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By Palle Yourgrau

Simone Weil, mythical French thinker, political activist, and mystic, died in 1943 at a clinic in Kent, England, on the age of thirty-four. in the course of her short lifetime, Weil was once a paradox of asceticism and reclusive introversion who additionally maintained a educating occupation and an lively participation in politics.


In this concise biography, Palle Yourgrau outlines Weil’s influential existence and paintings and demonstrates how she attempted to use philosophy to daily life. Born in Paris to a cultivated Jewish-French kinfolk, Weil excelled at philosophy, and her empathetic political moral sense channeled itself into political engagement and activism on behalf of the operating category. Yourgrau assesses Weil’s arguable critique of Judaism in addition to her radical re-imagination of Christianity—following a robust spiritual event in 1937—in mild of Plato’s philosophy as a bridge among human affliction and divine perfection.


In Simone Weil, Yourgrau offers cautious, concise readings of Weil’s paintings whereas exploring how Weil has emerge as obvious as either a latest saint and a bête noir, a Jew accused of getting deserted her personal humans of their hour of maximum need.

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If there's a non secular tradition’, she concluded, ‘which I regard as my patrimony, it's the Catholic culture. in brief, mine is the Christian, French, Greek, culture. ’ notwithstanding one reacts to this letter, may well Weil have made it any clearer that she didn't view Jews as ‘her people’? She was once no longer raised in, was once now not acquainted with, was once now not interested in the Jewish faith or tradition, didn't think within the very notion of race – in truth, thought of it the bane of western civilization – didn't establish with or empathize together with her Jewish ancestors. to cite Fania Pascal, after Wittgenstein ‘confessed’ to her his Jewishness: ‘some Jew! ’21 but in line with the Jewish faith and culture, after all, she used to be however Jewish, given that she had a Jewish mom – although, as she mentioned in her letter to the Vichy Minister, strictly, this simply pushes the matter of id again one iteration, given that what made her mom Jewish was once that she, in flip, had a Jewish mom, and so forth . . . in fact, each faith, keep in mind that, is loose to figure out its personal standards of club, however it is unquestionably deeply deceptive to represent anyone as ‘abandoning’ a club they themselves by no means well-known within the first position. a call has to be made. who's the ultimate arbiter of even if one belongs to a faith or a humans – a contrast, to make sure, that's blurred in Judaism. For Weil, it's the person who determines his personal non secular identification, the path of his soul. Nor used to be this a trust constrained to her spiritual perspectives. As we observed prior, in her reaction to the collectivism of her erstwhile Marxist colleagues, she wrote in her essay at the ‘Proletarian Revolution’ that ‘we desire to uphold now not the collectivity however the person because the excellent value’. 22 Is it now not, in spite of everything, perverse that intellectuals who selected to spot themselves as Jews just because Hitler seen them hence have got excessive compliment and are held up as paradigms in which to degree Weil’s failings – although they're, in the end, examples of souls who deserted their birthright and granted Hitler, of every person, the privilege of creating their Jewish identification? but Sylvie Courtine-Denamy writes in 3 ladies in darkish occasions: Edith Stein, Hanna Arendt, Simone Weil,23 that ‘[Hanna Arendt] hooked up no significance to the very fact [that she used to be Jewish] until eventually Hitler’s persecutions endangered German Jewry. At that time she turned actually Jewish, adopting a motto of Pindar’s that Nietzsche cites: “Become what you are”. ’24 was once now not Arendt’s motto, particularly, ‘Become what Hitler says you're? ’ Is Weil fairly to be condemned for refusing to undertake any such motto? Is she to be criticized, in flip, for resisting the efforts of the Jewish group, regardless of her protests on the contrary, to inform her who she ‘really’ is – to sentence her for refusing to put on the label, the yellow superstar, they've got pinned on her? Is what Weil stated to Thibon – that during sure respects Nazis and Jews, the murderers and their sufferers, ‘hunted at the related ground’25 – to be pushed aside as mere prejudice, because it so frequently is, as mere anti-Semitism?

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