About Weil

Review of Eric O. Springsted’s “Simone Weil for the Twenty-First Century”

Dean Hammer read

Simone Weil is an enigmatic figure: a philosopher whose thoughts we know largely through fragments; a mystic who had her own complicated relationship with the Catholic Church; a pacifist who worked for the Resistance; an intellectual who took a sabbatical to join with unskilled female laborers in gruelling and humiliating factory work; and a theologian whose view of the human condition is as compassionate as it is severe. Eric Springsted offers a version of Weil for the twenty-first century. This is not a comprehensive treatment of Weil’s corpus. For example, her early Marxist works on oppression and revolution are almost completely absent. What comes to the fore is a nuanced interpretation of what Springsted refers to as Weil’s “retheologization of the political” (146). Springsted’s version of Weil is a gentler one than provided by some of her critics. But his own lifelong engagement with Weil provides for compelling reading. . . .

Springsted has written a deeply thoughtful and engaging book about a complicated thinker. How the argument is framed, though, limits both the reach and power of the interpretation. He positions his interpretation as a reaction to Martin Heidegger, the postmodern world (without reference to any author or text) in which there is neither depth nor responsibility for one’s thought, and liberalism that transforms public discourse into a language of individual rights. Invoking the usual suspects, however, has the effect of talking past what may be the pressing problems facing the twenty-first century: the fundamental decay of democratic norms, the resurgence of white nationalism, and the division of a nation into strangers who neither understand nor trust each other. Similarly absent is any reflection on the history or complexities of the theologization of politics up to the current day, which is at least as problematic as its detheologization in liberalism. Weil provides perspective on these issues in her willingness to embrace, rather than resolve, the contradictions of human existence, to listen to the suffering of the voiceless, and to introduce a decentering vocabulary of justice, love, and humility that changes how we relate to each other and the world. Hearing the critique requires attention. And that is Weil’s and Springsted’s point.

Review of Politics, vol. 84, no. 3 (June 17, 2022).

Simone Weil Timeline

Ronald KL Collins read

Much of the timeline is excerpted from David McLellan’s Utopian Pessimist: The Life and Thought of Simone Weil (New York: Poseidon Press, 1990), pp. 297-300, reprinted and expanded with permission secured on 10-27-20. The McLellan timeline was supplemented by dates and facts contained in, among other places, the chronologies appearing in J.P. Little’s Simone Weil: Waiting on Truth (Oxford: Berg,1988), pp. 157-160, and Robert Coles’ Simone Weil: A Modern Pilgrimage (New York: Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., 1987), pp. xxi-xxiv. Finally, beyond my own numerous additions, I have added links in various places.

Simone Weil Geography

Ronald KL Collins read

The following is a list of the countries, cities, and regions in which Simone Weil grew up and later traveled to in her lifetime.

“Simone Weil on having an inner life”

Eric Springsted listen

We readily recognize the concept of an inner life as a moral category. We struggle to say what an inner life is, though. This essay examines and rejects naturalistic attempts to either dismiss the idea of an inner life or make it a matter of brain states, a sort of efficient causality to behaviour. Relying on Simone Weil’s distinction between “the language of the market place and the language of the nuptial chamber,” it distinguishes, as she did, between levels of value. The inner life is a life of dealing with values that demand some kind of personal and intimate response.

Philosophical Investigations, vol. 43, nos. 1-2, pp. 142-157.