The following content is offered by bythe Friends of Alain Association, founded by his relatives after his death.
Re Alain and Simone Weil — this from the Alain website (Google Translate):
“The general meeting of the association of friends of Alain will be held, as every year in Vésinet, on Saturday June 10th. We will have the pleasure of hearing the best connoisseur of the work of Simone Weil, that is to say Robert Chenavier, on the theme ‘Simone Weil and Alain, inseparable and at odds.'”
Re Alain & his Propos (also from Alain website)
“This is an introduction to Alain’s propos, 24 of which are translated here, most of them for the first time in English.
What is a propos ? The French word is both plain and ambiguous: a suggestion, a comment, a proposition, remarks, notes? Perhaps ‘proposal’ comes closest as a translation. With Alain we can be more specific. It’s a short column, drafted on two pages of letter paper, and, at the beginning, published in a local newspaper. From 1906 he wrote them daily and only ceased with the outbreak of war in 1914; he began again in 1921 and continued to 1936, to make a total of around five thousand. At first they were mainly political commentary, but Alain’s philosophy and very wide interests soon entered in. The brevity of the form brought out a vivid, pithy and forceful style, free of jargon, that soon attracted readers and would lead to republication as several books. They are short essays with the freshness of improvisation. As Alain put it, he found that he had a taste for firing arrows at passers-by to get them to look up from their path in life – provocations in short. And, as he wrote later, by not thinking that philosophy was too good for journalism, he invented a genre of journalism – to which I would add: he also invented a genre of philosophy.”
- Thieerry Leterre, “A Philosophy ‘written for everyone’: From Alain to Simone Weil,” Attention (March 2022)
- Annette SzerBaslaw, “The Educational Concepts of Alain (Emile-Auguste Chartier), 1868-1951,” (Ph.D. Dissertation, NYU, 1969)
- Attention, links to Alain
Abstract: The mystical experience is generally understood as an affective one, made of love and union. The history of Christianity has been marked by this type of experience and owes to it some of its most luminous milestones and highlights. Christian mystics have been great founders, bright intellectuals, and paradigmatic figures in raising new issues for Theology and Philosophy theology, philosophy, social justice, and politics. In this article we wish to reflect and write about two issues in the vast area of mystical studies, focusing specifically on Christian mysticism:
(1) The link between mystical experience and knowledge; and
(2) Mystical experiences lived through by women as a pathway to and from knowledge. We will briefly highlight a few women mystics in order to set the stage for the topic to be further developed below.
Firstly, we will attempt to circumscribe the concept of mysticism by retrieving some of the main thoughts of scholars who have studied the mystical phenomenon and writings of individuals who experienced it. For this purpose, we will apply some elements from philosophy, but mostly from theology.
Secondly, we will pursue our reflection with the aid of thoughts by philosophers and theologians who thought and argued that mystical experience is and contains knowledge and bears not only affective and spiritual, but also intellectual, fruit. Thirdly, we will attempt to show how a significant group of women were the specific protagonists of this synthesis between experience and knowledge and how this allowed them to bring original contributions to their context and historical time.
We conclude with a detailed commentary and reflection on the French 20th-century mystic Simone Weil who, as both an intellectual and a mystic, was a pioneer in bringing a prophetic vision on some issues that would inspire society, the Church, and spiritual life many decades after her death. As such, she became a paradigmatic figure who demonstrated that intellectual ability does not entail only rational thinking, but consists in a great level of spiritual sensitivity, which brings altogether an enormous responsibility in leading humanity towards fulfilling its vocation to live fully. Our conclusions will be based on the countercultural benefits that mystical experience, as lived through by women, can bring to contemporary times.”
- Religions, vol. 14, no.2 (Jan. 2023), p. 230.
Maria Clara Bingemer (PhD, Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome) is a noted Brazilian theologian. A full professor at Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro (PUC), she focuses her research on systematic theology, mysticism, and in particular on Latin American and liberation theology. Bingemer’s current research project is on Mysticism and Testimony: a study of knowledge, language and praxis in contemporary mysticism.
