Weil & Wittgenstein

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

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.