The Need for Roots

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.

Simone Weil for the Twenty-First Century

Eric O. Springsted read

This in-depth study examines the social, religious, and philosophical thought of Simone Weil.

Simone Weil for the Twenty-First Century presents a comprehensive analysis of Weil’s interdisciplinary thought, focusing especially on the depth of its challenge to contemporary philosophical and religious studies. In a world where little is seen to have real meaning, Eric O. Springsted presents a critique of the unfocused nature of postmodern philosophy and argues that Weil’s thought is more significant than ever in showing how the world in which we live is, in fact, a world of mysteries. Springsted brings into focus the challenges of Weil’s original (and sometimes surprising) starting points, such as an Augustinian priority of goodness and love over being and intellect, and the importance of the Crucifixion. Springsted demonstrates how the mystical and spiritual aspects of Weil’s writings influence her social thought. For Weil, social and political questions cannot be separated from the supernatural. For her, rather, the world has a sacramental quality, such that life in the world is always a matter of life in God―and life in God, necessarily a way of life in the world.

Simone Weil for the Twenty-First Century is not simply a guide or introduction to Simone Weil. Rather, it is above all an argument for the importance of Weil’s thought in the contemporary world, showing how she helps us to understand the nature of our belonging to God (sometimes in very strange and unexpected ways), the importance of attention and love as the root of both the love of God and neighbor, the importance of being rooted in culture (and culture’s service to the soul in rooting it in the universe), and the need for human beings to understand themselves as communal beings, not as isolated thinkers or willers. It will be essential reading for scholars of Weil, and will also be of interest to philosophers and theologians.

Eric O. Springsted is the co-founder of the American Weil Society and served as its president for thirty-three years. After a career as a teacher, scholar, and pastor, he is retired and lives in Santa Fe, NM. He is the author and editor of a dozen previous books, including Simone Weil: Late Philosophical Writings (University of Notre Dame Press, 2015).

University of Notre Dame Press, 2021