Known as the “patron saint of all outsiders,” Simone Weil was one of the twentieth century’s most remarkable thinkers, a philosopher who truly lived by her political and ethical ideals. In a short life framed by the two world wars, Weil taught philosophy to lycée students and organized union workers, fought alongside anarchists during the Spanish Civil War and labored alongside workers on assembly lines, joined the Free French movement in London, and died in despair because she was not sent to France to help the Resistance. While many seekers have been attracted to Weil’s religious thought, Robert Zaretsky’s “The Subversive Simone Weil” gives us a different Weil, exploring her insights into politics and ethics, and showing us a new side of Weil that balances her contradictions – the rigorous rationalist who also had her own brand of Catholic mysticism; the revolutionary with a soft spot for anarchism yet who believed in the hierarchy of labor; and the humanitarian who emphasized human needs and obligations over human rights. In this conversation with philosopher of religion Lottie Moore, Zaretsky reflects on the relationship between thought and action in Weil’s life, and why her ideas matter and continue to fascinate readers today. Robert Zaretsky is a professor of French history in the University of Houston Honors College, and the Department of Modern and Classical Languages. He is the author of numerous books on thinkers including Denis Diderot, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Albert Camus. His new book, “The Subversive Simone Weil: A Life in Five Ideas”, was published in February by Chicago University Press. Lottie Moore studied Theology at Bristol University before completing an MA in Political Theology at Mansfield College, Oxford, where she focused on identity politics. She currently works at a policy institute leading a project on UK health inequality and at SOAS, where she looks at issues surrounding freedom of speech.
On Philosophy: Digital Lectures Series, YouTube, May 2, 2021