Summary: Two enigmatic figures of 20th-century political theory, Eric Voegelin and Simone Weil, stand out with idiosyncratic receptions of ancient Greek texts. Both thinkers diagnosed that, as political agents in late modernity, we have unlearned to read world-making ancient texts and their narratives in their cosmic dimension and thus lost what has rooted European culture and history. Against this backdrop, Voegelin and Weil share ‘antidotal’ practises of combining historically and generically distinct material. These practices aim at fathoming a primordial experience at work in European narratives. With this comparative analysis of Voegelin’s and Weil’s symbolic readings (exemplified in this paper by passages from the Iliad, the History of the Peloponnesian War, and the Symposium), Thomas Sojer presents some considerations how their combinatory imagination of ancient material could supply late modern political agents with a pathos, a meaningful self-world relationship that was thought to have gone missing.
- Thomas Sojer, “Eric Voegelin’s and Simone Weil’s return to Ancient Greece,” Acta Antiqua Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae, vol 61, no. 1 (May 17, 2022), pp. 87-96.
Abstract: “In this book a long-time student of phenomenology and of Greek art and philosophy stages a “loving quarrel” between two daring thinkers who loved Greece but had diametrically opposed interpretations of its legacy. Maria Villela-Petit brings out unsuspected strengths in Simone Weil’s readings of Homer, Plato, and Greek Tragedy and unsuspected weaknesses in Heidegger’s historical construction and the tradition of German philhellenism which shaped it.”
- Maria Villela-Petit, Questioning Greece with Heidegger and Simone Weil (Independently published, Joseph S. O’Leary, trans.)
Abstract: “This article outlines and contextualizes Simone Weil’s critique of greatness and its contemporary relevance. Weil argues that the greatness of conquest and colonization is ersatz greatness based on violence. For Weil, worshipping greatness is a path to fascism. Drawing from this, I argue that Weil’s critique provides an opening for the abolition of greatness as a political narrative. To make this second move, I expand Weil’s critique of the historically situated concept of greatness to challenge reactionary ideals of history in the contemporary US contextualized by referencing controversies about statue removals and Critical Race Theory in primary education.”
Excerpt: “No thinker has more accurately diagnosed the problem of greatness than the French philosopher, activist, and mystic Simone Weil (1909- 1943). What is at stake in this article is Weil’s critique of greatness and how this greatness is historically constructed. I propose that through Weil’s critique of greatness as it is understood by the so-called West as an ersatz, or false and ungodly, form of greatness, space may be made for the abolition of greatness as a political narrative. I approach the question of greatness through Weil’s own materialist genealogy of history and ideology critique.
Inspired by the statue removals in the United States and elsewhere in 2020 and 2021 and spurred on by the public debates about education, including the right-wing reaction to The 1619 Project, The 1776 Project, and so-called Critical Race Theory in 2021, 2022, and 2023, this article is a small contribution to the project of undermining prevailing historical narratives through a critical analysis of Weil’s idiosyncratic political thinking about conceptions of greatness. In this reading of Weil, she takes up Walter Benjamin’s call to write history from the vantage of the oppressed6 through her “second magnum opus” The Need for Roots. The purpose of Benjamin’s and Weil’s twin demands is not an inversion of greatness from the powerful to the powerless. Instead, Weil reconstitutes historical narratives to reject greatness as a weapon of the powerful against the powerless. Importantly, Weil builds her critique of greatness through its roots in colonialism, colonization, whiteness, and the origins of the modern state.
In the context of her political thought, the critique of greatness comes late, growing out of Weil’s analysis of the state, capitalism, fascism, and her materialist-mystical conceptions of deracination and attention. Within her oeuvre, The Need for Roots stands as Weil’s most comprehensive work. Weil described it, in a letter to her parents, as a “second magnum opus,” following her “Reflections Concerning the Causes of Liberty and Social Oppression” (1934). Written at the behest of Free French Forces in London to address potential issues with trade unions, The Need for Roots takes up the conditions in France that led to the Nazi conquest and the capitulation of both the Occupied Zone and Vichy to the imprisonment and extermination of Jews, Roma, disabled humans, LGBTQIA+ identified individuals, socialists, and communists. The origins of Weil’s own historical realities are both part of the historical process and status that Weil calls deracination [uprootedness] . . . .”
- Scott B. Ritner, “A Critique of Greatness,” Theory & Event, vol. 26, no. 2 (April 2023), pp. 345-367
- Ronald Collins, “What is Greatness? On Reading the Past,” in Eric Springsted & Ronald Collins, eds., A Declaration of Duties toward Humankind: A Critical Companion to Simone Weil’s The Need for Roots (forthcoming 2024).
- Simone Weil, “Hitler and the Idea of Greatness: Force is Our Only Measure,” Commentary (July 1950) (excerpted from L’Enracinement, Bernard Frechtman trans.)