Maybe philosophy can be entertaining


You might want to read Terminator: The Simone de Beauvoir Chronicles if you don’t mind seeing philosophers shoot each other or run over each other with trolleys. This one rebukes hyper-rationality and utilitarianism, and includes a few cool quotes from Simone de Beauvoir…and also makes up a few that she should have said.

There are hints to all the philosophical in-jokes, and I like this summary of the line in the excerpt I posted here.

The final line is a play on Beauvoir’s famous phrase from The Second Sex, “One is not born, but rather becomes a woman”. By this she meant the the roles, characteristics, and attributes that make up “womanness” are not essential traits to women, but rather adopted individually and culturally. There is no essential woman for Beauvoir, as indeed there was no essential humanity. It is up to us to decide what we are.

Why, that’s downright inspiring.


  1. lakitha tolbert says

    Wait a minute!
    Isn’t that the basic philosophy of The Iron Giant?
    “You are who you choose to be!”

  2. taraskan says

    It’s a funny concept, but as someone intimately familiar with de Beauvoir’s work, I have to say Dostoevsky was something of a ridiculous choice for a freedom fighter, especially for her. The man was a bit of a reactionary, and wanted nothing to do with revolutionary politics – 1848 style or’71. He was shipped off to Siberia, sure, but it was guilt by association – his real crime was he read some fairly a-political literary essays. He refused the anarchists, every variety of socialism, and abhored secularism.

    This was the man who said “if everyone were an active Christian, not a single social question would arise” and that if everyone were Christian “it would settle everything”. He was fervantly, backwardly Orthodox and rejected democracy, constitutional monarchy, and socialism, believing instead in a theocratic Christian state which he believed would be benevolent (his word was liberal but all that meant at the time was non-monarchical) yet autocratic. He wanted the Church to lead, and stuck Christian allegorical salvation and suffering into every one of his many books. He was an existentialist, but the parallel with Beauvoir dies there.

    De Beauvoir was an iconoclast, atheist, feminist, and revolutionary. Her political writings alone reveal someone more attentive to social ills and psychology than even William James or Marx. If anyone gets to play the freedom-at-all-costs puppy-kicked character in her robot warrior comic, it should have been someone who was actually a philosopher, and who lost everything in the pursuit of personal freedom, and ideally someone who influenced de Beauvoir’s own philosophy more than any other single person including the phenomonologists and Hegelians.

    It should have been Nietzsche. I am disappoint.

  3. taraskan says

    @#1 Not exactly. There is some conflation going on in the comic between freedom as a moral right and freedom as a tool for truth in the philosophical sense. De Beauvoir’s conclusion was truth was impossible to obtain, but that the search for it was yet very necessary. But because it was impossible, it was therefore a pursuit on a personal level. To the extent this influenced her political thought, it merely benefits this search most to have an environment that maximizes resources and avenues toward that truth.

  4. says

    Wow, someone linked me to one of these comics a long time ago, one of the really low-numbered ones, and the artwork and the joke were sort of mediocre, so I never bothered to keep up with it. Thanks to this post, I went and looked at the archives, and wow, has this comic gotten good! (Trolley Madness, for example, is the Trolley Problem comic SMBC keeps trying to make, but has never actually reached.) I feel like I missed out by not following it earlier. Thanks for the link, PZ!

    Sartre, as waiter: Okay, here we are, would anyone like fresh parmesean? [sic]
    Man at table: Sure.
    Sartre: Say when… [He begins to grate cheese onto the man’s plate]
    Man: “When” [Sartre continues grating] When, When! STOP! [Sartre continues grating; the man’s plate is now buried in cheese] What are you doing?!
    Sartre: [Leans in towards the man, still grating, whispers] Radical… [Leans further, eyes narrow, still grating] …freeeeeeeedom.