Weil & Other Thinkers

The philosophy of being good

Robert Zaretsky read

Both the Anglo-Irish novelist Iris Murdoch and the French mystic Simone Weil had the idea of the ‘good’ at the centre of their philosophy – and both tried to resolve the tension between thinking and ‘doing’ in their own way.


The Tablet
(June 23, 2021)

Militant Liturgies: Practicing Christianity with Kierkegaard, Bonhoeffer, and Weil

Aaron Simmons read

Traditional philosophy of religion has tended to focus on the doxastic dimension of religious life, which although a vitally important area of research, has often come at the cost of philosophical engagements with religious practice. Focusing particularly on Christian traditions, this essay offers a sustained reflection on one particular model of embodied Christian practice as presented in the work of Søren Kierkegaard. After a discussion of different notions of practice and perfection, the paper turns to Kierkegaard’s conception of the two churches: the Church Triumphant and the Church Militant. Then, in light of Kierkegaard’s defense of the latter and critique of the former, it is shown that Kierkegaard’s specific account gets appropriated and expanded in Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s account of “costly grace” and “religionless Christianity,” and Simone Weil’s conception of “afflicted love.” Ultimately, it is suggested that these three think

Religions, vol.12, no. 5 (May 12, 2021)

Education, Attention and Transformation: Death and Decreation in Tolstoy and Weil

Peter Roberts read

 

What might it mean to engage in an educative struggle with death? Leo Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilyich helps us to answer that question. Tolstoy’s story depicts the life of a man who, when suddenly faced with the prospect of his own death, is at first unable to comprehend the reality of his situation. He is angry, fearful, and disgusted. As he gradually comes to terms with his mortality, he undergoes a harrowing process of transformation, at the heart of which lies the development of his capacity for attention. Drawing on ideas from the French philosopher and pedagogue Simone Weil, it is argued that Ivan’s experience is consistent with the passage from ‘gravity’, through the void of intense suffering, toward a state of grace.

Roberts, Peter. Education, “Attention and Transformation: Death and Decreation in Tolstoy and Weil.” Studies in Philosophy and Education (2021). Online: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11217-021-09775-8

When Fiction & Philosophy Meet: A Conversation with Flannery O’Connor and Simone Weil

E. Jane Doering & Ruthann Knechel Johansen read

An innovative book, WHEN FICTION AND PHILOSOPHY MEET explores the intersection between the philosophy of Simone Weil from Paris, France, and the fiction of Flannery O’Connor from the Southern state of Georgia, USA. In an era of war, of unprecedented human displacements, and of ethnic, racial, and religious fears the ideas of these two intellectuals bear on our present condition. Both women keenly desired to perceive the realities of good and evil inherent in human existence and to bring this truth to the consciousness of their contemporaries. Embracing their belief that truth is eternal but must be transposed and translated, generation after generation, in language appropriate to each age, the authors acquaint O’Connor readers with concepts in Weil’s religious philosophy as seen in O’Connor’s stories. Doering and Johansen simultaneously illustrate how Weil’s philosophy, when embodied in fiction, reveals the lived realities of the human condition across time and space.

Simone Weil and Flannery O’Connor were audacious thinkers with inquiring minds who held clear and firm religious convictions. Each applied her understandings of enduring spiritual truths to the challenges of nihilism and social oppression as seen in the spreading totalitarianism and the distressing legacy of slavery throughout human history. Both Weil and O’Connor crossed disciplinary boundaries and influenced their respective fields with innovative ideas and artistic expressions.

Taking their cues from these writers, Doering and Johansen bring these two remarkable women into a four-voiced dialogue–Simone Weil and Flannery O’Connor with Doering and Johansen–by engaging each writer in the forms of her own genre and inviting readers to enter a dialogue of courage with Weil and O’Connor in the postmodern and post-Christian world.

Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2021

Faith Envy: Kierkegaard, Wittgenstein, and Weil on Desirable Faith

Hermen Kroesbergen read

From time to time, both believers and nonbelievers envy those with more faith. In this book, Hermen Kroesbergen coins the concept of faith envy as an angle to investigate faith and religious language and provide a new direction for the philosophy of religion. For far too long, the philosophy of religion has focused on statements of faith concerning superempirical powers, forgetting that if they would ever be able to prove these statements, they cease to be religious. Kroesbergen explores the possibility of using the angle of faith envy for a much-needed alternative approach, using the philosophers Søren Kierkegaard, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Simone Weil as guides. Their lives and works have often been studied for what they have to say about religious beliefs; here, however, the focus is on what they have to say about the faith they envy. Our own faith envy, and Kierkegaard, Wittgenstein, and Weil’s struggle to make sense of it provides a deeper insight into what faith is and could be. This book is a timely and provocative intervention in a philosophy of religion that has reached a dead end, and a society that is deeply troubled about faith but envies it nonetheless.

Fortress Academic, July 15, 2021

“The Love of God and Man’s Suffering: Simone Weil and Georges Bernanos”

William S. Bush

in Dunaway, John M. & Springsted, Eric. O., The Beauty that Saves: Essays on Aesthetics and Language in Simone Weil, Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, pp. 185-196

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.