Talk:Simone Weil

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I just read the article on Simone Weil. I added a line saying that the claim that Weil committed suicide is countermanded by Simone Pretrement in her biography, Simone Weil, A Life [the definitive bio.]

But I think that there are a number of other errors in the article: It says that Simone Weil sought affliction by going to work in the factory while Weil says that she sought the job because anyone who was to write about economics/social philosophy should experience it before writing and because she sought to learn the special knowledge that workers possessed [epistemological priviledge].

The current article says that Weil's mehtod is like that of James. But James in a pragmatist. Weil is a Platonist -something that James criticized.

I do not know what to do about the article. I do not feel right just taking out someone else's work and yet, I think the article needs correction.


Well, hopefully you'll find your way here from the reference desk. I do want to second the responses you got there--you should feel absolutely free to edit the article, because that's how Wikipedia works.
That said, perhaps I can help clarify some of the stuff that's there. First off, I had qualms about the suicide thing, though it's definitely a common interpretation. A statement that Petrement rejected the hypothesis that Weil's death was suicidal would be sufficient.
Also, while I grant that the Petrement biography is canonical, I'm not sure I'd say it's definitive; some scholars feel Petrement was too close to Weil to get a proper feel for her.
As to the affliction bit, I think it's pretty clear that she was gunning for affliction when she went to the factory; I think that the experience of affliction in fact comprises the epistemological privilege you mention. However, I would not be averse to a change in wording; I'd be happy with "she found affliction in the life of a factory worker," or, "she encountered affliction," etc.
Now, as to the question of pragmatism and's important to differentiate Weil's values and ends, which are utterly Platonic, from her methods, which are not necessarily so. Weil was a foundationalist by choice, belief, and identification, but her methods were not foundationalistic.
The comparison to pragmatism is actually Weil's, and not mine; she says, "One might say, with the pragmatists, that all science reduces itself to a process of action on nature, but it is necessary to add the word methodical.--LP, p. 111" Now, this shows that she does not identify as a pragmatism (obviously), but consider the differentiation she makes--she implies that she what stands between her and pragmatism is methodicity, and this is obviously a misconception of Weil's, since the pragmatists all place enormous emphasis on method. In any case, it is not at all out of line to say that Weil, at the very least at the stage of the LP, is, while not a pragmatist, in some sense going about a related project. And I stand by the actual content of my statement, which is that Weil's functional attitudes towards truth (her uses of it, rather than her beliefs about it) are, indeed, closely akin to James's concept of the function of truth.
(It's also simplistic to say that James's analysis of truth is a pragmatic one; he considered truth as it occurs in human life, whether pragmatic or no; he simply happens to have favored pragmatism on the basis of his own reflections.)
Perhaps these comments help somewhat to exonerate my statements; if not, please press your concerns, and help make the article more clear, concise, and informative. Also, if you can help contribute to aspects of Weil's life and thought that are not well-represented in the article (e.g., her politics, which were central, are something I don't feel comfortable elaborating without having The Need for Roots in front of me.), that would be marvelous.

Happy wiki-ing, कुक्कुरोवाच 22:49, 22 Apr 2004 (UTC)

Um, oops! I just hacked into your section on Weil's life, and only thought to read these comments after the crime. Sorry! :o(

I threw in an anecdote about her early education to liven things up, and also mentioned the ill fate of her Spanish expedition. I added some detail about Weil's mystical experiences, and expanded her byline to read "French philosopher and mystic" because I think it is an integral part of who she is.

Finally, I unwittingly weighed into the already waging "suicide" debate. I've read a few biographies, none of which seriously contend that her final actions amounted to suicide. I don't personally believe Weil can be described as a martyr, but it certainly highlights the controversy of her official cause of death.

I restrained myself by not editing the other sections. I should really be working on my honours thesis, which is on Weil's political philsophy. :op

Hythloday.—Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:11, 23 April 2004 (UTC)

Your changes look very good. Thanks. Good luck with the thesis.कुक्कुरोवाच — Preceding undated comment added 17:22, 23 April 2004 (UTC)

Katel here again. Thanks for your comments and explanations.

I want to go back to the suicide thing here...not in the article. When Weil was still nursing her mother had some bouts with know they used to "ice" them and hope for the best since there were no antibiotics and surgery was really dangerous. Anyhow Simone became deathly ill...apparently was beign poisoned by her mother's milk. They thought she would die, but she recovered but ever after had difficulty with food/digestion....and the war time diet in England was tough.

