Philosophy

Hannah Arendt and Simone Weil: Political Thinkers in Dialogue

Kathryn Lawson & Joshua Livingstone, eds. read

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.

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.

Related

  • Additional references to works on Weil and Arendt can be found here.

 

Simone Weil’s Political Philosophy: Field Notes from the Margins (2023)

Benjamin Davis read

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.

Advance Praise

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.

Publisher

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (March 15, 2023 / 184 pp) (link here).

Philosophy, out of Bounds: The Method and Mysticism of Simone Weil

Carmen Maria Marcous read

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).

Book Review: Simone Weil for the Twenty-First Century by Eric O. Springsted

Marie Cabaud Meaney read

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)

 

Philosophy for Darker Times: An Approach to Simone Weil’s Insights 

Noel Boulting read

This important new study examines the work of Simone Weil; French mystic, social philosopher, and activist in the French Resistance in the Second World War. Weil’s posthumously published works had a major influence on French and English social thought. Philosophy for Darker Times relates Weil’s insights to specific significant issues in our own time.

Ethics International Press, Inc (June 15, 2022)

Table of Contents 

Introduction

Chapter 1         The God of Philosophy and the God of Religion Debate Revisited

Chapter 2         Plato’s Philosophy Manifested in Simone Weil’s life and her Writings

Chapter 3         ‘Scale Relative Ontology’ as a way of understanding Simone Weil’s treatment of Scientific Activity

Chapter 4         Nothing, Mysticism and three dimensions in ‘Scale Relative Ontology’

Chapter 5         Simone Weil’s Mysticism understood through Apophatic Theology

Chapter 6         Intentionalism and ‘God’s Fiction’

Appendix I       Five Scientific Metaphysical Stances in relation to the Standard Model of Quantum Theory

Appendix II      On the Relationship between Simone Weil’s and Hannah Arendt’s  Philosophies

Appendix III    The Stumbling Block: The Rationality Problem

The Author

Bibliography

About the author

Noel Boulting studied at the London Institute of Education, Birkbeck College, London, and the London School of Economics He has taught philosophy at Universities in the in the UK and USA. His philosophy club, NOBOSS, was formed in 1977, and meets at the University of Kent, UK. His publications include articles on C. S. Peirce, Edward Bullough, Thomas Hobbes, Aldo Leopold, Jean Paul Sartre, Simone Weil, Vico, Max Horkheimer and the Aesthetics of Nature. His writings on Weil include:

Simone Weil: Waiting for God (parts 1 and 2)–The God Frequency

Abi Doukhan watch

Abi Doukhan is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Queens College of the City University of New York (CUNY), and holds the Pearl and Nathan Halegua Family Initiative in Ethics and Tolerance. She holds a Masters in philosophy from the Sorbonne and a Ph.D in philosophy from the University of Nanterre, Paris, France. Her recent publications include Emmanuel Levinas: A Philosophy of Exile (Bloomsbury, October 2012), and Biblical Portraits of Exile (Routledge, June 2016).

YouTube class lecture (May 13, 2o22)

Investigating “Man’s Relation to Reality”: Peter Winch, the Vanishing Shed and Metaphysics after Wittgenstein

Olli Lagerspetz read

Peter Winch believed that the central task of philosophy was to investigate ‘the force of the concept of reality’ in human practices. This involved creative dialogue with critical metaphysics. In ‘Ceasing to Exist’, Winch considered what it means to judge that something unheard-of has happened. Referring to Wittgenstein, Winch argued that judgments concerning reality must relate our observations to a shared ‘flow of life’. This implies criticism of the form of epistemology associated with metaphysical realism. Just as, according to Wittgenstein, a sentence has no fixed meaning in isolation — an observation does not constitute knowledge outside shared human practices.

Philosophical Investigations, 5 Jan. 2022