Abstract: Hannah Arendt and Simone Weil were two of the most compelling political thinkers of the 20th century who, despite having similar life-experiences, developed radically distinct political philosophies. This unique dialogue between the writings of Arendt and Weil highlights Arendt’s secular humanism, her emphasis on heroic action, and her rejection of the moral approach to politics, contrasted starkly with Weil’s religious approach, her faith in the power of divine Goodness, and her other-centric ethic of suffering and affliction.
The writings here respect the profound differences between Arendt and Weil whilst pulling out the shared preoccupations of power, violence, freedom, resistance, responsibility, attention, aesthetics, and vulnerability. Without shying away from exploring the more difficult concepts in these philosophers’ works, Hannah Arendt and Simone Weil also aims to pull out the relevance of their writings for contemporary issues.
- Hannah Arendt and Simone Weil: Political Thinkers in Dialogue (Bloomsbury Academic, Feb. 22, 2024)
About the editors
- Kathryn Lawson is a Researcher at Queen’s University in Kingston, Canada. She contributes to the online archive project on Simone Weil, Attention, and is the author of several book chapters on continental philosophy, religion and Arendt and Weil.
- Joshua Livingstone is a Researcher at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. He is author of a forthcoming book chapter on Hannah Arendt.
- Additional references to works on Weil and Arendt can be found here.
Summary: Two enigmatic figures of 20th-century political theory, Eric Voegelin and Simone Weil, stand out with idiosyncratic receptions of ancient Greek texts. Both thinkers diagnosed that, as political agents in late modernity, we have unlearned to read world-making ancient texts and their narratives in their cosmic dimension and thus lost what has rooted European culture and history. Against this backdrop, Voegelin and Weil share ‘antidotal’ practises of combining historically and generically distinct material. These practices aim at fathoming a primordial experience at work in European narratives. With this comparative analysis of Voegelin’s and Weil’s symbolic readings (exemplified in this paper by passages from the Iliad, the History of the Peloponnesian War, and the Symposium), Thomas Sojer presents some considerations how their combinatory imagination of ancient material could supply late modern political agents with a pathos, a meaningful self-world relationship that was thought to have gone missing.
- Thomas Sojer, “Eric Voegelin’s and Simone Weil’s return to Ancient Greece,” Acta Antiqua Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae, vol 61, no. 1 (May 17, 2022), pp. 87-96.
Excerpt: “‘Attention, Iris Murdoch tells us in ‘The Idea of Perfection’, is “the idea of a just and loving gaze directed upon an individual reality.’ (Murdoch 1999: 327). She takes this to be the characteristic and proper mark of moral agents, a claim that is both descriptive – a claim about what in fact characterises us as agents – and normative – a claim about how we should act, what we need to do more of in order to become better moral agents.
Silvia Caprioglio Panizza follows Murdoch in making both of these claims. Her new book The Ethics of Attention is an extended discussion of the role and importance of attention within our moral lives. Panizza here draws on the work of Murdoch and Simone Weil to explore the nature and moral importance of attention. This commonplace and recognisable activity, she suggests, is both essential for accessing moral truth and also morally significant in and of itself. Moreover, it is ‘fundamental to morality’ (16) in that many of the other things we care about morally (such as moral knowledge and moral motivation) are well-understood as depending on attention.'”
- Cathy Mason, Book Review: “The Ethics of Attention: Engaging the Real with Iris Murdoch and Simone Weil by Silvia Caprioglio Panizza” (Abingdon: Routledge, 2022), pp. 179, forthcoming in Philosophy.
Cathy Mason is an Assistant Professor in Philosophy at Central European University.
- Simone Weil, Cahiers Philosophiques (June 29, 2023 — journal date 2022)
Editors & Contributors
- Alain Supiot & Martin Dumont (editors)
- Peter Winch (Contributor)
- Sophie Bourgault (Contributor)
- Robert Chenavier (Contributor)
- Jean-Marie Chevalier (Contributor)
- Pascal David (Contributor)
- Alexandra Féret (Contributor)
Abstract: “In this book a long-time student of phenomenology and of Greek art and philosophy stages a “loving quarrel” between two daring thinkers who loved Greece but had diametrically opposed interpretations of its legacy. Maria Villela-Petit brings out unsuspected strengths in Simone Weil’s readings of Homer, Plato, and Greek Tragedy and unsuspected weaknesses in Heidegger’s historical construction and the tradition of German philhellenism which shaped it.”
- Maria Villela-Petit, Questioning Greece with Heidegger and Simone Weil (Independently published, Joseph S. O’Leary, trans.)
In his book, Simone Weil in the Twenty-First Century, Eric Springsted–pioneering Weil–specialist in the USA as well as co-founder and long-time president of the American Weil society–-reveals his thorough knowledge and deep understanding of this French philosopher and mystic. In dialogue with thinkers such as Ludwig Wittgenstein, Michael Foster, Gabriel Marcel, Henri de Luba, and Jacques Maritain, he covers much ground in his book’s fourteen chapters, focusing in the first part on Weil’ philosophical and theological thought before turning to her social and political thinking.
The themes range from the place of mystery and the supernatural in Weil’s philosophy to her understanding of obligations, the need for roots, the role of culture, and the relationship between religion and politics. Though there is no central argument holding these different chapters together–-indeed, eleven of the fourteen chapters were published in earlier versions in various journals– the book does justice to Weil’s diverse interests . . . .
Theology Today, vol. 79, no. 3, p. 352 (2022)