina (Indiana University Press, forthcoming).


Hengehold calls her book a gamble. What is the gamble? That Beauvoir’s ideas become freer through Deleuze. This does not mean Beauvoir becomes a Deleuzian. She becomes, rather, the creator of concepts for an ontology of becoming. The gamble’s payoff? A Beauvoir we’ve never read before!

- Lynne Huffer, Emory University

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