I assume we all agree that she was a most independent woman...a forminable discussant [she scared Simone de Beauvoir by unmasking bourgeois tendencies according to Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter].

So, how does this fit the end of her life. She was really sick - TB. They had collapsed the lung and it did not good at all. The dr. wanted to do it again. She refused [what today would be call the 'right to refuse treatment' - especially frutiless treatment. He got mad that she would not just acquiese [like any patient, especially woman was expected to do] and so when she died he signed the death certificate that she died as a result of self starvation.

Here is where Pretrement comes in...documents the testimony of her nurse, some friends who would bring food in etc. Even goes to her confessor, 2nd doctor etc. Now, I have had some friends who have died and almost none of them wanted to each anything near the end...cancer, TB etc. there is a natural loss of appetite. So, I do not want to include all that in the encyclopedia article but want to put it out here for consideration.

Why did she go into the factory? Well, there were two motivations. part of her inheritance from Alain was that you should go and experience anything if you want to understand it. [eg. When she heard stories of things going bad in Germany..she [a Jew] traveled to Berlin to find out...same thing when Italy started to persecute the Jews...

She had always been close to working class people. When she was a kid and the family was in hotels, the family was especially well treated by staff because Simone spent much of her time in the kitchen etc, with them and they loved her for it. She got bounced from her first job because she was helping factory workers get organized etc. She had been in dialogue with factory owner, trying to get him to institute "social justice reforms" - there are letters between them. Also, she had this 19th centruy notion that there is a special knowlege that working people have that no one else can have [you find this idea in some Catholic circles too]. She got the factory job through "pull" - her knoweldge of owners and managers. She went - well, I am tempted to say quixotically - but maybe that is a bit harsh since then her whole life would be "quixotic" and I think she was more area of the reality of oppressions....

She was stunned in some ways by what the experience actually was. She was a klutz...and had some coordination problems so found working the presses really hard....and her factory journal is to me, the evidence that a brilliant mind can be reduced to mere economic calculations [she was never making the piece rate and so would not get paid etc.] In the end she had to leave the great experiment in learning....yes, it filled her with Dickens and the boot blacking factory...she said ever afterwards that when every anyone spoke to her with respect, she was surprised. And what is interesting, is that she realized that the mechanism of modern production [which she had thought could be made more humane...and she had gone there as an experiment to find out exactly how] was simply oppressive [her piece about Charlie Chaplin as offering a more apt analysis of factory work and its mechanism of necessity] and she stopped trying to get owners to reform.

Her work in the vineyard... "migrant worker" style was another one of these joing the workers [ you find this in led to the worker priest movement and cathoic social doctrine later] but that was also because the anti-jewish laws meant she could not someone arranged for her to go to Thibeau's farm. Again, she had not the endurance so instead he and she argued half the nite about social justice etc.

This penchant of going where the action permenated her life...whenthe family came to the USA she could not stand it...went to London to work for the free french...asked to be sent as a spy etc. So I find no evidence in her letters or notebooks that she "sought affliction"....some might say that her headaches might have been afflicitons except she said that she learned to think around the pain [havign suffered from migrains for years, that always gave me hope and I tried to do the same so I could teach]...I am not sure that she was part because she had a sense of meaning and she says that true affliciton one has not sense of meaning.

Method...I am not sure how to edit the piece to include two aspects of her methodology - First, I agree with what is there that the aesthetic is central to her approach...more central than the ethical. I would like to find a way to talk of her method.... first, the part adopted from Alain of melding the literary AND the experience of the poor, the worker, the outcast in ones philosophizing....that one needs to experience anything that one is going to write about. second, her conviction that you get to truth by holding contradictions in your mind...the tension of opposites [Heraclitus put it that way] and in so holding the contradictions, ones mind suddenly peierces through to True.

It is found in some of the mystics well as Heraclitus....

Hmmmm. A long post. I get wound up about her. I still find her On the Right Use of School Studies and Forms of the Implicit love of God and her notebooks astonishing. Her work on attention is clearer than anyone up til her day and not ever Murdoch [who was influenced by W's attention work] makes it any clearer. So, again, I do not want to erase what is there....but I would like to find a way to put some of this in about her methodology and have not figured out how and where you. Katel—Preceding unsigned comment added by Katel (talkcontribs) 23:45, 24 April 2004 (UTC)

Interesting stuff Katel. There was one biography I read which suggested that Weil was suffering from anorexia at the end. I forgot all about it until I read your post.

