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Delve Readers Seminar Online: The Ethics of Ambiguity and The Metamorphosis

July 15, 2020 @ 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm

Online, N/A, Portland, OR 97207

In her book The Ethics of Ambiguity, the philosopher Simone de Beauvoir asks us to consider what it means to exercise individual freedom and to live in community with others. Where does our individual freedom begin and end? Simone de Beauvoir claims that our personal freedom can be manifest only when we “will others free.” How do we create a life where we protect our individual freedom and work toward the freedom of our neighbor? Can both forms of freedom truly exist?

de Beauvoir wrote The Ethics of Ambiguity in 1947, and she questions and seeks to define personal ethics and freedom in the wake of Nazi atrocities and totalitarianism. We will read The Ethics of Ambiguity in its entirety.

At first glance, Franz Kafka may seem like an odd pairing with Simone de Beauvoir but a step inside Kafka’s The Metamorphosis, and it’s clear that we entering the mind of a character who seeks the type of personal freedom Simone de Beauvoir claims is available to us.

Participants will explore questions about freedom in our own lives: Can we be as free as we are “meant” to be despite the gaze and expectations of those around us? Can we be free as individuals even if we have jobs that bind us to institutions and norms that may run counter to our freedom? Can we live freely if those around us suffer?

Reading List:

The Ethics of Ambiguity by Simone de Beauvoir (New Road Media) ISBN: 9781504054225

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka (VIZ Media) Translator: Susan Bernofsky

(participants purchase their own books for the seminar)

Reading Schedule:

Class 1: July 15 To be read for the first class

  • Metamorphosis p. 21-118 (Introduction and Afterward are not required)

Class 2: July 22

  • The Ethics of Ambiguity
    • Ambiguity and Freedom, p. 6-34
    • Personal Freedom and Others, p. 35-73

Class 3: July 29

  • The Ethics of Ambiguity
    • The Positive Aspect of Ambiguity, p. 74-78
    • The Aesthetic Attitude, p. 74-77
    • Freedom and Liberation, p. 78-96

Class 4:  Aug. 5 

  • The Ethics of Ambiguity
    • The Anatomies of Action, p. 96-114
    • The Present and Future, p. 115-128
    • Ambiguity, p. 129-155
    • Conclusion, p. 156-159

July 15- August 5, 2020
Wednesdays, 6:30-8:30 p.m Pacific Time (four sessions)
Online via Zoom
Mary Finn

Mary Finn was a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow in the Bard College NEH seminar program on Hannah Arendt and she received an NEH fellowship to study fictional dystopias and utopias at St. Mary’s College in Moraga, CA. She was awarded the Educators for Educators fellowship with the National Women’s History Museum where she wrote curriculum about Charlotte Perkins Gillman’s writing. Mary founded and taught seminar courses at Polis, a text-based adult education program in San Francisco, CA. She graduated from the Graduate Institute of St. John’s College in Santa Fe, NM, which is a text-based, seminar-focused college. Mary’s worked as a high school teacher and administrator for 20 years. Her writing has been published in Ms. Magazine, Education Week, Orlando Weekly, The Mercury (Hobart, Australia), Salt Lake City Weekly, and the Baltimore Sun.

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Portland, OR 97207


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