Abstract: Hannah Arendt and Simone Weil were two of the most compelling political thinkers of the 20th century who, despite having similar life-experiences, developed radically distinct political philosophies. This unique dialogue between the writings of Arendt and Weil highlights Arendt’s secular humanism, her emphasis on heroic action, and her rejection of the moral approach to politics, contrasted starkly with Weil’s religious approach, her faith in the power of divine Goodness, and her other-centric ethic of suffering and affliction.
The writings here respect the profound differences between Arendt and Weil whilst pulling out the shared preoccupations of power, violence, freedom, resistance, responsibility, attention, aesthetics, and vulnerability. Without shying away from exploring the more difficult concepts in these philosophers’ works, Hannah Arendt and Simone Weil also aims to pull out the relevance of their writings for contemporary issues.
- Hannah Arendt and Simone Weil: Political Thinkers in Dialogue (Bloomsbury Academic, Feb. 22, 2024)
About the editors
- Kathryn Lawson is a Researcher at Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada. She contributes to the online archive project on Simone Weil, Attention, and is the author of several book chapters on continental philosophy, religion and Arendt and Weil.
- Joshua Livingstone is a Researcher at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. He is author of a forthcoming book chapter on Hannah Arendt.
- Additional references to works on Weil and Arendt can be found here.
- Simone Weil, Cahiers Philosophiques (June 29, 2023 — journal date 2022)
Editors & Contributors
- Alain Supiot & Martin Dumont (editors)
- Peter Winch (Contributor)
- Sophie Bourgault (Contributor)
- Robert Chenavier (Contributor)
- Jean-Marie Chevalier (Contributor)
- Pascal David (Contributor)
- Alexandra Féret (Contributor)
Abstract: “In this book a long-time student of phenomenology and of Greek art and philosophy stages a “loving quarrel” between two daring thinkers who loved Greece but had diametrically opposed interpretations of its legacy. Maria Villela-Petit brings out unsuspected strengths in Simone Weil’s readings of Homer, Plato, and Greek Tragedy and unsuspected weaknesses in Heidegger’s historical construction and the tradition of German philhellenism which shaped it.”
- Maria Villela-Petit, Questioning Greece with Heidegger and Simone Weil (Independently published, Joseph S. O’Leary, trans.)
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)
In this book, Benjamin P. Davis demonstrates how Simone Weil’s Marxism challenges current neoliberal understandings of the self and of human rights. Explaining her related critiques of colonialism and of political parties, it presents Weil as a twentieth-century political philosopher who anticipated and critically responded to the most contemporary political theory.
Simone Weil’s short life (1909–1943) is best understood as deeply invested in and engaged with the world around her, one she knew she would leave behind sooner rather than later if she continued to take risks on the side of the oppressed.
In this important and timely book, Davis presents Simone Weil first and foremost as a political philosopher. To do so, he places Weil’s political writings in conversation with feminist philosophy, decolonial philosophy, aesthetic theory, human rights discourse, and Marxism. Against the backdrop of Weil’s commitments, Davis reads Weil explicitly into debates in contemporary Critical Theory. Davis argues that in the battles of today, we urgently need to reconnect with Simone Weil’s ethical and political imagination, which offers a critique of oppression as part of a deeper attention to the world.
In this moving account of Simone Weil’s political thought, Benjamin Davis merges world history and personal testimony, theory and living, brain and heart. He shows that one’s scholarship and one’s life cannot be separated easily.
— Christy Wampole, Princeton University
About the Author
Benjamin P. Davis is a postdoctoral fellow in ethics at the University of Toronto. Davis’s scholarship is in the areas of human rights, Decolonial Theory, and Caribbean Philosophy. He has articles published or forthcoming in The CLR James Journal, The Journal of the Caribbean Philosophical Association, Transmodernity: Journal of Peripheral Cultural Production of the Luso-Hispanic World, and Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development. He is also Vice President of the American Weil Society.
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (March 15, 2023 / 184 pp) (link here).
ABSTRACT: The purpose of this study is exposition on the themes of method and mysticism in the work of Simone Weil. Nearly a decade before the onset of her first mystical experience, Weil developed a method to be rigorously applied in daily philosophical reflection. She outlines this method in her dissertation on Descartes (1929-1930). I examine the question of how Weil applied method to philosophical reflection on her mystical experiences (onset 1938-1939). I analyze Weil’s mystical experiences as a type of transformative experience in L. A. Paul’s strict sense of the term. On Paul’s view, an experience is transformative if it is both epistemically and personally transformative. An experience is epistemically transformative if the only way to know what it is like to have it is to have it yourself. An experience is personally transformative if it changes your point of view, including your core preferences (Paul, 2014).
I present a thought experiment and textual evidence to motivate the claim that Weil’s mystical experiences meet Paul’s conditions for transformative experience. I then propose two epistemological facts that can be revealed by philosophical reflection on mystical experience. First, it is possible to read meaning erroneously in the appearances of things. Second, it is possible to come to hold to the certainty of a conviction for reasons that elude the intellect. My findings suggest that Weil’s late views on philosophy accommodate these two epistemological constraints, thereby demonstrating a possible connection between Weil’s mystical experiences and her mature views on the nature, scope, and proper method of philosophy. However, my preliminary findings also suggest that Weil’s early work on method may have anticipated these epistemological obstacles prior to the onset of her first mystical experience. Thus, further exposition of Weil’s method is needed to support or elucidate the claim (Rozelle-Stone and Davis, 2021) that Weil’s epistemology underwent significant changes because of her mystical experiences.
Carmen Maria Marcous, a Dissertation submitted to the Department of Philosophy in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy, Florida State University, College of Arts and Sciences (2022).
In his book, Simone Weil in the Twenty-First Century, Eric Springsted–pioneering Weil–specialist in the USA as well as co-founder and long-time president of the American Weil society–-reveals his thorough knowledge and deep understanding of this French philosopher and mystic. In dialogue with thinkers such as Ludwig Wittgenstein, Michael Foster, Gabriel Marcel, Henri de Luba, and Jacques Maritain, he covers much ground in his book’s fourteen chapters, focusing in the first part on Weil’ philosophical and theological thought before turning to her social and political thinking.
The themes range from the place of mystery and the supernatural in Weil’s philosophy to her understanding of obligations, the need for roots, the role of culture, and the relationship between religion and politics. Though there is no central argument holding these different chapters together–-indeed, eleven of the fourteen chapters were published in earlier versions in various journals– the book does justice to Weil’s diverse interests . . . .
Theology Today, vol. 79, no. 3, p. 352 (2022)