Weil & Other Thinkers

Iris Murdoch and the Others: A Writer in Dialogue with Theology

Paul S. Fiddes read

The “others” examined by Fiddes are mainly those with whom Murdoch entered into explicit dialogue in her novels and philosophical writing-including Immanuel Kant, Simone Weil, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Rudolph Bultmann, Paul Tillich, Don Cupitt, Donald Mackinnon, and Jacques Derrida. This “historic” dialogue is, however, placed within a wider dialogue between literature and theology being conducted by the author, and “others” are brought into relation with Murdoch in order to illuminate this more extensive conversation-notably the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins and the feminist philosopher Julia Kristeva.

The book demonstrates that characteristic themes in Murdoch’s novels and philosophy-the love of the Good, the death of the ego, illusory consolations, the death of God, the modifying of the will by “waiting”, the sublime and the beautiful, and attention to other things and persons-all take on a greater meaning when placed in the context of her life-long conversation with theology. The exploration of this context is deepened in this volume by reference to annotations and notes that Murdoch made in a number of theological books in her personal library.

Paul S. Fiddes is Professor of Systematic Theology at the University of Oxford and is Director of Research at Regent’s Park College, Oxford, UK.
Publisher: ‏ T&T Clark (December 2, 2021)

Reality and Recurrence: Reflections on Nietzsche and Weil

Stuart Jesson read

Although Simone Weil’s thought is, in some respects, the epitome of all that Friedrich Nietzsche rejected and opposed, there are nevertheless some deep and significant parallels between the two. This chapter considers one aspect of this intriguing resemblance, through consideration of Nietzsche’s conception of the eternal recurrence, and in dialogue with Weil’s aspiration to love all things “because they are real”. Both thinkers have a deep sense of what it means to contemplate and value one’s life without the lens of a possible teleological fulfillment, and in the absence of any eschatological hope for “the life of the world to come”. Just as Weil claims that “to love all facts is nothing else than to read God in them”, it seems that Nietzsche’s idea of eternal recurrence could be well expressed in a similar idiom: “to love all facts is to read eternal recurrence in them”.

“Reality and Recurrence: Reflections on Nietzsche and Weil,” Stuart Jesson, in Death, Immortality and Eternal Life, T. Ryan Byerly, ed., 2021, pp. 149-164.

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.

Article in  Ethics, Politics & Society. A Journal in Moral and Political Philosophy, no. 4 (2021), pp. 175-188.

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

Homer: The Very Idea

James L. Porter read

Homer, the great poet of the Iliad and the Odyssey, is revered as a cultural icon of antiquity and a figure of lasting influence. But his identity is shrouded in questions about who he was, when he lived, and whether he was an actual person, a myth, or merely a shared idea. Rather than attempting to solve the mystery of this character, James I. Porter explores the sources of Homer’s mystique and their impact since the first recorded mentions of Homer in ancient Greece.

Homer: The Very Idea considers Homer not as a man, but as a cultural invention nearly as distinctive and important as the poems attributed to him, following the cultural history of an idea and of the obsession that is reborn every time Homer is imagined. Offering novel readings of texts and objects, the book follows the very idea of Homer from his earliest mentions to his most recent imaginings in literature, criticism, philosophy, visual art, and classical archaeology.

University of Chicago Press, October 25, 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.