Keynote Address, American Weil Society’s 2021 Colloquy.
“In response to the murder of George Floyd by police in the USA, cities around the world held anti-racist demonstrations calling on both citizens and states to acknowledge the continued proliferation of systemic racism in our societies. Over the weekend of June 6 and 7, Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester, England, was filled with cries of grief and demands for change. Incantations of ‘BLACK LIVES MATTER’ and ‘I CAN’T BREATHE’ cut through a crowd mobilised by an act of gratuitous violence that came to represent the vicious legacy of centuries of white supremacism. In addition to the chants, there were written placards and an enormous volume of social media posts seeking to (i) diagnose the problem of contemporary racial injustices and (ii) articulate solutions to this problem. . . .”
The Philosophical Salon, Los Angeles Review of Books Channels Project.
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)
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
Beyond Power draws on the writings of Simone Weil (b. Paris, France, 1909, d. Ashford, UK, 1943) to construct a theory of authority that challenges conventional assumptions. Avery argues that neither science nor religion nor a political mandate can provide an adequate rationale for authority. Simone Weil’s electrifying insights, derived from her experience as a social activist, factory worker, and philosophy teacher, provide ways in which to think about the essential element of authority and take it into account more fully than usually seems possible. By focusing unflinchingly on what was sacred to herself and others in religion, politics, science, work, justice, and education, she achieved a kind of authority of her own. Avery devotes a chapter to each of these six subjects, as well as to an overview of the question of authority and a short account of Simone Weil’s life.
Beyond Power will be ideal for students and teachers of philosophy, politics, religion, and history, and the humanities. Those who admire the philosophy of Simone Weil will find a compelling overview of her work, while those interested in religious questions will find a fresh approach to thinking and talking about what makes human life meaningful. Avery offers new ways to examine the burning political, religious, and scientific issues of our time.
Lexington Books, 2008
Reproduced in online version (free) of Siân Miles, ed., Simone Weil: An Anthology (Penguin), pp. 105-140.
Reproduced in online version (free) of Siân Miles, ed., Simone Weil: An Anthology (Penguin), pp. 147-177.
In 1931, Simone Weil read an article by Louis Roubaud in the Petit Parisien that exposed the Yen Bay massacre in Indochina. That article opened Weil’s eyes, and from then until her death in exile in 1943, she cared most deeply about the French colonial situation. Weil refused to accept the contradiction between the image of France as a champion of the rights of man and the reality of France’s exploitation and oppression of the peoples in its territories.
Weil wrote thirteen articles or letters about the situation, writings originally published in French journals or in French collections of her work. J. P. Little’s fluid and clear translations finally introduce to English-speaking scholars and students this important element of Weil’s political consciousness.
J.P. Little, ed. & trans., New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2003
J. P. Little, one of the world’s most respected scholars of Simone Weil, is the author of Simone Weil: Waiting on Truth and numerous articles and conference presentations on Weil’s life and work. She is lecturer in French (emerita) at St. Patrick’s College, Dublin.
This dissertation examines multiple aspects of Simone Weil’s political thought. Its specific aim is to render an account of political thought and life that incorporates Weil’s criteria of justice and love. For Weil, any account of justice, traditionally held, at least in ancient political thought, as the cardinal political virtue, must recognize two things: human misery and love. Without adequate recognition of these two things, justice falls short of being true, which, according to Weil, is nothing other than a “radiant manifestation of reality” (NR 253). Paradigmatic within Weil’s thought and work is the sense that “human life is a composition on many planes” (NB, vol. 1, 28). This dissertation remains faithful to her dictum by examining the multiple aspects and planes factored into her more explicitly political thought. Further, what becomes foundational in every chapter are the very criteria she sets for the realization of justice. Accordingly, the dissertation begins with a discussion of Weil’s thought on the question of human labor and moves to an account of her reading of suffering and affliction. What follows the account of suffering and affliction is an analysis of her theory of justice. After examining her theory of justice, I give a more in-depth reading of her explicitly political thought. The dissertation’s final chapter juxtaposes Weil’s political thought and postmodern political thought. Finally, the dissertation concludes with some criticism of certain aspects of Weil’s political thought. Though I suggest certain criticisms of her work in the conclusion of this dissertation, what I also suggest is that much within her political thought must be retained. Among that which should be retained is her dialectical reading of the political and the supernatural, her account of affliction, her insistence upon the connection between love and human misery in any formulation of justice, and the emphasis she places upon the incarnation of thought in the world.
Ph.D., Political Science, Fordham University, 1988