Sunday, May 10, 2009

20 Simone Weil (1909 - 1943)

When I composed my list of women philosophers I hardly did know any of them, when I put their name on my list. Don't blame me....blame those other 100 philosophers :-) However, other qualified sources said: Simone Weil is a woman philosopher.

As you may have noticed, every new woman philosopher is a kind of revelation now and then, a new look at history, especailly when history tells you: this woman was/is a philosopher.

And in general, history is right and we are in awe of the intellectual and philosophical achievements of the women we have met. But in the case of Simone Weil I was puzzled. Trotski qualified her as a 'fool' and 'soldier of the Salvation Army'. Paul Giniewsky, author and journalist on jewish affairs called her "a masochist, driven by jewish self-hatred'.

But then you read this as the first lines of an essay of 18 pages writting by some Joël Janiaud of the University of Geneva in 2008:
"The life of Simone Weil is very singular, in regard to the mystical it is too. The philosophical and spiritual personality of S. Weil is actually unclassifiable, and therefore embarrasses those who love to put labels."

Weil biographer Gabriella Fiori writes that Weil was "a moral genius in the orbit of ethics, a genius of immense revolutionary range."

In a letter Simone Weil wrote on May 15, 1942 in Marseilles, France to her close friend Father Perrin:

"At fourteen I fell into one of those fits of bottomless despair that come with adolescence, and I seriously thought of dying because of the mediocrity of my natural faculties.

The exceptional gifts of my brother, who had a childhood and youth comparable to those of Pascal, brought my own inferiority home to me. I did not mind having no visible successes, but what did grieve me was the idea of being excluded from that transcendent kingdom to which only the truly great have access and wherein truth abides."

And I think that she had found this "transcendent kingdom to which only the truly great have access" in the mysticism of christianity. That is ok with me but it puts her in the realm of theology, not philosophy. And it led to words like these:

"...It is not for man to seek, or even to believe in God. He has only to refuse to believe in everything that is not God. This refusal does not presuppose belief. It is enough to recognize, what is obvious to any mind, that all the goods of this world, past, present, or future, real or imaginary, are finite and limited and radically incapable of satisfying the desire which burns perpetually with in us for an infinite and perfect good...

It is not a matter of self-questioning or searching. A man has only to persist in his refusal, and one day or another God will come to him."
-- Weil, Simone, On Science, Necessity, and the Love of God, edited by Richard Rees, London, Oxford University Press, 1968.

I just quote this and do not wish to discuss the content of this quote at all. To me Simone Weil is theology. What I said in the beginning: the women philosophers are as new to me as they are to you and I leaned on the authority of qualified sources to add her name to the list.

My idea was "we'll meet when it is your turn" and meeting Simone Weil is a special event. Her personality, her engagment is fascinating, how she reached the history books is too...Look at the dates (everything she wrote was published after her death) ..1968...2008. So I come to the conclusion, that there still are people who spend a lot of intellectual effort in her. I wont.

You only need to read “Note sur la suppression générale des partis politiques” Parijs: Climats 1950, 2006. In this note she pleads for even a legal prohibition of political parties and for direct democracy of the people.

"The parties are a wonderful mechanism, by which, throughout the extent of a country, not a soul does give its attention to the effort to discern, in public affairs, welfare, justice, truth(...) If we gave the devil the organization of public life, he could not imagine anything more ingenious" (p.55)

An intelligent but immature zeal using concepts like absolute truth and justice. I think that Hannah Arendt could have taught her a lesson on history, political philosophy, philosophical method and common sense. But Simone Weil was heading for something quite different.

As Simone Weil saw it:
"The tremendous greatness of Christianity comes from the fact that it does not seek a supernatural remedy against suffering but a supernatural use of suffering." Affliction then is "a marvel of divine technique".

As the coronor saw it:
After a lifetime of battling illness and frailty, Weil died in August 1943 from cardiac failure at the age of 34. The coroner's report said that "the deceased did kill and slay herself by refusing to eat whilst the balance of her mind was disturbed."

