Reading

A Just and Loving Gaze

Deborah Casewell read

Excerpt: “Weil took no prisoners in any debate. Although Leon Trotsky had recently excoriated her critique of Marxism, Weil arranged for the Marxist revolutionary to stay in her parents’ apartment in December 1933 and host an illicit political gathering. This did, however, come at the expense of a night-long, intense discussion with Weil. While she always argued softly and clearly, that did not prevent the discussion from being punctuated by violent shouts.

That heart that beat across the world is perhaps why she always remained outside contemporary philosophical trends, and certainly outside of the academic and elite conversations in philosophy at the time. Weil’s philosophical commitments, while constant, often pale in comparison with her dramatic life and her political engagement. She enacted her philosophy with her commitment to causes, and finally with her body. This began with her declaration of Bolshevism at the age of 10, through to her university involvement in Marxism, trade unionism and pacificism. The first commitment declined as she found in Marxism itself plenty to criticise, though this did not prevent her from joining the republicans in the Spanish Civil War, albeit rather ineffectively. Yet, through all of this, two elements of her character remained constant: her self-denial for the sake of others, and the strength of her will. . . .”

Deborah Casewell is a Humboldt Research Fellow in philosophy at the University of Bonn and co-director of the UK-based Simone Weil Network. Her most recent book is Eberhard Jüngel and Existence: Being Before the Cross(2021).

Aeon, July 9, 2021

“Pleasure and Joy in the Work”: Using Simone Weil in the Classroom

Vance Morgan read

Richard Rorty once wrote that inspired teaching “is the result of an encounter with an author, character, plot, stanza, line or archaic torso which has made a difference to the [teacher’s] conception of who she is, what she is good for, what she wants to do with herself: an encounter which has rearranged her priorities and purposes.” In a teaching career more than three decades long, no author has influenced me more profoundly as a teacher and as a human being than Simone Weil. She has changed how I think about myself, my relationships, the world around me and ultimately about what transcends me. And this could not help but change how I am in the classroom. This essay is a reflection on how Simone Weil has changed my life, both in and out of the classroom.

Philosophical Investigations, vol. 43, nos. 1-2, pp. 8-18.

Simone Weil’s ‘Reflections on the Right Use of School Studies with a View to the Love of God’: A Comment

W.J. Morgan read

The purpose of this article is to provide a comment on Simone Weil’s brief but seminal essay ‘Reflections on the Right Use of School Studies with a View to the Love of God.’ It complements an earlier one on Weil’s Lectures on Philosophy. The essay was sent via a letter to her friend and mentor, the Catholic priest, and Dominican friar, Father Joseph-Marie Perrin O.P. It set out her belief that school studies should provide the individual pupil or student with an education in the value and acquisition of attention. This, Weil believed, would be of fundamental value when reaching out to God through prayer. Such a capacity for attention would also enhance the student’s general academic and social learning providing a basis for authentic dialogue with others, and not only teachers and schoolfellows. The article introduces her as a religious philosopher, explains the origins of the essay, and Weil’s friendship with Father Perrin, who was her Christian religious mentor, examines the text itself, considers some critical commentaries, and assesses its relevance to the philosophy and practice of education today.

RUDN Journal of Philosophy, vol. 24, no. 3, pp. 398-409

The ethical implications of Simone Weil’s Notion of reading

Olwyn Stewart read

In this thesis I develop the ethical implications inherent in a short paper written by Simone Weil, entitled ‘Essay on the Notion of Reading,’ with a view to exploring possible ways in which we are able to incorporate the unconditional value of each and every human being into our everyday apprehension of the world. Mindful of the fact that conceptions of unconditional value tend to be associated with religious belief, I make a distinction between religious theory and practical religious engagement, privileging the latter, in order to show the common ground between theistic and nontheistic ways of understanding unconditional value. My focus is on practical ethics, and the relationship between our direct and immediate ethical responses and their conceptualization plays an important part in my thesis, in tandem with an important distinction between absolute and relative forms of evaluation. The emphasis I place on the relationship between direct responses and their conceptualization is developed in the light of Wittgensteinian philosophical insights, both of Wittgenstein’s own and those of certain other philosophers who employ versions of his method. I also draw on both Platonist and Aristotelian conceptions of virtue, with particular attention to the relationship between our natural ethical responses and the terminology in which they find expression.

The University of Auckland, Ph.D. dissertation (2012).

Weil, Truth and Life: Simone Weil’s pedagogy as auto-philosophical therapy of soul

Yvana Mols read

Contemporary philosophers, wary of the vaulted metaphysical systems proposed by Enlightenment thinkers, have explored alternative avenues of doing philosophy. Unfortunately, these “new” philosophical systems often neglect their roots in ancient philosophical practice. The purpose of this thesis is to textually ascertain the ancient concept of philosophy as a way of life in the contemporary philosophical work of Simone Weil. This connection is demonstrated in two distinct yet related ways. The practical pedagogy demonstrated through biographical work and student lecture notes provide a distinct vision of her life’s bent toward practical philosophy. In addition, her Notebooks, read in light of Pierre Hadot’s interpretation of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations, demonstrate the pervasiveness of this way of life in her personal textual engagement. In Weil, therefore, we find an important contemporary instance of continuing and reinterpreting the ancient philosophical practice where she finds her philosophical origin.

A thesis submitted to the faculty of the Institute for Christian Studies in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Philosophy, Toronto, Ontario, July 2007.

“Simone Weil and George Herbert on the Vocations of Writing and Reading”

Michael Vander Weele

Religion & Literature, vol. 32, no. 3, pp. 69-102