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).