Weil & Other Thinkers

Nursing in Wartime: Edith Stein and Simone Weil on Empathic Attention

Ann W. Astell read

Abstract: Edith Stein and Simone Weil both trained as Red Cross nurses for wartime service. For both philosophers, the activity of a nurse demands empathic attention to the afflicted. Stein envisions herself as an attendant nurse in her memoirs; Weil similarly casts herself in a nurse’s role in her proposal for an elite, sacrificial nurses’ corps. This essay examines the practice of wartime nursing as a school for, and an expression of, their complementary philosophies of human beings seen in their physical, epistemological, and spiritual interrelatedness.

Journal of Continental Philosophy (Feb. 23, 2022)

Ann W. Astell is a professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame.

Thinking about Judaism: Jacques Maritain and Simone Weil (Italian edition) 

Emanuele Pili read

Pensare l’ebraismo: Jacques Maritain e Simone Weil (Italian Edition) Kindle Edition (Feb. 2022), Emanuele Pili, University of Perugia

Abstract in translation

Against the backdrop of the Second World War, Jacques Maritain and Simone Weil reflected deeply on the nature and relevance of Judaism. If Maritain imagined an unprecedented relationship with Christianity, reading the (in) fidelity of Israel in a Pauline way, Weil hoped for a purification of the West from inauthentic cultural traditions, of which Judaism participated in large part, in search of those ties that preserve the ‘human.’

Emanuele Pili originally interprets two very different souls but united by a strong sense of political responsibility, which led to a commitment to fight against totalitarianism. The first Italian translation of the bases for a statute of French minorities appears in the appendix; it is is one of the most controversial texts in the entire body of works by Simone Weil.

 

 

Investigating “Man’s Relation to Reality”: Peter Winch, the Vanishing Shed and Metaphysics after Wittgenstein

Olli Lagerspetz read

Peter Winch believed that the central task of philosophy was to investigate ‘the force of the concept of reality’ in human practices. This involved creative dialogue with critical metaphysics. In ‘Ceasing to Exist’, Winch considered what it means to judge that something unheard-of has happened. Referring to Wittgenstein, Winch argued that judgments concerning reality must relate our observations to a shared ‘flow of life’. This implies criticism of the form of epistemology associated with metaphysical realism. Just as, according to Wittgenstein, a sentence has no fixed meaning in isolation — an observation does not constitute knowledge outside shared human practices.

Philosophical Investigations, 5 Jan. 2022

The mysticism of the ordeal of the absence of God in the context of the Second World War. The case of Simone Weil and Etty Hillesum

Pierre Gillouard read

Based on the study of the writings of Simone Weil and Etty Hillesum during the Second World War, this article intends to identify the characteristics of an unprecedented moment in the history of mysticism where the experience of God’s presence is irreducibly associated with the ordeal of his absence in the events of this world. If this link between the experience of absence and that of presence echoes the classic image of John of the Cross’s “dark night”, its conceptualisation in both Simone Weil and Etty Hillesum reveals two emerging features that break with the earlier mystical tradition. On the one hand, the ordeal of absence is no longer experienced as a purifying punishment inflicted by God himself, but rather as the ordeal of contemporary reality where God is recognised as the Absent One “par excellence”. On the other hand, the experience of presence does not put an end to that of absence, so that one can speak of the concomitance of the absence and the presence of God in the mystical experience of the 20th century.

Dans Études théologiques et religieuses 2022/1 (Tome 97), pages 49 à 65

 

Philosophies of Work in the Platonic Tradition: A History of Labor and Human Flourishing

Jeffrey Hanson read

The Platonic tradition affords extraordinary resources for thinking about the meaning and value of work. In this historical survey of the tradition, Jeffrey Hanson draws on the work of its major thinkers to explain why our contemporary vocabulary for appraising labor and its rewards is too narrow and cramped. By tracing out the Platonic lineage of work Hanson is able to argue why we should be explaining its value for appraising it as an element of a happy and flourishing human life, quite apart from its financial rewards.

