Transcendent Rebellion: The Influence of Simone Weil on Albert Camus’ Esthetics

Philip D. Bunn read

ABSTRACT: The relationship between the thought of Albert Camus and Simone Weil has been partially explored by scholars since their deaths. However, current scholarship does not fully explain the influence Weil’s life and work had on Camus’ esthetics, a full treatment of which is necessary to truly understand the significance of Camus’ adoption of the idea of the rebel as artist. Camus’ thought progresses significantly from his early esthetics of the will in his Essay on Music, affirming art as fundamentally an egoistic act, to a later esthetics of transcendence, affirming the selflessness of artistic rebellion.

This paper argues that Camus’ development both mirrors Weil’s own philosophical development and corresponds to Camus’ exposure to and assimilation of Weil’s thought on decreation, beauty, and the transcendent. By establishing that Camus’ development in his esthetic and political theories corresponds to his exposure to and praise of Weil, I argue that Weil’s influence on Camus explains his later turn away from Nietzsche and to the affirmation of human nature, beauty in the world, and selfless rebellion and creation.

Perspectives on Political Science (Nov. 2021)

Philip Bunn is a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research brings both ancient and modern political thought to bear on contemporary issues, with a focus on normative questions relating to technology.

What Becomes of Agency in a More-Than-Human World?

Jane Bennett & Simone Kotva

This session explores alternative accounts of agency in stories that borrow their warp from dependency rather than autonomy and their weft from receptivity and passivity rather than effort and power-over.  It is from this perspective that we greet the promise — but also the problem — of mysticism and new materialism.  We think with those practices through which feelings of self-sufficiency are abandoned and what is experienced is a state of openness to the more-than-human: spiritual and divine, but also animal, vegetable, and mineral.

Hosted by Simone Weil denkkollektiv {by invitation only}

Jane Bennett is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in Humanities at Johns Hopkins University

Simone Kotva is on the Faculty of Divinity at the University of Cambridge.

Book Review: Simone Weil for the Twenty-First Century

Stephen J. Plant read

Excerpt: “Eric O. Springsted’s latest book on Simone Weil’s life and thought (it matters to him very much that her thinking is a lived philosophy) tackles the same subject matter again and again, doggedly pursuing the same questions from chapter to chapter. Yet far from being repetitious, this is done with the wisdom of a walker traversing a familiar mountain and finding fresh knowledge and delight in each ascent. There is a practical reason for the repetition: 11 of the book’s 14 chapters are adapted from previously published chapters in edited collections or from journal articles (whose original places of publication are given on pages xv-xvi). Naturally, some of the subject matter, citations used, and even points made recur. But any frustration a reader might feel is mitigated in three clever ways. First, Springsted structures his book into two parts that make a virtue of the similarity between the themes addressed in individual chapters by grouping them under two tightly conceived themes: philosophical and theological thought (Part I) and social and political thought (Part II). Second, for his monograph Springsted lightly edits the start and end of each chapter, erecting clear ‘sign-posts’ that make it seem as though a narrative argument is being sustained and developed from one chapter to the next. Though this may be a trompe-l’oeil, it is so skilfully realized one finds oneself reaching for the painted door handle. Finally, and most importantly, Springsted’s ‘take’ on Weil is so consistent and distinctive that a clear argument emerges in the book that is genuinely greater than the sum of its individual chapters.  . .  .”

“. . . . In his Preface, Springsted tells us openly that his aim is not scholarly exegesis, but to ‘offer Weil as something like a polestar to help orient our thinking in a time when the spiritual, moral, and intellectual world has become, in Charles Taylor’s word, “flattened”’ (p.vii). The book is a product of a lifetime of close and thoughtful engagement with Weil’s writings in which, to some extent, Weil’s thought and Springsted’s have become intertwined, such that it becomes hard to tease one out from the other. He is a guide with something to share not only with those new to Weil’s thought, but those who have explored her highways and byways on many occasions.”

Philosophical Investigations, 44, no 4 (October 2021) pp. 448-451.

Stephen J. Plant is Dean and Runcie Fellow at Trinity Hall and lectures on Christian theology and on ethics in the Faculty of Divinity at the University of Cambridge.