Philosophy

Anemones—A Simone Weil Project

Lisa Robertson read

It is with great pleasure that we present Lisa Robertson’s Anemones: A Simone Weil Project, the fourteenth publication within the “If I Can’t Dance” Performance in Residence programme.

Three years ago, “If I Can’t Dance” invited poet and writer Lisa Robertson to develop an experimental research project based on her long-term study of medieval troubadour poetry and the invention of the rime in the historical region of Occitania. The scope of this investigation offered “If I Can’t Dance” an intriguing proposition to revisit genealogies of performance that sit outside the canons that define this rather young discipline. Troubadour poetry was composed and sung in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries using the Occitan vernacular language, a language of migratory confluences, where Arab, Jewish, Christian, and secular popular traditions blend and jostle. Unlike the stability and authority of Latin or of the then forming French territory to the north, troubadour rime culture elaborated a poetics of intermixture—linguistic, erotic, and mystical, in the southwest region of what is now France, in relation to Andalusian, Syrian and Palestinian cultural movements and influences, as well as to plant and animal neighbours. As Robertson explained at the Edition VIII—Ritual and Display introductory weekend in October 2019, this language “learn[ed] from birds, leaves and tree frogs as well as people”, each of which moved between lands and over the borders of political territories.

What was initially going to be a publication on the invention of the rime within these vocal and cultural movements eventually took a different turn. The archival research and the collaborations Robertson had envisioned for the project had to come to a halt due to the prolonged confinements provoked by the outbreak of Covid-19. In this space of arrest, Robertson encountered the essay “What the Occitan Inspiration Consists of,” penned by philosopher, mystic and political activist Simone Weil in 1942 for the Marseilles-based anti-fascist literary journal Les Cahiers du Sud. Written from within the devastations of World War II, Weil elevates the troubadour concept of love to a practice of political resistance that rejects force in all its forms. In a new annotated translation that lies at the heart of the volume, Robertson dwells on the transhistorical potential of this notion, coming to terms with the broken lineage of troubadour culture, the legacy of Weil’s philosophical thought, and the violent context from which it emerged. In so doing, Robertson embraces the effect of both actualised and suppressed histories, testifying to friendship, readership, and the resistance of words across incommensurable distances.

Designed by Amsterdam-based Rietlanden Women’s Office, Anemones: A Simone Weil Project moves between poetry, the epistolary genre, and scholarly research. Echoing Weil’s philosophical concerns, the publication is also the site of a performance of dedication that takes the form of a series of floral actions conceived and realised by artist Benny Nemer. Carrying a letter written by Robertson, Nemer delivered an arrangement of flowers to seven people—artists, writers, poets—this book is dedicated to. The pages of the book then become the receptacle of a performativity that resists consumption and is not meant to be seen, announced, and disclosed, but rather imagined, whispered, and savoured in a moment of intimacy.

Simone Weil: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Updated: Nov. 2021)

A. Rebecca Rozelle-Stone & Benjamin P. Davis read

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Nov. 24, 2021: updated here)

  • A. Rebecca Rozelle-Stone: Professor, Philosophy & Religion at the University of North Dakota
  • BenjaminP. Davis: Postdoctoral Fellow in Ethics at the Centre for Ethics, at the University of Toronto (Nov. 2021

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Simone Weil’s Method: Essaying Reality through Inquiry and Action

Benjamin P. Davis read

Abstract

I read a selection of Simone Weil’s political philosophy in the way that she reads Marx – as forming “not a doctrine but a method of understanding and action.” My claim is that Weil’s method is likewise twofold: she attempts to understand the world through inquiry, then she tests her understanding through action. First, I read “Reflections Concerning the Causes of Liberty and Social Oppression” (1934). In that essay, inquiry, exemplified by Weil’s calling into question the term “revolution,” is her way of understanding reality around her, including forces of oppression and possibilities for liberation. Second, I read her “Factory Journal” (1934–1935), which records how she tested her theories from “Reflections” by placing herself in French factories. My conclusion states the fruits of Weil’s method for philosophy today: an interrogation of present political keywords (resistance, resilience) and a practice of philosophy as a way of life.

Comparative and Continental Philosophy, vol. 13 (Nov. 23, 2021)

Programme: Simone Weil and Religion 

UK Simone Weil Research Network read

Symposium: Simone Weil on Religion

Keynote: Dr. Simone Kotva (University of Oslo) – “Rethinking agency in a more-than-human world with Simone Weil’

 

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.