Beauvoir's Reading of Biology in The Second Sex


  • David M. Peña-Guzmán Laurentian University



Simone de Beauvoir, French philosophy, biology, existentialism, immanent critique, feminism


This article offers a systematic treatment of Beauvoir's reading of biology in The Second Sex. Following Gatens (2003)'s suggestion that this chapter has not received the scholarly consideration it demands and deserves, it explains key aspects of Beauvoir's relationship to biological reason by (i) re-telling the story of Beauvoir's early life from the perspective of her scientific education, (ii) rationally reconstructing her argument in the chapter on "Biological Data," and (iii) exploring the philosophical orientation of her argument using the Frankfurt School model of 'immanent critique.' By illuminating Beauvoir's reading of biology (including evolutionary theory, developmental biology, and physiology), this article contributes to our understanding of her philosophy while also deflating the widespread assumption that existentialist philosophy (including Beauvoir's brand of it) is inherently 'anti-science.'



Author Biography

David M. Peña-Guzmán, Laurentian University

David M. Peña-Guzmán ( is a postdoctoral research fellow at Laurentian University’s Centre for Evolutionary Ecology and Ethical Conservation in Sudbury, ON. He received his PhD in philosophy from Emory University in 2015. His areas of research include continental philosophy, philosophy of science, feminist theory, and ethics.