is a philosophy discussion group meeting on the 3rd Tuesday of every month
from 7.30 to 9.30pm
in the The Bull
in Tanners Street. We cover a large range of topics
. If you have an idea for a topic that you would like us to cover why not drop us a line
? There's no charge for membership and everyone is welcome to drop in. Just bring your brain and some beer money!
[T]he person of Simone Weil is
the person who is excruciatingly identical with her ideas, the person who is rightly regarded as one of the most uncompromising and troubling witnesses to the modern travail of the spirit." (Susan Sontag)
Weil's is the most comical life I have ever read about, and the most truly tragic and terrible." (Flannery O'Connor, letter, 1955)
The subject of our May meeting is Simone Weil, “religious searcher”, “wayward saint”, French philosopher, labour activist, teacher, factory worker, journalist, revolutionary Marxist, soldier, passivist, anarchist, Christian mystic, Jew and Catholic.
She was born in Paris in 1909 and died in a sanitorium in Ashford in 1943 at the age of 34. She is buried in Bybrook cemetary and there is even a road in Ashford, Simone Weil Avenue, named in her memory. So there is quite a local connection!
- A brief outline of her life and work
- Simone Weil: 1909-1943 a fuller biography
- A time-line of Simone Weil's life (1909-1943)
- Great Lives Simone Weil (audio. 30 mins)
- Elonor Bron chose Simone Weil as her Great Life in Matthew Paris' Radio 4 programme
Quotes and aphorisms
- A collection of Weil's quotes and Aphorisms
- Simone Weil quotes from Wikiquotes
- Photos of Simone Weil on Flickr
- Trailer of Encounter with Simone Weil (video, 3 mins)
- What response does seeing human suffering demand of us? Filmmaker Julia Haslett seeks an answer in the controversial French philosopher and activist Simone Weil (1909-1943), whose life and work took on this question in a dramatic way. Adopting Weil as her guide through an engaging and profound moral landscape, Julia goes on a journey to understand Weil's loss of faith in revolutionary politics and the spiritual awakening that followed. http://www.linestreet.net/
- An Encounter with Simone Weil Interview with producer of the movie (video, 2 mins)
- An interview with Julia Haslett at the Sarasota Film Festival on the US premier of her film An Encounter with Simone Weil. Julia discusses the film making process used for this historical documentary.
- Unoccupied Zone: The Impossible Life of Simone Weil (video trailer, 3 mins)
- A movie by Cathy Lee Crane
- Simone Weil by Susan Sontag
- “Some lives are exemplary, others not; and of exemplary lives, there are those which invite us to imitate them, and those which we regard from a distance with a mixture of revulsion, pity, and reverence. It is, roughly, the difference between the hero and the saint
. Such a life, absurd in its exaggerations and degree of self-mutilation—like Kleist’s, like Kierkegaard's was Simone Weil's.”
- Simone Weil: atheism as purification
- “There are two atheisms of which one is a purification of the notion of God.”
- Mystical Experiences of Simone Weil
- A Sacred Longing: A Review of Simone Weil’s Waiting for God
- What others have written about Simone Weil and her work
- Simone Weil, I still know this now, is the only great mind of our times and I hope that those who realize this have enough modesty to not try to appropriate her overwhelming witnessing. Albert Camus
- Her criminal error
- Early on, she admits to having been wrong about Marxism and Pacifism (“mon erreur criminelle” - my criminal error), saying that she realized her error about the former after a sojourn in Germany and the latter after Hitler's invasion of Czechoslovakia.
- Philosophical roots
- There is a world, that is to say matter that only work can change, and, excepting spirit, there is nothing else
- Factory Work
- When I think that the great Bolchevik leaders claimed to be creating a free working class and probably not one of them surely not Trotsky, and I don't think Lenin did either ever set foot in a factory and hence did not have the faintest idea of the real conditions which determine the servitude or freedom of these workers politics seems a sinister farce indeed
- Focus or Hubris?
- You may not realize what it is to conceive your whole life in front of you and to take the firm and constant resolve to make something of it, to orient it from one end to the other with will power and work in a chosen direction. When one is like that I am like that, so I know what it's like
- For the past two or three centuries there is a belief that force is the sole master of all natural phenomena, and, at the same time, that men can and should establish their mutual relationships on justice, as determined by reason. This is a patent absurdity.
- The sea is not less beautiful to our eye because we know that sometimes ships sink in it. On the contrary, it is more beautiful still. If the sea modified the movement of its waves to spare a boat, it would be a being possessing discernment and choice, and not this fluid that is perfectly obedient to all external pressures. It is this perfect obedience that is its beauty.
- The problem of miracles creates a difficulty between religion and science only because it is badly posed.
By saying that it is something contrary to the laws of nature, one says something that is absolutely meaningless. We do not know the laws of nature. We can only make suppositions about them.
To say that a miracle is the effect of a particular volition of God is no less absurd.
But when a saint makes a miracle, what's good is his sainthood, not the miracle.
- Le malheur
- Le Malheur (pronounced mal-urr), literally “unhappiness”, but often translated as “affliction” (we could also use “woe” or “wretchedness”), is a key concept for Weil.
- False gods
- It's not up to us to believe in God, but only not to grant our love to false gods.
- Prayer is made of attention. It is the direction towards God of all the attention that the soul is capable of. The quality of the attention makes for much of the quality of the prayer. It cannot be replaced by the heart's warmth.
- Conversion: the virgin soul
- Happy are those whose flesh is penetrated by the malheur (affliction) of the world itself in their age. Those people have the possibility and capability to know the malheur of the world in its truth, and to contemplate its reality. This is the redemptive function itself. Twenty centuries ago, the malheur of the age was slavery, and crucifixion its ultimate expression.
- Her favorite poem
- Weil dearly loved the poem 'Love' by George Herbert (1593-1633), and it was instrumental in her approach to christianity:
- Her only prayer
- The words of the Pater are perfectly pure. If you recite the Pater with no other intention than to pay the fullness of one's attention on the words themselves, you are completely sure to be delivered by this means from a part, as small as it may be, of the evil you hold inside you. In the same way if you look at the Holy Sacrement with no other thought than that Christ is there, and so on.
- Sacred language
- “The proof for me, the miraculous thing, is the perfect beauty of the words of the Passion, joined with a few stunning words from Isaiah and Saint Paul: that is what forces me to believe”.
- Human nature is arranged in such a way that a desire of the soul that has not passed through the flesh by means of actions, movements or attitudes that correspond to it naturally, has no reality in the soul. It only exists there as a phantom. It does not act on the soul.