Political Philosophy

From Innate Morality Towards a New Political Ethos: Simone Weil with Carol Gilligan and Judith Butler

Aviad Heifetz read

In 1943, Simone Weil proposed to supersede the declaration of human rights with a declaration of obligations towards every human being’s balancing pairs of body and soul’s needs, for engaging and inspiring more effectively against autocratic and populist currents in times of crisis. We claim that Weil’s proposal, which remains pertinent today, may have been sidestepped because her notion of needs lacked a fundamental dimension of relationality, prominent in the ‘philosophical anthropology’ underlying the (different) visions for a new political ethos of both Judith Butler and Carol Gilligan. From the radical starting point of innate morality common to all three thinkers, we, therefore, indicate how an enriched notion of interlaced needs, encompassing both balance and relationality, may restore the viability of a declaration of human obligations as a robust source of inspiration. In this combination of balance and relationality, Butler’s notion of aggressive nonviolence is key.

Ethics, Politics & Society. A Journal in Moral and Political Philosophy, no. 4 (2021), pp. 175-188.

Panel Discussion: Theo-Politics, Tragedy and Memory

Nicolai Petro, Susannah Black, Paul Grenier, Matthew Dal Santo, Michael Martin, and Vasily Shchipkov watch

Simone Weil Center for Political Philosophy

Simone Weil’s Radical Ontology of Rootedness: Natural and Supernatural Justices

Alexandre Andrade Martins read

This paper argues that Simone Weil developed an anthropology of the human condition that is a radical ontology of the human spirit rooted in reality. Weil begins her account from the real, but this real is not only the historical or social reality. It is also what is true about the human person as a created being in connection with the transcendent reality. She believes that affliction reveals the human condition and provides an openness to transcendence in which the individual finds the meaning of the human operation of the spirit. Therefore, Weil’s radical ontology is based on a philosophy of the human being as an agent rooted in the world. In order to be rooted, a human being needs decreation (the creation of a new human) and incarnation (cross and love in the world). In her radical ontology derived from attention to the real, Weil argues for an active incarnation in social reality that recognizes others, especially the unfortunates, for the purpose of empowering them and promoting their dignity. Her radical ontology incarnates the human in the world between necessity and good, that is, between the natural and the supernatural.

Considering Emmanuel Gabellieri’s characterization of Simone Weil’s anthropological philosophy as a radical ontology, I examine Weil’s account on natural and supernatural justices. According to Gabellieri, Weil’s ontology is radical because it is “a metaphysics of the human spirit oriented towards a full contact with reality.” Full contact with the reality of the world is the starting point of Simone Weil’s philosophy. This contact is radical because the supernatural is present in reality, and a deep experience of reality opens the individual for the illumination of the supernatural, an experience of grace that reveals the truth of human existence and condition in the world. Therefore, Simone Weil develops an anthropology of the human condition that is a “radical ontology” of the human spirit rooted in the reality of the world. The experience of rootedness occurs in reality, but it is the supernatural that roots the human being.

Weil suggests an anthropology of radical ontology following the Platonic tradition of a transcendental spirit that contemplates the nous. This generates a noetic knowledge that impacts reality. It is in this mediation between reality and the supernatural that the need for justice occurs, as a natural reality illuminated and guided by supernatural justice. In this account, she is also inside the Christian mystic tradition, in which the experience of grace impacts the ethical life leading to seek for justice. To understand Weil’s radical ontology, this paper will discuss three points of her account: her starting point from the real, the movement of decreation and openness of the working of grace, and the supernatural justice that illuminates the natural justice in a rooted people.  {full text in “Read” link above}

Theology Faculty Research and Publications, Marquette University (Spring, 2019)