I fully agree with you that she was not "seeking" affliction. It's been a while since I read her essay on the subject, but I do remember that she denied anyone could WANT affliction.—Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:31, 26 April 2004 (UTC)

Reason for SW's death Anorexia Nervosa?: To anyone who has had experience of anorexia nervosa themselves or in a relative or fruiend, I would say it is impossible not to suspect that this accounts for Simone Weil's death. Sustained anorexia terminates in heart failure--exactly the reason for death given by the coroner. Anorexia--long term nutritional deficiency of an elective kind--may seem unaccountable to onlookers, but for the sufferer themeselves it is a deliberate act which at a certain point passes over into a physiological state which is almost impossible to stop without professional intervention. The statistic I believe is that a third of sufferes die of heart failure. Anorexia is often associated with perfectionism and with high (if not impossible to attain) ideals. Are there echoes here of Simone Weil. She would not be the first Christian woman ascetic who went too far in denying herself food. Two of Jerome's female disciples did the same. So, it is worth considering the possibility that what began as an ideological asceticism crossed the bounds into an addictive form of avoiding nutrition. this would be consistent with the subject trying to reverse the process, or at least seem to do so for the sake of others at a stage when the last stage of starvation had set in. Kathleen Sylvia (talk) 13:46, 19 August 2010 (UTC)

Editorial Questions and Comments in the Text[edit]

There are editorial questions and comments in the text, either between brackets or at the end of paragraphs. I think they are good thinking points for further expansion but should be here not in the article. Rauh 15:41, 26 October 2005 (UTC)

Examples extracted:

  • What do you make of Weil’s distinction between corporations and individuals having opinions?*
  • In Honor: Honoring policemen and firemen after 911?—Preceding unsigned comment added by Rauh (talkcontribs) 15:43, 26 October 2005 (UTC)

Mixing the tenses[edit]

It seems very strange to me to mix tenses throughout the article, like "she became involved ... at this time she is a marxist" and in the next paragraph "she received her diploma and a becomes teacher." In my mother-tongue it would be a serious style error, but although I have not met such constructions in any english text before, I cannot be sure. --matusz 14:38, 27 December 2005 (UTC)


I am not a professional philosopher nor a frequent Wikipedia contributor. That said, I find the article in fact a rather accurate and coherent summary of Weil's thought. It is indeed not in an encyclopedic style but the very nature of her writing and thinking do not lend themselves very well to a systematic account. As it stands it is quite readable and informative. I would propose removing the tags.--RB1:36, 20 February 2006

They're still here at time of writing, and I don't think they should be removed yet. I've so far looked only at the first section, and it's somewhat badly organized, so that alone justifies the tags. Also, we should be aiming for an encyclopedic style, even if it seems like it will be difficult to achieve. Further discussion about how to do that can happen on this page (and I hope it will). Cantara 21:57, 29 March 2006 (UTC)


This section is *way* too long and reads like a term paper. Needs a lot of work. 15:10, 4 February 2007 (UTC)

I wrote this section, as I did the section on Roots above, and will edit it. Grammatophile (talk) 05:00, 27 July 2008 (UTC)

Need for citation[edit]

I was intrigued by the need for a citation on the statement regarding her reasons for rejecting the Catholic Church. I googled an article by Bauer that seems to solidly root her objections to Catholicism to her political analysis of religions in a 1974 publication, "Lettre au un Religieux", that both Judaism and Christianity were "religions of slaves." I seem to remember that this was an analysis from Weil's earlier writings. I wonder if the Wiki article's assertion that her objection to Catholicism was it's exclusion of other religious thought was a later development. And further, I'm wondering if it was her later interest in religions of the east that paled her commitment to Catholicism alone, though it was where she experienced an awakening. Her thought, though she died young, did broaden over time. And there's the question, too, that if she rejected religions taking on characteristics of each other, and she was passionately awakened by an experience within the realm of Catholicism and still interested in Eastern religions, was she denying herself the possibility of ever worshiping with like-minded individuals such as herself? She was a radical individualist, but she would not have denied the importance of community, or would she have?

