Attention

A Just and Loving Gaze

Deborah Casewell read

Excerpt: “Weil took no prisoners in any debate. Although Leon Trotsky had recently excoriated her critique of Marxism, Weil arranged for the Marxist revolutionary to stay in her parents’ apartment in December 1933 and host an illicit political gathering. This did, however, come at the expense of a night-long, intense discussion with Weil. While she always argued softly and clearly, that did not prevent the discussion from being punctuated by violent shouts.

That heart that beat across the world is perhaps why she always remained outside contemporary philosophical trends, and certainly outside of the academic and elite conversations in philosophy at the time. Weil’s philosophical commitments, while constant, often pale in comparison with her dramatic life and her political engagement. She enacted her philosophy with her commitment to causes, and finally with her body. This began with her declaration of Bolshevism at the age of 10, through to her university involvement in Marxism, trade unionism and pacificism. The first commitment declined as she found in Marxism itself plenty to criticise, though this did not prevent her from joining the republicans in the Spanish Civil War, albeit rather ineffectively. Yet, through all of this, two elements of her character remained constant: her self-denial for the sake of others, and the strength of her will. . . .”

Deborah Casewell is a Humboldt Research Fellow in philosophy at the University of Bonn and co-director of the UK-based Simone Weil Network. Her most recent book is Eberhard Jüngel and Existence: Being Before the Cross(2021).

Aeon, July 9, 2021

Education, Attention and Transformation: Death and Decreation in Tolstoy and Weil

Peter Roberts read

 

What might it mean to engage in an educative struggle with death? Leo Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich helps us to answer that question. Tolstoy’s story depicts the life of a man who, when suddenly faced with the prospect of his own death, is at first unable to comprehend the reality of his situation. He is angry, fearful, and disgusted. As he gradually comes to terms with his mortality, he undergoes a harrowing process of transformation, at the heart of which lies the development of his capacity for attention. Drawing on ideas from the French philosopher and pedagogue Simone Weil, it is argued that Ivan’s experience is consistent with the passage from ‘gravity’, through the void of intense suffering, toward a state of grace.

Roberts, Peter. Education, “Attention and Transformation: Death and Decreation in Tolstoy and Weil.” Studies in Philosophy and Education (2021). Online: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11217-021-09775-8

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