The Discussion

herman Bergson: This on Simone Weil..
Paula Dix: wow
herman Bergson: wow? World of Wars?
Paula Dix: lol
Alarice Beaumont: hmmm
Gemma Cleanslate: well she was a genius and was interested in all sorts of philosophy eastern as well buddhism
Gemma Cleanslate: and others
ChatNoir Talon: Well. I get what you mean, herman. But what do you think makes her different to Thomas Aquinas, for example?
herman Bergson: She was a brilliant mind indeed
Gemma Cleanslate: very
ChatNoir Talon: The line between Theology and Philosophy is a veiled one
hope63 Shepherd: hmm.. i might as well go home now.. i thought simone weil was the subject..
herman Bergson: Yes ChatNoir..
hope63 Shepherd: two ll?s..:)
Paula Dix: was thinking here about the idea of wanting complete goodness... if we remove the half bad side of things, wouldnt be a matter of time to remake the scales and all would be about the same? so comlplete goodness (or comlete evilness) are impossible?
Corona Anatine: theology is self limitied philosiphy
herman Bergson: Ok...two things....
herman Bergson: The remark of ChatNoir is important...
herman Bergson: What made her differ from Thomas Aquinas....
hope63 Shepherd: like astronomie and astrologie went hand in hand in the old days.. so did philosophy and theology chat.
herman Bergson: Well....First that comes to my mind is philosophical method
ChatNoir Talon nods, makes sence. Ms. Weild does sound a bit... amateurish in her philosophizing
herman Bergson: Aquinas was a thelogian too...
Anne Charles: I see her more as an anorexic social activist than anything else.
herman Bergson: but not a mystic in his philosphy....
Mickorod Renard: Thomas did have to conform somewhat
herman Bergson: his basic ideas on ontology were aristotalian..his method of philosophical discourse was syllogistic
Corona Anatine: what she did with her body is surely irrelevant - other than it curtailed her further work by death
herman Bergson: I dont agree Corona
herman Bergson: But indeed she primarily was a social activiste
Gemma Cleanslate: yes
herman Bergson: But a little over zealous in my opinion
Alarice Beaumont: i find it strange that she did not care about her looks and even rather wanted to look masculin
Corona Anatine: you dont agree that its irrelevant or that it surtailed her further work - ie discussion of her ideas
Mickorod Renard: I think she must have been very passionate and expressionistic
Paula Dix: or more like a romantic person?
herman Bergson: Yes MIckorod..I guess she might have been even unbearable now and then in her passion :-)
ChatNoir Talon: Passionate, zealot, activist.. yes... but ... Philospoher?
herman Bergson: No..not a real philosopher...
ChatNoir Talon: Yeah.. I think I agree
Paula Dix: only she didnt died of tuberculosis ?)
herman Bergson: no..cardiac arrest
Mickorod Renard: artists can be philosophers
ChatNoir Talon: Why do you say that Mickrod?
herman Bergson: yes may call her an artist...
Corona Anatine: what was her field of artwork ?
herman Bergson: Activism
Mickorod Renard: well...I was thinking that she seemed very passionate an artist,,about her work and opinions
herman Bergson: social activism and political zeal
ChatNoir Talon: So, passionate people can't be philosophers?
Paula Dix: in this sense she would be a performer... all her image and body and death would be part of her art work
Mickorod Renard: art as in expression
ChatNoir Talon: ... makes sense in a way.. but there must be excepctions
herman Bergson: She was a woman thinker...
Mickorod Renard: well that must be a work of art
herman Bergson: To me she is only a historical person
Samuel Okelly: Isn‚ it a basic ad hoc transgression if we look unfavourably on people because they act with passionate conviction? surely it is her message that is (or isnt) important ?
herman Bergson: but what amazes me is that she still is read and people publish about her
ChatNoir Talon: So the big question is... WHY is she an IT girl?
Corona Anatine: people still read and publish about far less deep thinkers
Gemma Cleanslate: true
herman Bergson: I understand Samulel, but this is primarily The Philosophy Class
Mickorod Renard: if you will Herman,,what does this passage mean? 'Weil also believed that one must "decreate" oneself to return to God'
