ABSTRACT

The ethics of reciprocity offered by Simone de Beauvoir is founded upon an irreducible epistemic gap between self and other. This gap is often overlooked by commentators, who have tended to imply that the ethics of reciprocity requires recognition of oneself in the other. I claim that Beauvoir's ethics forecloses such recognition of oneself in the other and reveals that it is at once illusory and dangerous. Recognition in this sense is based upon a false notion of self and constitutes a violation of the alterity of the other. I argue that Beauvoir stages this dangerous form of recognition in her novel She Came to Stay, while her claims about reciprocity in The Second Sex provide an image of a different, more positive recognition capable of respecting alterity. Finally, I claim that the epistemic gap characteristic of reciprocity also holds with respect to one's self-relation.

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