Books & Plays read more

Simone Weil: A Very Short Introduction

Rebecca Rozelle-Stone read

Oxford University Press, 2022 (forthcoming)



    Philosophies of Work in the Platonic Tradition: A History of Labor and Human Flourishing

    Jeffrey Hanson read

    The Platonic tradition affords extraordinary resources for thinking about the meaning and value of work. In this historical survey of the tradition, Jeffrey Hanson draws on the work of its major thinkers to explain why our contemporary vocabulary for appraising labor and its rewards is too narrow and cramped. By tracing out the Platonic lineage of work Hanson is able to argue why we should be explaining its value for appraising it as an element of a happy and flourishing human life, quite apart from its financial rewards.

    Beginning with Plato’s extensive thinking about work’s relationship to wisdom, Hanson covers the singularly powerful arguments of Augustine, who wrote the ancient world’s only treatise dedicated to the topic of manual labor. He discusses Bernard of Clairvaux, introduces the priest-craftsman Theophilus Presbyter, and provides a study of work and leisure in the writings of Petrarch. Alongside Martin Luther, Hanson discusses John Ruskin and Simone Weil: two thinkers profoundly disturbed by the conditions of the working class in the rapidly industrializing economies of Europe.

    This original study of Plato and his inheritors’ ideas provides practical suggestions for how to approach work in a socially responsible manner in the 21st century and reveals the benefits of linking work and morality. — Jeffrey Hanson is  a Senior Philosopher in The Human Flourishing Program at Harvard’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science at Harvard University.

    Bloomsbury Academic (April 21, 2022)


    Anemones—A Simone Weil Project

    Lisa Robertson read

    It is with great pleasure that we present Lisa Robertson’s Anemones: A Simone Weil Project, the fourteenth publication within the “If I Can’t Dance” Performance in Residence programme.

    Three years ago, “If I Can’t Dance” invited poet and writer Lisa Robertson to develop an experimental research project based on her long-term study of medieval troubadour poetry and the invention of the rime in the historical region of Occitania. The scope of this investigation offered “If I Can’t Dance” an intriguing proposition to revisit genealogies of performance that sit outside the canons that define this rather young discipline. Troubadour poetry was composed and sung in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries using the Occitan vernacular language, a language of migratory confluences, where Arab, Jewish, Christian, and secular popular traditions blend and jostle. Unlike the stability and authority of Latin or of the then forming French territory to the north, troubadour rime culture elaborated a poetics of intermixture—linguistic, erotic, and mystical, in the southwest region of what is now France, in relation to Andalusian, Syrian and Palestinian cultural movements and influences, as well as to plant and animal neighbours. As Robertson explained at the Edition VIII—Ritual and Display introductory weekend in October 2019, this language “learn[ed] from birds, leaves and tree frogs as well as people”, each of which moved between lands and over the borders of political territories.

    What was initially going to be a publication on the invention of the rime within these vocal and cultural movements eventually took a different turn. The archival research and the collaborations Robertson had envisioned for the project had to come to a halt due to the prolonged confinements provoked by the outbreak of Covid-19. In this space of arrest, Robertson encountered the essay “What the Occitan Inspiration Consists of,” penned by philosopher, mystic and political activist Simone Weil in 1942 for the Marseilles-based anti-fascist literary journal Les Cahiers du Sud. Written from within the devastations of World War II, Weil elevates the troubadour concept of love to a practice of political resistance that rejects force in all its forms. In a new annotated translation that lies at the heart of the volume, Robertson dwells on the transhistorical potential of this notion, coming to terms with the broken lineage of troubadour culture, the legacy of Weil’s philosophical thought, and the violent context from which it emerged. In so doing, Robertson embraces the effect of both actualised and suppressed histories, testifying to friendship, readership, and the resistance of words across incommensurable distances.

    Designed by Amsterdam-based Rietlanden Women’s Office, Anemones: A Simone Weil Project moves between poetry, the epistolary genre, and scholarly research. Echoing Weil’s philosophical concerns, the publication is also the site of a performance of dedication that takes the form of a series of floral actions conceived and realised by artist Benny Nemer. Carrying a letter written by Robertson, Nemer delivered an arrangement of flowers to seven people—artists, writers, poets—this book is dedicated to. The pages of the book then become the receptacle of a performativity that resists consumption and is not meant to be seen, announced, and disclosed, but rather imagined, whispered, and savoured in a moment of intimacy.


    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)


    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


    When Fiction & Philosophy Meet: A Conversation with Flannery O’Connor and Simone Weil

    E. Jane Doering & Ruthann Knechel Johansen read

    An innovative book, WHEN FICTION AND PHILOSOPHY MEET explores the intersection between the philosophy of Simone Weil from Paris, France, and the fiction of Flannery O’Connor from the Southern state of Georgia, USA. In an era of war, of unprecedented human displacements, and of ethnic, racial, and religious fears the ideas of these two intellectuals bear on our present condition. Both women keenly desired to perceive the realities of good and evil inherent in human existence and to bring this truth to the consciousness of their contemporaries. Embracing their belief that truth is eternal but must be transposed and translated, generation after generation, in language appropriate to each age, the authors acquaint O’Connor readers with concepts in Weil’s religious philosophy as seen in O’Connor’s stories. Doering and Johansen simultaneously illustrate how Weil’s philosophy, when embodied in fiction, reveals the lived realities of the human condition across time and space.