Beginning with Plato’s extensive thinking about work’s relationship to wisdom, Hanson covers the singularly powerful arguments of Augustine, who wrote the ancient world’s only treatise dedicated to the topic of manual labor. He discusses Bernard of Clairvaux, introduces the priest-craftsman Theophilus Presbyter, and provides a study of work and leisure in the writings of Petrarch. Alongside Martin Luther, Hanson discusses John Ruskin and Simone Weil: two thinkers profoundly disturbed by the conditions of the working class in the rapidly industrializing economies of Europe.

This original study of Plato and his inheritors’ ideas provides practical suggestions for how to approach work in a socially responsible manner in the 21st century and reveals the benefits of linking work and morality. — Jeffrey Hanson is  a Senior Philosopher in The Human Flourishing Program at Harvard’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science at Harvard University.

Bloomsbury Academic (April 21, 2022)

Ellul and Weil: Attention as Waiting: Complementary Critiques in an Age of Technique via Simone Weil and Jacques Ellul

Sarah Louise MacMillen read

Excerpt:

The writings of Simone Weil and Jacques Ellul include sociological, philosophical, and religious themes, and the two intellectuals serve as “bookends” surrounding the postmodern era.  The writers were prolific, respectively, during the time between the World Wars (Weil), and the late 20th century’s Information Age (Ellul).  They each dealt with the impact of modernity on humans, further exploring the implications of Weber’s definition of moderns as “sensualists without heart and specialists without spirit.”

Weil and Ellul had prescient insights on a contemporary trend, namely an unbridled faith in technology, or what Ellul called “technique,” looming large.  Ellul and Weil both present a case for how the method of the technological imagination undermines basic needs and obligations for human beings.  Alan Jacobs’ text discusses both Weil and Ellul in this light.  For Weil the enemy of education is “technocracy . . . ’evil [dominates] wherever the technical side of things is…sovereign.”  For Ellul, observing later in the 20th century, “education no longer has a humanist…value in itself; it has only one goal, to create technicians.”  Combining these reflections from the two authors, postmodernity and techniquelose touch with what Weil calls “attention”—waiting for God (or Platonist transcendent claims of Truth and Goodness), and also to the human other.

The thrust of technique in the contemporary American spheres of social media and education pulls away from critical and reflexive capacities, especially as core values in the liberal arts.  These two related spheres of change suggest the unreflective assertion of ideas without in-depth, historical learning, or an ethically-entrenched humanistic approach.  Higher education and wider communities of discourse reflect an age of empty speech and the worship of technological innovation and “the newest.” This moves away from the charism of St. Bernard of Chartres who reminds us that “New knowledge is always standing on the shoulders of giants.”

Source: International Jacques Ellul Society (2022) / / An early version of this article was presented at the American Weil Society colloquy in the Spring of 2017 at Villanova University.

Sarah MacMillen is an associate professor at McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts in the Sociology Department at Duquesne University.

Simone Weil and George Herbert on love through poetry

H. Roberts read

Abstract: In two letters written shortly before she sailed from Marseille in May 1942, Simone Weil reveals the profound impact George Herbert’s ‘Love (III)’ had on her. When reciting the poem to herself during intense headaches, she had a religious experience that involved Christ descending and taking her up. This article offers a comparative case study of focused attention on poetry as a form of prayer leading to a religious experience. It offers a close reading of ‘Love (III)’ through the lens of Weil’s philosophical and spiritual writings from the last year of her life and vice-versa. The beauty of poetry on Weil’s account is analogous to the beauty of the world and hence can approach human expression of God’s will or the ineffable order of the universe.

Forum for Modern Language Studies (2022)

Reading Simone Weil in East London – Dr Anna Rowlands

Anna Rowlands watch

This presentation draws on empirical research conducted with Jesuit Refugee Service in London. It is grounded in the experience of refugees living in destitution in the UK asylum process into dialogue with the work of Simone Weil. These experiences are connected to work which began in dialogue with St Augustine and Hannah Arendt on time and temporality in the context of refugee experiences.

Our seminar programme offers students, scholars, and interested visitors an opportunity to learn more about aspects of Christian history and contemporary Christianity. The seminars are held in conjunction with the Divinity Faculty of Cambridge University.

Find out more at www.cccw.cam.ac.uk.

Cambridge Centre for Christianity Worldwide Webinar – 9th December 2021

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.