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Ideas To Save Your Life

Michael McGirr read

Ideas to Save Your Life follows Michael McGirr’s much-admired Books that Saved My Life (2018). This time, instead of sharing his love of literature, McGirr shares his love of philosophy, focusing on the works of twenty-plus eminent thinkers across history.

The book goes back to Pythagoras and comes forward to the contemporary Australian Frank Jackson; back to Mungo Woman and forward to Martha Nussbaum, by way of Simone Weil [Chapter 16] and Iris Murdoch. It is animated by two related questions: from where do we draw a sense of life’s purpose? And how can philosophy make life better? It ranges widely across subjects—from solitude to community, language to order, experience to ecstasy, the idea of good to that of a good idea.

McGirr’s approach is warm and inviting. Drawing on his many years of teaching philosophy to teenagers, he shares stories from his life and the lives of others. Ideas to Save Your Life is often funny, but it is always serious about the task of philosophy. It makes the impenetrable accessible, the indescribable palpable, and invites you to change how you see the world.

Text Publishing (2021) (ch. 16 on Weil and attention)

Reviewed by Gregory Day in The Sunday Morning Herald (Dec. 31, 2021)

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Attending: An Ethical Art

Warren Heiti, editor read

Attending – patient contemplation focused on a particular being – is a central ethical activity that has not been recognized by any of the main moral systems in the European philosophical tradition. That tradition has imagined that the moral agent is primarily a problem solver and world changer when what might be needed most is a witness.

Moral theory has been agonized by dualism – motivation is analyzed into beliefs and desires, descriptions of facts and dissatisfactions with them, while action is represented as an effort to lessen dissatisfaction by altering the empirical world. In Attending Warren Heiti traces an alternative genealogy of ethics, drawing from the Platonism recovered by Simone Weil and developed in the work of Iris Murdoch, John McDowell, and Jan Zwicky. According to Weil, virtue is knowledge, knowledge is embodied, and the knower is nested in an ecosystem of relationships. Instead of analyzing and solving theoretical problems, Heiti aims to clarify the terrain by setting up objects of attention from more than one discipline, including not only philosophy but also literature, psychology, film, and visual art.

The traditional picture captures one important type of ethical activity: faced with a moral problem, one looks to a general rule to furnish the solution. But not all problems conform to this model. Heiti offers an alternative: to see what is needed, one attends to the particular being.

Warren Heiti is a Professor of philosophy and liberal studies at Vancouver Island University.

McGill-Queen’s University Press, July 15, 2021

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Simone Weil, une Juive antisémite?

Robert Chenavier read

Abstract: A persistent controversy pursues the memory of Simone Weil about the alleged “anti-Semitism” in some of her writings. It is a fact that, within the framework of the spiritual evolution that led Simone Weil to approach Christianity, she made some harsh remarks on the religion of the Hebrews, since her project was to purge the Christian religion of its Jewish imprint in favor of its Greek component. Can such anti-Hebraism be equated with anti-Semitism? The question continues to surface on a regular basis. Robert Chenavier, who edited the last published volumes of the Works of Simone Weil, methodically takes up the matter, on the basis of his intimate knowledge of the author’s thought, in order to dispel once and for all the fallacies and interpretations that fuel this accusation. He examines, in particular, the text of Simone Weil considered to be the most “anti-Semitic,” which she wrote while in London, this in connection with her work for the Free French. This book will be the definitive work on the subject. {translation adapted from Intelligent Translator app}

Paris: Gallimard (2021)

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Simone Weil for the Twenty-First Century

Eric O. Springsted read

This in-depth study examines the social, religious, and philosophical thought of Simone Weil.

Simone Weil for the Twenty-First Century presents a comprehensive analysis of Weil’s interdisciplinary thought, focusing especially on the depth of its challenge to contemporary philosophical and religious studies. In a world where little is seen to have real meaning, Eric O. Springsted presents a critique of the unfocused nature of postmodern philosophy and argues that Weil’s thought is more significant than ever in showing how the world in which we live is, in fact, a world of mysteries. Springsted brings into focus the challenges of Weil’s original (and sometimes surprising) starting points, such as an Augustinian priority of goodness and love over being and intellect, and the importance of the Crucifixion. Springsted demonstrates how the mystical and spiritual aspects of Weil’s writings influence her social thought. For Weil, social and political questions cannot be separated from the supernatural. For her, rather, the world has a sacramental quality, such that life in the world is always a matter of life in God―and life in God, necessarily a way of life in the world.

Simone Weil for the Twenty-First Century is not simply a guide or introduction to Simone Weil. Rather, it is above all an argument for the importance of Weil’s thought in the contemporary world, showing how she helps us to understand the nature of our belonging to God (sometimes in very strange and unexpected ways), the importance of attention and love as the root of both the love of God and neighbor, the importance of being rooted in culture (and culture’s service to the soul in rooting it in the universe), and the need for human beings to understand themselves as communal beings, not as isolated thinkers or willers. It will be essential reading for scholars of Weil, and will also be of interest to philosophers and theologians.

Eric O. Springsted is the co-founder of the American Weil Society and served as its president for thirty-three years. After a career as a teacher, scholar, and pastor, he is retired and lives in Santa Fe, NM. He is the author and editor of a dozen previous books, including Simone Weil: Late Philosophical Writings (University of Notre Dame Press, 2015).

