Simone Weil’s Philosophy of History

in Journal of the Philosophy of History
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The philosophical and religious ideas of Simone Weil bear on theory of history and historiography in ways not previously explored. They amount to a view of history as a consequence of the original creation, but they also generally exclude theodicy. By examining these ideas we see some of the ways in which to develop a theory history centered on a conception of moral understanding that is impartialist and universal. For Weil such understanding is both inside of and outside of history. This leads to an approach to human history that centers on the moral dilemmas and choices of historical actors and that matches the force of compassion with that of power. Under an approach inspired by Weil’s ideas, the historian’s work of understanding can be an experience of moral growth.

Simone Weil’s Philosophy of History

in Journal of the Philosophy of History




Simone Weil“The Pythagorean Doctrine,” in Intimations of Christianity Among the Ancient Greekstranslated by Elisabeth Chase Geissbuhler (London and New York Routledge 2003) 193. This volume first published in 1957 comprises essays from two separate posthumous collections of her works. The essay on Pythagoras is taken from Les intuitions pré-chrétiennes (Paris 1951) 193.


Weil“Pythagorean” 186.


Joseph de Maistre trans. R. LebrunSt. Petersburg Dialogues (Montreal: McGill University Press1993) “Ninth Dialogue” 263–272.


Cf. WeilFirst and Last Notebooks198.


WeilNeed230–232. See also Cahiers K1 ms. 92 (Oeuvres complètes 6.1.131).


Weil“Great Beast” 136.


David McClellanUtopian Pessimist: the Life and Thought of Simone Weil (New York: Poseidon Press1990) 72 74.


Weil“Great Beast” 90 128.


Benjamin F. MartinFrance in 1938 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press2005) 7–8.


Cf. WeilFirst and Last Notebooks198.


WeilOeuvres complètes 4.1.57.


I suggest Miklós VetöThe Religious Metaphysics of Simone Weil (Albany: State University of New York Press1994) 11–40 as the best philosophical account of this idea.


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