Known as the “patron saint of all outsiders,” Simone Weil 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. While many seekers have been attracted to Weil’s religious thought, Robert Zaretsky’s “The Subversive Simone Weil” 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. In this conversation with philosopher of religion Lottie Moore, Zaretsky reflects on the relationship between thought and action in Weil’s life, and why her ideas matter and continue to fascinate readers today. Robert Zaretsky is a professor of French history in the University of Houston Honors College, and the Department of Modern and Classical Languages. He is the author of numerous books on thinkers including Denis Diderot, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Albert Camus. His new book, “The Subversive Simone Weil: A Life in Five Ideas”, was published in February by Chicago University Press. Lottie Moore studied Theology at Bristol University before completing an MA in Political Theology at Mansfield College, Oxford, where she focused on identity politics. She currently works at a policy institute leading a project on UK health inequality and at SOAS, where she looks at issues surrounding freedom of speech.
On Philosophy: Digital Lectures Series, YouTube, May 2, 2021
Sample: “. . . . Before going further I should make clear that The Weil Conjectures is not a textbook or a scholarly monograph. It is not addressed to an audience of mathematicians. But it raises questions about relations between mathematics and society that may well be of interest to the mathematical community. This issue is commonly discussed in terms of outreach—the challenge of communicating research-level mathematics to the public. In Olsson’s case it also becomes a question of reach: how can we help someone who feels a powerful attraction to mathematical ideas but cannot negotiate the rugged terrain of prerequisite knowledge?
The heart of Olsson’s book is a personal essay, in which she describes her own intense and turbulent encounters with the world of mathematics. That narrative is braided into the stories of the Weil siblings—whose lives were also marked by intensity and turbulence. . . .”
Notices of the American Mathematical Society, vol. 68, no. 2 (Feb. 2021) (book review)
The title comes from chapter 4 of Brenna Moore’s new book, Kindred Spirits: Friendship and Resistance at the Edges of Modern Catholicism, Chicago: University of Chicago Press (2021) pp. 145-171. In it, Moore focuses on the bond between French medievalist Marie Magdeleine Davy (1903-1998) and Simone Weil. Davy and Weil were acquaintances, but after Weil’s death, Davy dedicated significant scholarly attention to Weil’s thought and life. She authored one of the first books on Weil in 1951, lifting her up as a model for a new kind of sanctity in the modern world. In the late 1950s and ’60s, Davy’s projects were animated by what Moore calls an “invisible friendship” with Weil. Spurred on by memories of Weil, in 1962 Davy created an experimental utopian community for international students in rural France, the Maison Simone Weil, in her friend’s honor. As Moore puts it, “Simone Weil, more than anyone else, was Marie-Magdeleine Davy’s invisible friend, her inner guide, and her saint.” The story uncovers one of the many fascinating afterlives of Simone Weil, one that has not yet been told to English-speaking readers.
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
Project Gutenberg, sponsored by the World Library Foundation (extended biography from World Heritage Encyclopedia).
This biographical sketch is reproduced, with permission, from Eric Springsted, Simone Weil for the Twenty-First Century (University of Notre Dame Press, 2021), pp. xix-xxi.
Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Tony Lynch, University of New England
“Alain’s career was closely connected with the educational system in France, since he served as professor of rhetoric at the Lycée Henri IV from 1909 until 1933, and bad a profound influence on the thinking of a generation of French intellectuals. In his essays he often adopted a professorial position, providing insights and stimulating thought in a concise, meditative prose style. As with so many French essayists, Alain was a philosopher in the style of Montaigne rather than of Descartes. He did not leave a systematic philosophy, nor a major opus, but a large and disparate collection of personal observations that are both penetrating and amusing. The substance of his thought, however, was profoundly influenced by rigorous Cartesian logic. . . .”
United Architects On Andre Weil