The Logic of the Rebel: On Simone Weil and Albert Camus

Robert Zaretsky read

Excerpt: “. . . . The letter writer and analyst, it turns out, had more than tuberculosis in common. The former, Albert Camus, and the latter, Simone Weil, went on to become two of France’s most famous thinkers and writers. Camus had already established himself during the war not just as the author of The Stranger and The Myth of Sisyphus, but also the editor of the Resistance newspaper Combat. By the time of France’s liberation, the French-Algerian writer had become the face — a rather Humphrey Bogartian one at that — of the French Resistance. Sixty years later — he died in a car crash in January 1960 — Camus is also the face of French existentialism.

As for Simone Weil, fame had to wait. She certainly did not seek it out — as evidenced by the many contradictory things she did during her short life. Weil taught philosophy to middle-class students and Greek tragedy to industrial workers; she organized French pacifist movements and carried a gun alongside republicans during the Spanish Civil War; she was fluent in Greek, Latin, English, and German, and worked on assembly lines in a series of factories; she was born into a secular French-Jewish family and died as a near-convert to Roman Catholicism. . . .”

Los Angeles Review of Books (March 7, 2020)

Robert Zaretsky is the author, among other things, of The Subversive Simone Weil: A Life in Five Ideas (2021).

The Occult Mind of Simone Weil

Simone Kotva read

This article argues that Weil’s interest in occult and esoteric subjects such as Gnosticism and Egyptian mystery religion was not an eccentric sideline to an otherwise ‘Christian’ mysticism but emerged necessarily out of her philosophical method, which, quite independently of those texts where Weil deals with esoterica, displays that pathos of hiddenness so characteristic of occultism: the notion, expressed especially clearly in her late work, that philosophy is the search for a truth hidden from the eyes of ordinary persons and accessible only to those able to endure the ordeals required to gain access into its mysteries. In the second part of the argument, I show that Weil’s ‘occultism’ was not an isolated phenomenon but symptomatic of broader trends among intellectuals at the time.

Philosophical Investigations, vol. 43, nos. 1-2, pp. 122-141.

Mathematics and the Mystical in the Thought of Simone Weil

John Kinsey read

On Simone Weil’s “Pythagorean” view, mathematics has a mystical significance. In this paper, the nature of this significance and the coherence of Weil’s view are explored. To sharpen the discussion, consideration is given to both Rush Rhees’ criticism of Weil and Vance Morgan’s rebuttal of Rhees. It is argued here that while Morgan underestimates the force of Rhees’ criticism, Rhees’ take on Weil is, nevertheless, flawed for two reasons. First, Rhees fails to engage adequately with either the assumptions underlying Weil’s religious conception of philosophy or its dialectical method. Second, Rhees’ reading of Weil reflects an anti-Platonist conception of mathematics his justification of which is unsound and whose influence impedes recognition of the coherence of Weil’s position.

Philosophical Investigations, vol. 43, nos. 1-2 (January-April 2020), pp. 76-100.