The Viability of the Philosophical Novel: The Case of Simone de Beauvoir's She Came to Stay


  • Ashley King Scheu


This article begins by asking if the project to write a philosophical novel is not inherently flawed; it would seem that the novelist must either write an ambiguous text, which would not create a strong enough argument to count as philosophy, or she must write a text with a clear argument, which would not be ambiguous enough to count as good fiction. The only other option available would be to exemplify a preexisting abstract philosophical system in the concrete literary world. To move beyond such an impasse, this article turns to the work of Simone de Beauvoir. Beauvoir's unique aesthetic theory in “Literature and Metaphysics” envisions philosophy as an integral part of the literary text and sees the novel not as an argument but as something called a “philosophical appeal” (Beauvoir 2004b). In her first novel, She Came to Stay, such a concept of the philosophical novel allows Beauvoir to make an original contribution to the philosophical tradition—one in which Beauvoir rethinks the problem of solipsism—while still creating a stunning literary work (Beauvoir 1954). A study of the theory and the novel together thus provides a solid understanding of what philosophers stand to gain from the philosophical novel.