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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)

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Iris Murdoch and the Others: A Writer in Dialogue with Theology

Paul S. Fiddes read

The “others” examined by Fiddes are mainly those with whom Murdoch entered into explicit dialogue in her novels and philosophical writing-including Immanuel Kant, Simone Weil, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Rudolph Bultmann, Paul Tillich, Don Cupitt, Donald Mackinnon, and Jacques Derrida. This “historic” dialogue is, however, placed within a wider dialogue between literature and theology being conducted by the author, and “others” are brought into relation with Murdoch in order to illuminate this more extensive conversation-notably the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins and the feminist philosopher Julia Kristeva.

The book demonstrates that characteristic themes in Murdoch’s novels and philosophy-the love of the Good, the death of the ego, illusory consolations, the death of God, the modifying of the will by “waiting”, the sublime and the beautiful, and attention to other things and persons-all take on a greater meaning when placed in the context of her life-long conversation with theology. The exploration of this context is deepened in this volume by reference to annotations and notes that Murdoch made in a number of theological books in her personal library.

Paul S. Fiddes is Professor of Systematic Theology at the University of Oxford and is Director of Research at Regent’s Park College, Oxford, UK.
Publisher: ‏ T&T Clark (December 2, 2021)
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Homer: The Very Idea

James L. Porter read

Homer, the great poet of the Iliad and the Odyssey, is revered as a cultural icon of antiquity and a figure of lasting influence. But his identity is shrouded in questions about who he was, when he lived, and whether he was an actual person, a myth, or merely a shared idea. Rather than attempting to solve the mystery of this character, James I. Porter explores the sources of Homer’s mystique and their impact since the first recorded mentions of Homer in ancient Greece.

Homer: The Very Idea considers Homer not as a man, but as a cultural invention nearly as distinctive and important as the poems attributed to him, following the cultural history of an idea and of the obsession that is reborn every time Homer is imagined. Offering novel readings of texts and objects, the book follows the very idea of Homer from his earliest mentions to his most recent imaginings in literature, criticism, philosophy, visual art, and classical archaeology.

University of Chicago Press, October 25, 2021

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The Subversive Simone Weil: A Life in Five Ideas

Robert Zaretsky read

Known as the “patron saint of all outsiders,” Simone Weil (1909–43) 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.

Though Weil published little during her life, after her death, thanks largely to the efforts of Albert Camus, hundreds of pages of her manuscripts were published to critical and popular acclaim. While many seekers have been attracted to Weil’s religious thought, Robert Zaretsky 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. Reflecting on the relationship between thought and action in Weil’s life, The Subversive Simone Weil honors the complexity of Weil’s thought and speaks to why it matters and continues to fascinate readers today.

Robert Zaretsky is the author of Boswell’s Enlightenment; A Life Worth Living: Albert Camus and the Quest for Meaning; and Catherine & Diderot: The Empress, the Philosopher, and the Fate of the Enlightenment, among other books. A frequent contributor to the New York Times, the Washington Post, Foreign Affairs, the Times Literary Supplement, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the Chronicle of Higher Education, he lives in Houston with his wife, children, and assorted pets.

Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2021

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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