Weil & Other Thinkers

Transcendent Rebellion: The Influence of Simone Weil on Albert Camus’ Esthetics

Philip D. Bunn read

ABSTRACT: The relationship between the thought of Albert Camus and Simone Weil has been partially explored by scholars since their deaths. However, current scholarship does not fully explain the influence Weil’s life and work had on Camus’ esthetics, a full treatment of which is necessary to truly understand the significance of Camus’ adoption of the idea of the rebel as artist. Camus’ thought progresses significantly from his early esthetics of the will in his Essay on Music, affirming art as fundamentally an egoistic act, to a later esthetics of transcendence, affirming the selflessness of artistic rebellion.

This paper argues that Camus’ development both mirrors Weil’s own philosophical development and corresponds to Camus’ exposure to and assimilation of Weil’s thought on decreation, beauty, and the transcendent. By establishing that Camus’ development in his esthetic and political theories corresponds to his exposure to and praise of Weil, I argue that Weil’s influence on Camus explains his later turn away from Nietzsche and to the affirmation of human nature, beauty in the world, and selfless rebellion and creation.

Perspectives on Political Science (Nov. 2021)

Philip Bunn is a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research brings both ancient and modern political thought to bear on contemporary issues, with a focus on normative questions relating to technology.

Book Review: Simone Weil for the Twenty-First Century

Stephen J. Plant read

Excerpt: “Eric O. Springsted’s latest book on Simone Weil’s life and thought (it matters to him very much that her thinking is a lived philosophy) tackles the same subject matter again and again, doggedly pursuing the same questions from chapter to chapter. Yet far from being repetitious, this is done with the wisdom of a walker traversing a familiar mountain and finding fresh knowledge and delight in each ascent. There is a practical reason for the repetition: 11 of the book’s 14 chapters are adapted from previously published chapters in edited collections or from journal articles (whose original places of publication are given on pages xv-xvi). Naturally, some of the subject matter, citations used, and even points made recur. But any frustration a reader might feel is mitigated in three clever ways. First, Springsted structures his book into two parts that make a virtue of the similarity between the themes addressed in individual chapters by grouping them under two tightly conceived themes: philosophical and theological thought (Part I) and social and political thought (Part II). Second, for his monograph Springsted lightly edits the start and end of each chapter, erecting clear ‘sign-posts’ that make it seem as though a narrative argument is being sustained and developed from one chapter to the next. Though this may be a trompe-l’oeil, it is so skilfully realized one finds oneself reaching for the painted door handle. Finally, and most importantly, Springsted’s ‘take’ on Weil is so consistent and distinctive that a clear argument emerges in the book that is genuinely greater than the sum of its individual chapters.  . .  .”

“. . . . In his Preface, Springsted tells us openly that his aim is not scholarly exegesis, but to ‘offer Weil as something like a polestar to help orient our thinking in a time when the spiritual, moral, and intellectual world has become, in Charles Taylor’s word, “flattened”’ (p.vii). The book is a product of a lifetime of close and thoughtful engagement with Weil’s writings in which, to some extent, Weil’s thought and Springsted’s have become intertwined, such that it becomes hard to tease one out from the other. He is a guide with something to share not only with those new to Weil’s thought, but those who have explored her highways and byways on many occasions.”

Philosophical Investigations, 44, no 4 (October 2021) pp. 448-451.

Stephen J. Plant is Dean and Runcie Fellow at Trinity Hall and lectures on Christian theology and on ethics in the Faculty of Divinity at the University of Cambridge.

Video Interview: Eric O. Springsted

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Join Resistance Recovery founder Piers Kaniuka and author and scholar Eric O. Springsted as they discuss his new book Simone Weil for the 21st Century. Recorded on July 14, 2021. Eric O. Springsted is a long time scholar of the thought of Simone Weil. He 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, New Mexico. He is the author and editor of over a dozen previous books.

Resistance Recovery, July 23, 2021

Related: “A Q&A Interview with Eric Springsted,” Attention. 

Peter Winch: Unity: Presupposition or Demand?

Peter Winch (Steven Burns trans.) read

This is a translation of a paper which the late Peter Winch wrote in German for a 1987 conference. He deals with fundamental issues in ethics, especially with the Wittgensteinian idea that “primitive reactions” play a crucial role in the formation of moral concepts. It also responds to an important objection, namely that primitive reactions can be as much immoral as moral. Ranging as it does over Winch’s interests in Wittgenstein, Simone Weil, and Plato, the paper can serve as a concise introduction to Winch’s work.

Philosophical Investigations, vol. 44, no. 2, July 9, 2021