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)

Venice Saved

Simone Weil, ed. & trans by Silvia Panizza & Philip Wilson read

Towards the end of her life, the French philosopher and mystic Simone Weil (1909-43) was working on a tragedy, Venice Saved. Appearing here in English for the first time, this play explores the realisation of Weil’s own thoughts on tragedy. A figure of affliction, a central theme in Weil’s religious metaphysics, the central character offers a unique insight into Weil’s broader philosophical interest in truth and justice, and provides a fresh perspective on the wider conception of tragedy itself.

The play depicts the plot by a group of Spanish mercenaries to sack Venice in 1618 and how it fails when one conspirator, Jaffier, betrays them to the Venetian authorities, because he feels compassion for the city’s beauty.

The edition includes notes on the play by the translators as well as introductory material on: the life of Weil; the genesis and purport of the play; Weil and the tragic; the issues raised by translating Venice Saved. With additional suggestions for further reading, the volume opens up an area of interest and research: the literary Weil.

New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2019


Ronald Collins, “The Play’s the Thing: On Simone Weil’s Venice Saved,” Los Angeles Review of Books, Aug. 28, 2019

Simone Weil on Colonialism: An Ethic of the Other

J.P. Little, ed. & trans. read

In 1931, Simone Weil read an article by Louis Roubaud in the Petit Parisien that exposed the Yen Bay massacre in Indochina. That article opened Weil’s eyes, and from then until her death in exile in 1943, she cared most deeply about the French colonial situation. Weil refused to accept the contradiction between the image of France as a champion of the rights of man and the reality of France’s exploitation and oppression of the peoples in its territories.
Weil wrote thirteen articles or letters about the situation, writings originally published in French journals or in French collections of her work. J. P. Little’s fluid and clear translations finally introduce to English-speaking scholars and students this important element of Weil’s political consciousness.

J.P. Little, ed. & trans., New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2003

J. P. Little, one of the world’s most respected scholars of Simone Weil, is the author of Simone Weil: Waiting on Truth and numerous articles and conference presentations on Weil’s life and work. She is lecturer in French (emerita) at St. Patrick’s College, Dublin.