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Weil, Simone (1909–43)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-DD070-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 13, 2024, from

Article Summary

Simone Weil’s life and work represent an unusual mixture of political activism, religious mysticism and intense speculative work on a wide range of topics, including epistemology, ethics and social theory. Much of her most important writing survives in fragmentary form, in notebooks published after her untimely death. Though Jewish by family, her attitude to Judaism was largely hostile; and despite a deep commitment in the later part of her life to Christian ideas and symbols, she consistently refused to be baptized. Her religious views are eclectic in many ways, drawing on Plato and on Hindu sources. In everything she wrote, she was preoccupied with the dehumanizing effects of economic unfreedom and the servile labour required by industrial capitalism; but this is only one instance, for her, of the experience of ‘necessity’ or ‘gravity’ that dominates material transactions. The essence of moral and spiritual action is the complete renunciation of any privileged position for an ego outside the world of ‘necessity’. Such renunciation is the only escape from necessity, in fact: what she calls ‘decreation’ becomes our supremely creative act, since only in the ego’s absence is love, or an apprehension of non-self-oriented goods, possible. Marx, Kant and the gospels are all in evidence here.

Citing this article:
Williams, Rowan. Weil, Simone (1909–43), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-DD070-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
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