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Simone Weil’s Political Philosophy: Field Notes from the Margins (2023)

Benjamin Davis read

In this book, Benjamin P. Davis demonstrates how Simone Weil’s Marxism challenges current neoliberal understandings of the self and of human rights. Explaining her related critiques of colonialism and of political parties, it presents Weil as a twentieth-century political philosopher who anticipated and critically responded to the most contemporary political theory.

Simone Weil’s short life (1909–1943) is best understood as deeply invested in and engaged with the world around her, one she knew she would leave behind sooner rather than later if she continued to take risks on the side of the oppressed.

In this important and timely book, Davis presents Simone Weil first and foremost as a political philosopher. To do so, he places Weil’s political writings in conversation with feminist philosophy, decolonial philosophy, aesthetic theory, human rights discourse, and Marxism. Against the backdrop of Weil’s commitments, Davis reads Weil explicitly into debates in contemporary Critical Theory. Davis argues that in the battles of today, we urgently need to reconnect with Simone Weil’s ethical and political imagination, which offers a critique of oppression as part of a deeper attention to the world.

Advance Praise

In this moving account of Simone Weil’s political thought, Benjamin Davis merges world history and personal testimony, theory and living, brain and heart. He shows that one’s scholarship and one’s life cannot be separated easily.

Christy Wampole, Princeton University

About the Author

Benjamin P. Davis is a postdoctoral fellow in ethics at the University of Toronto. Davis’s scholarship is in the areas of human rights, Decolonial Theory, and Caribbean Philosophy. He has articles published or forthcoming in The CLR James Journal, The Journal of the Caribbean Philosophical Association, Transmodernity: Journal of Peripheral Cultural Production of the Luso-Hispanic World, and Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development. He is also Vice President of the American Weil Society.

Publisher

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (March 15, 2023 / 184 pp) (link here).

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Philosophy for Darker Times: An Approach to Simone Weil’s Insights 

Noel Boulting read

This important new study examines the work of Simone Weil; French mystic, social philosopher, and activist in the French Resistance in the Second World War. Weil’s posthumously published works had a major influence on French and English social thought. Philosophy for Darker Times relates Weil’s insights to specific significant issues in our own time.

Ethics International Press, Inc (June 15, 2022)

Table of Contents 

Introduction

Chapter 1         The God of Philosophy and the God of Religion Debate Revisited

Chapter 2         Plato’s Philosophy Manifested in Simone Weil’s life and her Writings

Chapter 3         ‘Scale Relative Ontology’ as a way of understanding Simone Weil’s treatment of Scientific Activity

Chapter 4         Nothing, Mysticism and three dimensions in ‘Scale Relative Ontology’

Chapter 5         Simone Weil’s Mysticism understood through Apophatic Theology

Chapter 6         Intentionalism and ‘God’s Fiction’

Appendix I       Five Scientific Metaphysical Stances in relation to the Standard Model of Quantum Theory

Appendix II      On the Relationship between Simone Weil’s and Hannah Arendt’s  Philosophies

Appendix III    The Stumbling Block: The Rationality Problem

The Author

Bibliography

About the author

Noel Boulting studied at the London Institute of Education, Birkbeck College, London, and the London School of Economics He has taught philosophy at Universities in the in the UK and USA. His philosophy club, NOBOSS, was formed in 1977, and meets at the University of Kent, UK. His publications include articles on C. S. Peirce, Edward Bullough, Thomas Hobbes, Aldo Leopold, Jean Paul Sartre, Simone Weil, Vico, Max Horkheimer and the Aesthetics of Nature. His writings on Weil include:

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Springsted on Zaretsky’s The Subversive Simone Weil

Eric Springsted read

Excerpt:

“. . . On the whole, Zaretsky tends to round most of the edges off Weil. In part, this is a matter of reinforcing a liberal sense of the good and using her to be a shining example of that. Philosophically, it is the result of trying to skate around the hard edges of her religious thinking. For Zaretsky, attention is not supernatural; the divine is not the place we are forced to find purpose when confronting affliction; societies can be made up of nice committed people without higher callings. All this is reinforced in the final chapter where Zaretsky does take on Weil’s religion. He lays out the religious experiences that led to her conversion, making that conversion largely a matter of belief, ignoring the personal sense of Christ that she experienced. It was this personal sense of unconquerable love in a person that caused her to find a use for affliction; it was Christ’s own crucifixion that lay at the center of her understanding of attention, for attention is a self-emptying to give life to another. Zaretsky does note with concern that there is a kenotic quality to Weil’s religion and then quickly shifts the conversation to the soft Platonism of Iris Murdoch, who indeed owed much to Weil. But in the end, what this religious factor amounts to for him is chiefly “do-gooding,” without the mordancy of Weil’s uncompromising transcendence and mysticism. Whether one can build politics or ethics on such transcendence and mysticism is debatable. But to have the debate, you have to articulate the ideas rightly and clearly.

So, in the end, it seems to be that it is Weil who is being subverted here. I wish I could say it was done deeply. But the problem is that the book just does not engage in any kind of in-depth examination of Weil’s thinking as she expressed it. It is a paraphrase, it is rounding. It is within the author’s own experience (there is no bibliography, for example). Love Weil or hate Weil—there are plenty of people that go each way—a reader will be better off with something more substantial.”

Review of Politics, vol. 84, no. 2 (March 10, 2022), pp. 294-296

Note: Robert Zaretsky was invited to reply in this Journal but declined.

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Thinking about Judaism: Jacques Maritain and Simone Weil (Italian edition) 

Emanuele Pili read

Pensare l’ebraismo: Jacques Maritain e Simone Weil (Italian Edition) Kindle Edition (Feb. 2022), Emanuele Pili, University of Perugia

Abstract in translation

Against the backdrop of the Second World War, Jacques Maritain and Simone Weil reflected deeply on the nature and relevance of Judaism. If Maritain imagined an unprecedented relationship with Christianity, reading the (in) fidelity of Israel in a Pauline way, Weil hoped for a purification of the West from inauthentic cultural traditions, of which Judaism participated in large part, in search of those ties that preserve the ‘human.’

Emanuele Pili originally interprets two very different souls but united by a strong sense of political responsibility, which led to a commitment to fight against totalitarianism. The first Italian translation of the bases for a statute of French minorities appears in the appendix; it is is one of the most controversial texts in the entire body of works by Simone Weil.

 

 

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Simone Weil: A Very Short Introduction

Rebecca Rozelle-Stone read

Oxford University Press, 2022 (forthcoming)