Self-knowledge is Impossible (Beauvoir)

Reading through old common-place books, I come across this context-setting from Simone de Beauvoir’s The Prime of Life. Beauvoir’s memoirs are marvels with so much more immediacy than the novels. I repeat this piece in my latest common-place book and here on my blog as it is necessary to remind oneself often.

“[..] I still believe to this day in the theory of ‘transcendental ego’. The self has only a probable objectivity, and anyone saying ‘I’ only grasps the outer edge of it; an outsider can get a cleaner and more accurate picture. Let me repeat that this personal account is not offered in any sense as an ‘explanation’. Indeed, one of my main reasons for undertaking it is my realisation that self-knowledge is impossible, and that the best one can hope for is self-revelation.”

This week: Middlemarch, Kathleen Ferrier’s Winterreise.

4 thoughts on “Self-knowledge is Impossible (Beauvoir)

  1. What an insightful section of text, like a small slice of wisdom. Thanks Anthony. I want to read this now. It makes me think – in a different way- of Lacan’s idea of the ‘réel’ that we can only encircle, brush up against, and delimit with a border of words…


  2. Firstly I love the concept of handwritten commonplace books – I’m an analogue woman at heart – and I guess my journals may well have filled that need over the years. And the quote is wonderful – I read the Beauvoir books back in my 20s but I suspect a re-read now would bring me much more. Thanks for sharing this.


    • You and me both, Karen. A fountain pen with a nearly perfect nib, a good notebook and the best coloured ink for one’s mood; looking back over my commonplace books brings back not only wonderful books but the place, moods and people around at the time.

      Liked by 1 person

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