Simone Weil (1909-1943) is a French philosopher who is also a prominent figure in the tradition of Christian mysticism. In her early philosophical writings and lectures, she describes her understanding of the aim of philosophy as “the Search for the Good”. Very much influenced by Plato, Descartes and Kant, Weil states that God as the absolute Good is beyond known truths and can only be reached through Love. This treatment of love as a destructive power whereby the Self effaces itself in order to get closer to God, echoes a somewhat mystical scheme. Weil believes that the only way to reach such knowledge and therefore God, which in her view is the sole purpose of life and should also be the purpose of philosophy. This dissertation focuses on the grounds that bring her to such conclusions as well as providing an analysis of whether Weil’s philosophical approach as an alternative to metaphysical and ethical problems in philosophy is able to stand firm on its own.
With that in mind, the first chapter of this dissertation is on the nature of the self or what we refer to as the ‘I’ which is a good starting point because anything that an individual contemplates begins with either an explicit or an implicit ‘I’ which is inevitable by any being that would be classified as human. This is perhaps, in a way, our curse as Weil later notes, because we are able to contemplate our very own being as well as the only beings who are also aware of the implications of affliction that we face in our lives. This is not true for other beings, either animals who feel pain but do not contemplate the metaphysics of pain, or God and other supernatural beings who are said to not feel pain. As this is a dissertation of philosophy, it is vital that I must try to keep an open mind regarding definitions and beliefs of supernatural entities insofar as Weil engages with the concepts as such, however it is also important that I try and present an analysis of the way they are defined. This is the reason why the first two chapters include all the major religious and philosophical influences that Weil shares with us in her work. In this way, we will be able to not only revisit and examine but also compare those thoughts and ideas fresh in our minds. It is perhaps one of the most important aspects of a philosophical investigation that we must try and capture the essence of a problem before embarking on a journey where that problem presents other problems with it in its natural habitat.
The nature of self is, thus, first examined in the light of Plato’s works and how Plato presents a concept of the ‘I’ or rather what he understands from this concept. Plato’s understanding of the self is characterized in three parts, the λογιστικόν, the θυμοειδές and the ἐπιθυμητικόν, or the parts related to reason, to spirit and to desire, which make up the tripartite soul. The tripartite soul is the foundation for further investigation regarding the self and consciousness. Through examination of these ideas within Plato’s relevant body of work, a deeper understanding of Weil’s influence of Plato’s concept of the self will be reached. The aim is to look at primary sources but then compare these ideas with Weil’sinterpretation of them in her esoteric view.
DOCTORAL THESİS (Philosophy Department)
Philosophy Doctoral Programme
Thesis Advisor: Prof. Dr. Fatma Hülya Şimga
İstanbul / T.C. Maltepe University Graduate Institute (May, 2023)