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Education, Attention and Transformation: Death and Decreation in Tolstoy and Weil

Peter Roberts read

 

What might it mean to engage in an educative struggle with death? Leo Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich helps us to answer that question. Tolstoy’s story depicts the life of a man who, when suddenly faced with the prospect of his own death, is at first unable to comprehend the reality of his situation. He is angry, fearful, and disgusted. As he gradually comes to terms with his mortality, he undergoes a harrowing process of transformation, at the heart of which lies the development of his capacity for attention. Drawing on ideas from the French philosopher and pedagogue Simone Weil, it is argued that Ivan’s experience is consistent with the passage from ‘gravity’, through the void of intense suffering, toward a state of grace.

Roberts, Peter. Education, “Attention and Transformation: Death and Decreation in Tolstoy and Weil.” Studies in Philosophy and Education (2021). Online: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11217-021-09775-8

About Weil

Weil Scholars

Ronald KL Collins read

A linked listing of noted Weil scholars in the United States and elsewhere.