Or was it that though she had a spiritual awakening in the chapel of St. Francis of Assisi, she did not necessarily ascribe that as a "Catholic" experience.? What IS the work from which you got your impression? Perhaps I could read more. Ftord1960 00:06, 1 May 2007 (UTC)


I have tried to reorganize the sections here. I've added the "Works" section, under which my description of The Need for Roots appears. I think the section on Gravity and Grace should also go here. The sections on Philosophy and Theology need to be expanded with more detail. I am thinking that we need an analysis along the lines of Peter Winch's book on Weil's philosophy. I'd even go so far as to suggest that we need sections on the traditional subdivisions of philosophy: metaphysics, ethics, aesthetics, logic, and so on. In Weil's case, sections on metaphysics, epistemology, and political science seem called for. In Theology, we are obviously dealing with mysticism, though her work with other religions might apply as well. Grammatophile (talk) 04:27, 28 July 2008 (UTC)

Different picture?[edit]

Can we replace the picture? I don't think the current one really does justice to how she normally looked. How about this one: ? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:06, 23 November 2008 (UTC) Why is the picture used in the article from when the philosopher was 12 years old? There appears to be at least one adult photograph of her in the public domain: (talk) 23:48, 25 January 2017 (UTC)

Hysteron proteron[edit]

According to the article "the coroner's report was simply mistaken." It is incredible that a man could become a coroner and function in that position for some years and not detect that "it is in fact Weil's poor health condition that eventually made her unable to eat." If this is true, then the unintelligent coroner understood cause and effect in reverse order. Did he have a history of such mistakes? Is this credible?Lestrade (talk) 00:25, 15 November 2009 (UTC)Lestrade

Encyclopedia article?[edit]

Pity no one with a commitment to basic Wikipedia guidelines took this subject on. This article is absurdly long and mostly very obviously a personal essay. Original research and critical interpretation is not what Wikipedia is for. (talk) 22:39, 15 November 2009 (UTC)

V. true. The writer's / writers' industry is commendable, but encyclopaedic writing requires ruthlessness on the part of the author. 'Reader's comment on this point' and the abundant rhetorical decoration have no place here. Notreallydavid (talk) 04:55, 5 September 2010 (UTC)

Weil as Anti-Fascist[edit]

Several books on Weil point out her anti-fascism e.g., "Later, she (Weil) would travel to Spain to during itscivil war, not to fight, but to support the anti-fascist forces" Quoted in "These words upon Your Soul", edited by Paul Ofstedal (p.121). "The range of journals she contributed to...included "Vigilance" ,the latter an organ of the Committee of Vigilance of Anti-Fascist Intellectuals". Quoted in "Simone Weil:Portrait of a Self-Exiled Jew", Thomas R. Nevin 1991 (p.23). So I'm adding her to the "Category:Anti-fascists", since her anti-fascism went beyond supporting the French Resistance and was an important part of her career. (talk) 20:09, 23 March 2013 (UTC)

Wrong translation?[edit]

What de Gaulle said about Simone Weil was "elle est folle". That does not mean "she's a fool", as the last two references in this article are cited as saying. In literal translation it would mean "she's crazy". In the context of her life and thought it might be conveyed by saying "she's an innocent" or, even, "she's a holy fool", something that implies a quite different description of Weil and appreciation of her character by de Gaulle. (John Crowfoot) [1] Voronov (talk) 03:35, 12 April 2015 (UTC)

Religious affiliation[edit]

Why is she categorized as a convert to Roman Catholicism if, according to the article, she decided against being baptized? (talk) 00:02, 5 April 2015 (UTC)

Yes I guess the above comment is true, if a person, having the opportunity to receive baptism, deliberately decides not taking it, she's not a Christian, although she may have been fond of the Catholic concepts. Was her reported attendance to daily mass in NYC an equivalent to baptism? You better obtain an opinion from a Catholic priest or theologician. he line of thoughts stated in the article about the presence of 'revelation' in any religion is not only close to the free-mason's concepts, but uses a very close wording to that of a Roman authority when trying to convince christians to sacrifice to the roman idols, Maximo, a Roman authority, was said spoke to saint Nanfon: 'Reminded him what was the common doctrine in the cultured circles of the time: in the background, all deities (included the pagan ones) speak about the same deity that trascends any name given by humans, and that could be the great all around'. Any further comments or references about the presence of Simone Weil, activities and writings of her time along with the anarchists in the Aragonese front in 1936? Thanks, regards, + Salut--Caula (talk) 23:36, 4 April 2016 (UTC)

  1. ^ Any halfways decent French-English dictionary