Weil & Wittgenstein

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

Weil and Wittgenstein in Winch’s “Reading”: Philosophy as a Way of Life

Francesca R. Recchia Luciani read

Abstract:  Peter Winch’s study Simone Weil: The Just Balance adopts a heuristic method through which Weil’s philosophical and religious thought is illuminated by surprising parallels with some concepts developed independently by Wittgenstein. The comparative analysis illustrates that for both these Socratic philosophers, theory corresponds to daily experience, a real “way of life” which in itself gives rise to an ethical-philosophical pragmatics that informs the most intimate ontological dimensions, encapsulating in their thought the meaning of their whole life.

Michael Campbell & Lynette Reid, eds., Ethics, Society and Politics: Themes from the Philosophy of Peter Winch (2020), pp 149-166.

The Identity of Man – Winch Between Spinoza, Weil, and Wittgenstein

Sarah Trooper read

Throughout his philosophical career, Peter Winch had a particular interest in the philosophy of Spinoza, as is evidenced not only by a variety of references on a diverse range of issues in his works but also by several lectures and seminars he delivered on this thinker. A reconstruction of his interpretation of Spinoza’s system, which unites epistemological, metaphysical, and ethical considerations as mutually dependent, brings to the fore Winch’s interest in the individual not only as an important epistemological but equally as a moral agent, who is embedded in a web of circumstances that shape her view on the world and the possibilities and options she is able to entertain. Moreover, in his reading of Spinoza, the focus on the irreducibility of the individual’s standpoint is also connected to the philosophies of Wittgenstein and Simone Weil, a connection which adds at the same time an emphasis on a fundamental limitation of moral philosophy in general.

Sarah Trooper, “The Identity of Man – Winch Between Spinoza, Weil, and Wittgenstein,” in Michael Campbell & Lynette Reid, eds., Ethics, Society and Politics: Themes from the Philosophy of Peter Winch,  Springer (2020),  pp. 135-148

The Dimensions of Miracle: An Ethics of Mediation in Simone Weil, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Virginia Woolf

Collin (Lin) Michael Pritchard read

This project is concerned with the ethics of mediation, as might allow us to see the existence of the world as miraculous. To contextualize these terms, as involve the constraints of personal autonomy and understanding, this first chapter of this inquiry is a comparison of Simone Weil and Ludwig Wittgenstein’s philosophies; from this comparison comes a recognition of the importance of ‘mediation’ in one’s understanding of value, of an “absence that is felt,” which argues for a form of attention constituted by one’s relation to the world and to others. The second chapter introduces how Weil’s concept of ‘reading’—that is, her conception of how one ‘reads’ meaning in the world—has both an ethical and theological dimension, as well as introducing Virginia Woolf’s fiction as exemplary of how this ‘reading’ is a principle of literature; through a comparison with Wittgenstein’s notion of ‘aspect-perception’, it argues for a kind of affective proprioception, which would place one’s actions in relation to a dimension both aesthetic and ethical. The third chapter is a study of Woolf’s ‘To the Lighthouse’, which demonstrates the comparative ethics of literature, as a valuation of characters’ ‘reading’ of others and the world is both implicit and explicit in Woolf’s narration; this study profiles four characters—Lily Briscoe, Mr. Ramsay, Charles Tansley, and Mrs. Ramsay—and centers Lily Briscoe’s painting as a technique of mediation expressive of Woolf’s narrative style, and of certain ethics. This project ends on the question of miracle—and gestures to a gratuitous world.

Bard Digital Commons, Spring 2019.

Effing the Ineffable: The Mysticism of Simone Weil and Ludwig Wittgenstein

K G M Earl read

Both Simone Weil and Ludwig Wittgenstein hold mysticism—i.e., the belief in something utterly transcendent—centrally. The mysticism present in Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico- Philosophicus presents a problem: if “the mystical” is “deep” nonsense, and there is something important that cannot be sensibly presented in language, we are left in an undesirable situation. The mystical is taken to be of paramount importance but is ultimately inaccessible to reason. Weil, starting with political and theological considerations, arrives at a similar problem. A mystical position yields the “problem of mysticism”: There is the mystical; it is of crucial importance, and it is inaccessible to our reason. Weil’s mystical praxis of decreation is a solution to the problem. This does not present a way that we can come to the mystical, but a way that we can become aware of its revelation, which bypasses our reason.

Dalhousie University Halifax, Nova Scotia, MA dissertation.

‘In the beginning was the deed’

David Cockburn read

Winch’s readings of Wittgenstein and Weil call for a significant rethinking of the relation between ‘metaphysics’ and ‘ethics’. But there are confusions, perhaps to be found in all three of these writers, that we may slip into here. These are linked with the tendency to see idealist tendencies in Wittgenstein, and with his remark that giving grounds comes to an end, not in a kind of seeing on our part, but in our acting. The sense that we think we see in this suggestion is dependent on a distorted conception of ‘justification’. Getting clear about this involves coming to appreciate just how much of our nature as ethical beings is engaged when we do philosophy.

David Cockburn, Emeritus Professor, University of Wales.

The ethical implications of Simone Weil’s Notion of reading

Olwyn Stewart read

In this thesis I develop the ethical implications inherent in a short paper written by Simone Weil, entitled ‘Essay on the Notion of Reading,’ with a view to exploring possible ways in which we are able to incorporate the unconditional value of each and every human being into our everyday apprehension of the world. Mindful of the fact that conceptions of unconditional value tend to be associated with religious belief, I make a distinction between religious theory and practical religious engagement, privileging the latter, in order to show the common ground between theistic and nontheistic ways of understanding unconditional value. My focus is on practical ethics, and the relationship between our direct and immediate ethical responses and their conceptualization plays an important part in my thesis, in tandem with an important distinction between absolute and relative forms of evaluation. The emphasis I place on the relationship between direct responses and their conceptualization is developed in the light of Wittgensteinian philosophical insights, both of Wittgenstein’s own and those of certain other philosophers who employ versions of his method. I also draw on both Platonist and Aristotelian conceptions of virtue, with particular attention to the relationship between our natural ethical responses and the terminology in which they find expression.

The University of Auckland, Ph.D. dissertation (2012).