The Ethics Of Ambiguity, by Simone de Beauvior
What is it that makes this book so terrible? Is it the futility of seeking to enshrine an absolutist view of ethics that is based on self-chosen existentialist grounds rather than to admit that absolute moral standards require a transcendent creator? Is it her self-serving double standards of not judging the Soviet gulag (to say nothing of the Chinese laogai) by the same standards by which she shows hatred for the Nazi concentration camp? Is it the way that the author seeks to combine the most unpleasant aspects of politically motivated ambiguity with the most unpleasant aspects of a stridently authoritarian use of language as a club against the reader who has a different worldview? Perhaps it is all of these reasons and more besides. It is difficult to see who it would be–aside from someone whose worldview is as defective as the author’s, who is as intoxicated with self-idolatry and the refusal to give credit where it is due–that would appreciate a book like this at all. This author has about the same level of credibility in writing about ethics as does the immoral bioethicisists of our contemporary world who see it as moral to corrupt nature and to debase the dignity of life, that is to say, none at all. As is often the case, books about ethics seldom demonstrate their authors to be moral and ethical people.
This book is at least mercifully short at less than 200 pages, because it would have been far more intolerable at a larger length. It is plenty long enough as it is to be incoherent in the extreme. The author begins this book with a look at the relationship between ambiguity and freedom, seeking to make morals absolute while also seeking to free herself from authority. The author then moves on to the question of personal freedom and one’s relationship (and obligations) to others. After this the author spends the rest of the book discussing what in her mind are some positive aspects of ambiguity, first tackling the aesthetic attitude towards life, the question between freedom and liberation, where she stumbles in her desire to explain and justify Soviet atrocities as having a noble end, the antinomies of action, which cause her to look at the problem of avoiding action against Nazis in World War II and what this led to, as well as a look at the present and the future and ambiguity as a whole. At this point the author mercifully ends the book with a conclusion and index.
A book like this can only be seen as admirable if one sees the life and thinking and behavior of the author as admirable. I do not. The author’s political views in particular as well as her own behavior were both immoral and wicked in the extreme, and neither the ends nor the means of her beloved Communist governments have ever been just at any point in their trials around the world, which served as a tribulation to the longsuffering masses who were punished for the sins of their wicked rulers. It is clear why the author would wish to absolutize her own moral worldview and rebel against any authority over her. She shows the typical and lamentable Janus-faced attitude that the followers of Satan have always had towards matters of morals and behavior, a spirited rebellion against authority over them that would punish them for their sins and constrain them to a moral standard of thinking and behaving and a tyrannical absolutism over whatever unfortunate souls come under their influence and authority. Anarchy towards those above and tyranny of those below well describes the sort of ungodly ambiguity that is celebrated here, making this book a fitting if accidental description of the demonic attitude within the thinking and action of human beings in life and politics.