    Simone Weil and Flannery O’Connor were audacious thinkers with inquiring minds who held clear and firm religious convictions. Each applied her understandings of enduring spiritual truths to the challenges of nihilism and social oppression as seen in the spreading totalitarianism and the distressing legacy of slavery throughout human history. Both Weil and O’Connor crossed disciplinary boundaries and influenced their respective fields with innovative ideas and artistic expressions.

    Taking their cues from these writers, Doering and Johansen bring these two remarkable women into a four-voiced dialogue–Simone Weil and Flannery O’Connor with Doering and Johansen–by engaging each writer in the forms of her own genre and inviting readers to enter a dialogue of courage with Weil and O’Connor in the postmodern and post-Christian world.

    Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2021


    Simone Weil Bibliography

    Saundra Lipton read

    Although Simone Weil died very young at age 34, her essays and notebooks have been the topic of a significant volume of scholarship from a wide variety of disciplines including Religion, Philosophy, Literature, Nursing, Political Science, History, Psychology, Education, and Business.  However, the last comprehensive bibliography of critical works on Simone Weil compiled by J.P. Little, dates back to 1973 with a supplement in 1979 and a small update in 1995.  The diversity and range of this ongoing scholarship make an updated comprehensive bibliography critically important for those writing on Weil and her work.

    Saundra Lipton, University of Calgary, and Debra Jensen, Mount Royal University have been active collaborators (till Debra’s untimely death July 15, 2012) in the compilation of a comprehensive bibliography of scholarly works on Simone Weil.  The goal of this project is to provide a valuable service to scholars and students in many fields by facilitating access to Weilian resources across disciplinary, geographic, and linguistic divides.  Publications worldwide have been surveyed. Over 5500 works have been discovered.  This online version of the bibliography currently lists more than 5000 book, essays, journal articles, and theses.

    I dedicate my continuing efforts on this project to the memory of my dear friend and colleague Debra Jensen.

    University of Calgary online library of resources


    Passage & Presence (Passage et présence de Simone Weil, état des lieux)

    Jean-Marc Ghitti read

    Jean-Marc Ghitti has long been interested in the philosopher Simone Weil. He already dedicated a book to her in 2009, on the occasion of the centenary of his birth. Since then, the scholarly Ponot has continued his research while giving lectures. It took him three more years of work to complete Simone Weil’s book Passage and Presence.
    The author did not want to make a simple biography of the philosopher who left her name as a heritage to the old high school for young girls in Le Puy. Nor did he want to do a university study.

    “I wanted to present the thought of Simone Weil from the places where she passed”.

    Tracing the intellectual and spiritual path of the woman of letters, by traversing the places which marked her life, was not an easy task. This course covers nearly 340 pages. It begins in Puy-en-Velay, where Simone Weil, a very young professor of philosophy, arrives in September 1931 (for a school year), and ends in London in 1943. A woman’s life, who died at the age of 34 years, from tuberculosis and starvation.
    Jean-Marc Ghitti divides his work into 14 chapters. Le Puy, Auxerre, Roanne, Saint-Étienne, Bourges, Spain, Italy, Marseille, Ardèche, London, but also the sea or the factory are all places through which the philosopher has passed and where she didn’t leave her mark. “Like the water that opens and closes after the passage of a boat,” illustrates the author Ponot. With her, each place is a mental moment. “
    Simone Weil’s professional career, like Jean-Marc Ghitti’s book, begins in Le Puy. A place where she will put her thoughts into practice. This is the start of his engagement. She is an educated young Parisian woman who comes into contact with working-class realities that hurt her.

    She meets social life at its most difficult. This experience in Le Puy was marked by scandal.

    The young teacher, assigned to her first post in the high school for young girls in Place Michelet (since relocated), will meet “needy unemployed people who do public utility work to earn a few cents. Their work consists in breaking up rubble ”. Committed to union life, Simone Weil, who regularly takes the train to Saint-Étienne to educate minors, will defend the unemployed in Place Michelet. She accompanies them to the municipal council. Which will fuel a local scandal.
    “The life of Simone Weil is an intellectual success based on a succession of failures,” summarizes the author of the book sold in all bookstores in France since October 17. She failed most of the things she did. Her professional career is lackluster, her involvement in the Spanish Civil War was ineffective, and neglect of her own body quickly led to the loss of her life. “
    But her thought made her a great 20th-century philosophical figure.

    KIME; 1st edition (September 17, 2021)

    Jean-Marc Ghitti is an associate professor and doctor of philosophy. He has authored various philosophical and literary works. In 2007, in the city where he taught, he created an association, Présence Philosophique au Puy, to bring the spirit of Simone Weil to life.