Paula Dix: i always wonder about how much should we take into account the person ideas about her own work. I guess she didnt see herself as artist
ChatNoir Talon: Sounds suicidal :s
herman Bergson: Yes indeed..and I am not good in theology at all
Paula Dix: that looks similar to what ive learned about buddhism lately around here
Mickorod Renard: loosing the'I'
herman Bergson: Almost like the existentialist Being - in - itself :-)
Paula Dix: where you must forget yourself to get a new conscience
Mickorod Renard: yes
ChatNoir Talon: Think blanc
Laila Schuman: when you get into it, isn't she discussing some of the things Nietzsche did... also he was passionate... just because they drew different conclusions... is it not similiar in subject matter
herman Bergson: I would say no..Laila...she went over to theology
Laila Schuman: he did in his own way
herman Bergson: Her epistemoilogical foundation became revealed insights from ....give it a name
Mickorod Renard: another quote of hers:-she stated that "attachement is the great fabricator of illusions; reality can be attained only by someone who is detached."
herman Bergson: Well..we should review Nietzsche to see if your parallel holds, Laila
Samuel Okelly: "a moral genius in the orbit of ethics, a genius of immense revolutionary range." did she propose anything new for us to consider?
Laila Schuman: i am reading a book at the moment called ... Pious Nietzsche... and it develops some of the concepts he has based on faith etc
Corona Anatine: that sounds very like eastern mysticism mickorod
herman Bergson: Well Samuel...who am I to say NO...but I think the answer is no indeed
Mickorod Renard: yes,,like budhism
Mickorod Renard: but she related it to God
herman Bergson: As I said before...I prefer to stay away from theological discussions here
Mickorod Renard: sorry
Corona Anatine: your a wise man then herman
Samuel Okelly: i agree herman.... i am trying to place her philosphy somehow but am finding it a bit difficult
hope63 Shepherd: how about the impact she has on society if she is still printed and discussed.. who are they..and why..
herman Bergson: It is hard to place Samuel....
herman Bergson: She has no systematic publications or so
Corona Anatine: her words have to be placed in context tho surely
herman Bergson: Everything was published after her death
Corona Anatine: 1942 - presumably paris
herman Bergson: No ..she died in England Corona
Corona Anatine: oh ok ty
herman Bergson: She had nothing to do with WWII
Paula Dix: she wrote in the shape of books or sparse texts?
herman Bergson: only with the Spanish Civil War
Gemma Cleanslate: Perhaps if she had lived longer she would have developed more clear philosophical thinking
Corona Anatine: even so at the time there was upheaval in the world
herman Bergson: She wrote in cahiers..
Corona Anatine: this may have influenced her life
herman Bergson: notebooks
Mickorod Renard: how about this bit:-The great problem of society is 'déracinement', its 'uprootedness'; its cure is a social order grounded in a 'spiritual core' of physical labor
herman Bergson: she gave them away to people...with the messege..up to you what to do with it
Paula Dix: more like loose ideas then
herman Bergson: extensive loose ideas :-)
Paula Dix: lol
herman Bergson: Historically she is an interesting personality and in that sense worth studying..
Gemma Cleanslate: well perhaps the next victim willl be more to our needs here
Paula Dix: shame she died, she would have liked the movement toward spiritualization going on now
herman Bergson: However in the line of philosophical development she had no impact
Mickorod Renard: I think she is interesting,,but not sure I understand her yet
herman Bergson: From a philosophical point of view I would say that she was kind of platonist in her use of concepts
Mickorod Renard: I guess living in the time she did must have been very disturbing
herman Bergson: and from rationalist quarters
herman Bergson: So when you read her work keep in mind that she believes in some kind of real existence of concepts like Justice, The Good, etc.
Anne Charles: Quotes like "The family is legalized prostitution" and "It is not religion but revolution that is the opiate of the masses" makes me think she was a bit irrational in her thinking.