University of Notre Dame Press, 2021

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Faith Envy: Kierkegaard, Wittgenstein, and Weil on Desirable Faith

Hermen Kroesbergen read

From time to time, both believers and nonbelievers envy those with more faith. In this book, Hermen Kroesbergen coins the concept of faith envy as an angle to investigate faith and religious language and provide a new direction for the philosophy of religion. For far too long, the philosophy of religion has focused on statements of faith concerning superempirical powers, forgetting that if they would ever be able to prove these statements, they cease to be religious. Kroesbergen explores the possibility of using the angle of faith envy for a much-needed alternative approach, using the philosophers Søren Kierkegaard, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Simone Weil as guides. Their lives and works have often been studied for what they have to say about religious beliefs; here, however, the focus is on what they have to say about the faith they envy. Our own faith envy, and Kierkegaard, Wittgenstein, and Weil’s struggle to make sense of it provides a deeper insight into what faith is and could be. This book is a timely and provocative intervention in a philosophy of religion that has reached a dead end, and a society that is deeply troubled about faith but envies it nonetheless.

Fortress Academic, July 15, 2021

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Simone Weil (French Edition)

Florence de Lussy read

Throughout her life, Simone Weil tried to understand herself and the world and pushed back the horizon of the intelligible to try to think of God. With firmness but using great psychological finesse, she made men’s grandeur and miseries appear in full light. An uncomfortable figure that cannot leave anyone indifferent, she always provokes so many contradictory and often violent reactions. But everyone agrees on one thing: Simone Weil’s strength is her purity.

Florence de Lussy restores this purity of the gaze to us with great honesty, without ever forgetting the excesses and errors of the author of The Need for Roots, depicted here in chiaroscuro. At the end of these pages, it is the great philosopher – who was at the same time a mystic – who imposes herself. A welcome essay, uncompromising and bursting with truth. [translation from the French abstract]

Presses Universitaires de France / Humensis (2021)

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The Gospel According to Hermes: Intimations of Christianity in Greek Myth, Poetry & Philosophy

Ron Samuel Dart, Bradley Jersak, Simon Oliver, Lazar Puhalo, & Wm. Paul Young, read

Tertullian famously asked, “What hath Athens to do with Jerusalem?” Perhaps the title of this work will raise the question, “What hath Hermes to do with Christ?” Quite a lot, as it turns out, by way of comparison, contrast, illustration, and prefigurement. Hermes, herein, represents far more than a particular figure in Greek mythology. Hermes functions as a placeholder, symbolizing the legacy of ancient Greek myth, poetry, and philosophy—and also the layered hermeneutics that classical Greek education contributed to both Jewish and Christian interpretations of the Scriptures, and the development of their theology, doctrine, and ethics. Despite the unfortunate but popular assumption of a Jewish-Greek dualism among many scholars since Adolf von Harnack, the stubborn and happy fact is that the New Testament itself already demonstrates a profound integration of the Hellenized Judaism established in Alexandria. The first Christian theologians were not contaminating some imaginary pure Jewish Christianity with Greek accretions. Rather, our authors will propose and demonstrate the confluence of both great streams in the development of the New Testament Scriptures, patristic theology, and hermeneutics. This collection of essays is but a faint echo of Simone Weil’s formidable work, Intimations of Christianity Among the Ancient Greeks, and is certainly inspired by her insights. Our authors will propose and demonstrate the confluence of both great streams in the development of the New Testament Scriptures, patristic theology, and hermeneutics. This collection of essays is but a faint echo of Simone Weil’s formidable work, Intimations of Christianity Among the Ancient Greeks, and is certainly inspired by her insights.

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Attending: An Ethical Art

Warren Heiti read

“Attending addresses a significant gap in the literature on attention. The way Heiti places important twentieth-century authors in conversation with each other is original and well done. This is a very rich and beautiful book.” Sophie Bourgault, University of Ottawa and co-editor of Simone Weil, Beyond Ideology?

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Attending – patient contemplation focused on a particular being – is a central ethical activity that has not been recognized by any of the main moral systems in the European philosophical tradition. That tradition has imagined that the moral agent is primarily a problem solver and world changer when what might be needed most is a witness.

Moral theory has been agonized by dualism – motivation is analyzed into beliefs and desires, descriptions of facts and dissatisfactions with them, while action is represented as an effort to lessen dissatisfaction by altering the empirical world. In Attending Warren Heiti traces an alternative genealogy of ethics, drawing from the Platonism recovered by Simone Weil and developed in the work of Iris Murdoch, John McDowell, and Jan Zwicky. According to Weil, virtue is knowledge, knowledge is embodied, and the knower is nested in an ecosystem of relationships. Instead of analyzing and solving theoretical problems, Heiti aims to clarify the terrain by setting up objects of attention from more than one discipline, including not only philosophy but also literature, psychology, film, and visual art.

The traditional picture captures one important type of ethical activity: faced with a moral problem, one looks to a general rule to furnish the solution. But not all problems conform to this model. Heiti offers an alternative: to see what is needed, one attends to the particular being.

Warren Heiti is a professor of philosophy and liberal studies at Vancouver Island University.

McGill-Queen’s University Press (2021)