Justice

A just and loving gaze

Deborah Casewell read

Simone Weil: mystic, philosopher, activist. Her ethics demand that we look beyond the personal and find the universal.

Excerpt:” . . . Weil’s ethics can be reconstructed from three key texts written in 1943, the last year of her life. These are the essay ‘La Personne et le sacré’ (1957), the manifesto ‘Draft for a Statement of Human Obligations’, and her book The Need for Roots (1949). Written while she was working in London for the Free French forces, these texts explore several key concepts in Weil’s ethical thought – that ethical action is grounded in our obligation to something impersonal and universal in the other, not in rights; that this obligation is expressed best in the attitude of attention, or reading, towards the other person; and that this obligation is grounded not in the world but outside it. This latter aspect draws both from her philosophical love of Plato and her own religious convictions, stemming from a series of mystical experiences and practices, which brought her to, but kept her at the door of, the Catholic Church. She remained as fiercely singular in this respect as in all others, though her outlook was broadly Christian.

These concepts are evocatively drawn out in the essay ‘La Personne et le sacré’, translated variously as ‘Human Personality’ or ‘What Is Sacred in Every Human Being?’ Here, she uses two examples to illustrate her ethical vision and challenge our immediate idea of why and how we should act towards others. She begins by focusing on what appears to be a rather common-sense approach to the question of how we should relate to other people – we should look at each of them as a person, with a personality, a certain je ne sais quoi, which we respond and relate to. This is a form of personalism. . . .”  {full text in link}

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 (2022)

Simone Weil, a politics of the good for our age

(Conference) watch

Simone Weil (1909-1943) – philosopher, teacher in high schools and for factory workers, social activist, anarchistic-ranks soldier in Spain, manual worker in factories and farms, Résistence member, mystic – never wrote academic articles: the 16 volumes of her writings are an intellectual but personal expression of her social, political and spiritual deliberations and engagement, constituting a corpus of original, sober and subversive thought. Her influence is intensifying along the years, from Albert Camus who first published her posthumously and described her as “the only great spirit of our time”, up to her increasing presence in the words of contemporary politicians. A first Hebrew translation of a collection from her social and political writings is forthcoming in 2018, and in 30-31.10.2018 an international conference will be held at the Open University of Israel campus in Raanana on her thought and its relevance for the society and politics of our age from theoretical, comparative and historical perspectives. The conference will be tri-lingual, in Hebrew, French and English, with simultaneous translation between Hebrew and French.

Participants: Barbara Wolfer, Aviad Heifetz, Frederic Worms, Alexandra Feret, Jean Davienne, E. Jane Doering, Daniel Rosenberg, Pascal David, Denis Charbit, Robert Chenavier, Rita Fulco, and Christine Evans

Open University of Israel campus (Raanana) (2018)

Overlapping Consensus Thin and Thick: John Rawls and Simone Weil

Aviad Heifetz & Enrico Minelli read

John Rawls and Simone Weil presented two distinct conceptions of political justice, aimed at articulating a common ethos in an inherently heterogeneous society. The terms of the former, chiefly concerned with the distribution of primary goods, underwrite much of today’s Western democracy’s political liberalism. The terms of the latter, chiefly concerned with the way interaction is organized in social activities in view of the body and soul’s balancing pairs of needs, are less well known. We explain the sense in which the overlapping consensus in Weil’s notion of political justice is “thicker”, and may thus deserve more attention – alongside that of Rawls – for substantiating a democratic ethos within political liberalism.

Philosophical Investigations 39:4 October 2016, pp. 362-384