herman Bergson smiles
Corona Anatine: what is the context of those quotes
herman Bergson: nice quotes
Mickorod Renard: trying to rationalise what was happening to the world,,from the viewpoint of a person with jewish background,,would make someone very philosophical
Paula Dix: well here in brazil prostitution is legal :)) (what is illegal is for a third party to profit from it)
AristotleVon Doobie: I continue to be baffled by seemingly rational minds returning to the concept of god to resolve life's questions
Corona Anatine: sounds like brazil has struck the right balance
herman Bergson: Not in this class Aristotle..^_^
Samuel Okelly: thanks herman :)
herman Bergson: I think you should understand her way of reasoning...
AristotleVon Doobie: I am unable to
herman Bergson: a way often used....
Ludwig John: I think you have to see these quotes always in the context
herman Bergson: Yes Ludwig
herman Bergson: Her way of reasoning is what leads to endless debates..
herman Bergson: we have discussed this so many times..
hope63 Shepherd: as the concept of god gives the answers, lifes questions are resolved..
Corona Anatine: lol herman
hope63 Shepherd: and many need answers ,not questions..
Corona Anatine: Her way of reasoning is what leads to endless debates..
herman Bergson: she used words.... the masses, the people, Justice, Freedom..and so on
Gemma Cleanslate: well those were the words of the time for sure!
AristotleVon Doobie: sounds like political language
hope63 Shepherd: right gemma...
Samuel Okelly: she clearly had a strong social conscience
Gemma Cleanslate: yes
Corona Anatine: but the concept of god supplies no anwswers ( apologie Herman)
Gemma Cleanslate: have to go now
herman Bergson: as they are now....but the philosophical task is to analyse the concepts and use of them, before you come with a knowledge claim
AristotleVon Doobie: bey Gemma
Gemma Cleanslate: see you tuesday i hope
Qwark Allen: yes
herman Bergson: Bye Gemma :-)
Qwark Allen: time to go
Qwark Allen: ******* Herman *******
Qwark Allen: ty
Samuel Okelly: corona the concept of God answers all our questions
Mickorod Renard: bye GEMMA
Paula Dix: lol
AristotleVon Doobie: Qman! later
herman Bergson: Bye Qwark...
Corona Anatine: not so because of that very reason
Alarice Beaumont: bye guys :-)
Mickorod Renard: bye quark
Paula Dix: bye
Corona Anatine: it answers EVERYTHing and therefore nothing
hope63 Shepherd: unfortunately the concept of god is a human concept.. and not a divine one:)
Mickorod Renard: I think it is dificult to see how anyone from that era thinks from todays perspective
Laila Schuman: philosophy is human too Hope
Samuel Okelly: i have a longish quote by simone de beauvoir speakig about her....
AristotleVon Doobie: I can't help but think that supernatural concepts are merely teh bail out form striking the stone wall
herman Bergson: Yes Samuel..I think I know the one....about the famine in China?
hope63 Shepherd: right laila.. but we haven't finished asking questions.. and not be satisfied by answers..
Samuel Okelly: yes thats the one
Mickorod Renard: well its proven that humans as a speicies have a God need,,its not so hard to understand
Samuel Okelly: about never being hungry?
herman Bergson: Yes..
herman Bergson: She was....:-)
Paula Dix: i guess if there is god and there is free will, we should always act by ourselves, like there is no god, that owuld lead to coherent ideas and actions
Mickorod Renard: not sure i understand that one
Samuel Okelly: i am biting my tongue to respond to the theological comments
herman Bergson: Good Samuel...
Samuel Okelly: :)
herman Bergson: I guess it is time to dismiss class...^_^
Corona Anatine: as am I Samuel
Paula Dix: reversely, we can just add an o and act in name of good... :)
herman Bergson: CLASS DISMISSED :-)
hope63 Shepherd: smile.. in a way sam ,we are all believers..:)
Mickorod Renard: ok,,time for me to go,,,Thankyou Herman
Mickorod Renard: bye everyone
herman Bergson: Thank you for your participation and enthousiast discussion ^_^
Corona Anatine: ty Herman
Samuel Okelly: thanks again herman

Posted by herman_bergson on 2009-02-26 18:51:12

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