Simone Weil quotes

Simone Weil photo
191   8

Simone Weil

Birthdate: 3. February 1909
Date of death: 24. August 1943
Other names: Simone Weilová

Simone Adolphine Weil was a French philosopher, mystic, and political activist. The mathematician André Weil was her brother.After her graduation from formal education, Weil became a teacher. She taught intermittently throughout the 1930s, taking several breaks due to poor health and to devote herself to political activism, work that would see her assisting in the trade union movement, taking the side of the Anarchists known as the Durruti Column in the Spanish Civil War, and spending more than a year working as a labourer, mostly in auto factories, so she could better understand the working class.

Taking a path that was unusual among twentieth-century left-leaning intellectuals, she became more religious and inclined towards mysticism as her life progressed. Weil wrote throughout her life, though most of her writings did not attract much attention until after her death. In the 1950s and 1960s, her work became famous in continental Europe and throughout the English-speaking world. Her thought has continued to be the subject of extensive scholarship across a wide range of fields. A meta study from the University of Calgary found that between 1995 and 2012 over 2,500 new scholarly works had been published about her.Albert Camus described her as "the only great spirit of our times".

Works

„The reality of this world is necessity. The part of man which is in this world is the part which is in bondage to necessity and subject to the misery of need.“

—  Simone Weil

Draft for a Statement of Human Obligation (1943)
Context: The respect inspired by the link between man and the reality alien to this world can make itself evident to that part of man which belongs to the reality of this world.
The reality of this world is necessity. The part of man which is in this world is the part which is in bondage to necessity and subject to the misery of need.
The one possibility of indirect expression of respect for the human being is offered by men's needs, the needs of the soul and of the body, in this world.

„There is a reality outside the world, that is to say, outside space and time, outside man's mental universe, outside any sphere whatsoever that is accessible to human faculties.“

—  Simone Weil

Draft for a Statement of Human Obligation (1943)
Context: There is a reality outside the world, that is to say, outside space and time, outside man's mental universe, outside any sphere whatsoever that is accessible to human faculties.
Corresponding to this reality, at the centre of the human heart, is the longing for an absolute good, a longing which is always there and is never appeased by any object in this world.
Another terrestrial manifestation of this reality lies in the absurd and insoluble contradictions which are always the terminus of human thought when it moves exclusively in this world.
Just as the reality of this world is the sole foundation of facts, so that other reality is the sole foundation of good.
That reality is the unique source of all the good that can exist in this world: that is to say, all beauty, all truth, all justice, all legitimacy, all order, and all human behaviour that is mindful of obligations.
Those minds whose attention and love are turned towards that reality are the sole intermediary through which good can descend from there and come among men.
Although it is beyond the reach of any human faculties, man has the power of turning his attention and love towards it.
Nothing can ever justify the assumption that any man, whoever he may be, has been deprived of this power.
It is a power which is only real in this world in so far as it is exercised. The sole condition for exercising it is consent.
This act of consent may be expressed, or it may not be, even tacitly; it may not be clearly conscious, although it has really taken place in the soul. Very often it is verbally expressed although it has not in fact taken place. But whether expressed or not, the one condition suffices: that it shall in fact have taken place.
To anyone who does actually consent to directing his attention and love beyond the world, towards the reality that exists outside the reach of all human faculties, it is given to succeed in doing so. In that case, sooner or later, there descends upon him a part of the good, which shines through him upon all that surrounds him.

„Friendship is not to be sought, not to be dreamed, not to be desired; it is to be exercised (it is a virtue).“

—  Simone Weil

Source: Love (1947), p. 274
Context: To wish to escape from solitude is cowardice. Friendship is not to be sought, not to be dreamed, not to be desired; it is to be exercised (it is a virtue).

„The human soul has need of security and also of risk. The fear of violence or of hunger or of any other extreme evil is a sickness of the soul. The boredom produced by a complete absence of risk is also a sickness of the soul.“

—  Simone Weil

Draft for a Statement of Human Obligation (1943), Statement Of Obligations
Context: The human soul has need of disciplined participation in a common task of public value, and it has need of personal initiative within this participation.
The human soul has need of security and also of risk. The fear of violence or of hunger or of any other extreme evil is a sickness of the soul. The boredom produced by a complete absence of risk is also a sickness of the soul.

Help us translate English quotes

Discover interesting quotes and translate them.

Start translating

„Any State whose whole official doctrine constitutes an incitement to this crime is itself wholly criminal. It can retain no trace of legitimacy.“

—  Simone Weil

Draft for a Statement of Human Obligation (1943)
Context: The proportions of good and evil in any society depend partly upon the proportion of consent to that of refusal and partly upon the distribution of power between those who consent and those who refuse.
If any power of any kind is in the hands of a man who has not given total, sincere, and enlightened consent to this obligation such power is misplaced.
If a man has willfully refused to consent, then it is in itself a criminal activity for him to exercise any function, major or minor, public or private, which gives him control over people's lives. All those who, with knowledge of his mind, have acquiesced in his exercise of the function are accessories to the crime.
Any State whose whole official doctrine constitutes an incitement to this crime is itself wholly criminal. It can retain no trace of legitimacy.
Any State whose official doctrine is not primarily directed against this crime in all its forms is lacking in full legitimacy.
Any legal system which contains no provisions against this crime is without the essence of legality. Any legal system which provides against some forms of this crime but not others is without the full character of legality.
Any government whose members commit this crime, or authorize it in their subordinates, has betrayed its function.

„The needs of the soul can for the most part be listed in pairs of opposites which balance and complete one another.“

—  Simone Weil

Draft for a Statement of Human Obligation (1943), Statement Of Obligations
Context: The needs of the soul can for the most part be listed in pairs of opposites which balance and complete one another.
The human soul has need of equality and of hierarchy.
Equality is the public recognition, effectively expressed in institutions and manners, of the principle that an equal degree of attention is due to the needs of all human beings. Hierarchy is the scale of responsibilities. Since attention is inclined to direct itself upwards and remain fixed, special provisions are necessary to ensure the effective compatibility of equality and hierarchy.

„If anyone possesses this faculty, then his attention is in reality directed beyond the world, whether he is aware of it or not.“

—  Simone Weil

Draft for a Statement of Human Obligation (1943)
Context: If anyone possesses this faculty, then his attention is in reality directed beyond the world, whether he is aware of it or not.
The link which attaches the human being to the reality outside the world is, like the reality itself, beyond the reach of human faculties. The respect that it makes us feel as soon as it is recognized cannot be shown to us by evidence or testimony.

„Whoever recognizes that reality recognizes also that link. Because of it, he holds every human being without any exception as something sacred to which he is bound to show respect.“

—  Simone Weil

Draft for a Statement of Human Obligation (1943)
Context: The combination of these two facts — the longing in the depth of the heart for absolute good, and the power, though only latent, of directing attention and love to a reality beyond the world and of receiving good from it — constitutes a link which attaches every man without exception to that other reality.
Whoever recognizes that reality recognizes also that link. Because of it, he holds every human being without any exception as something sacred to which he is bound to show respect.
This is the only possible motive for universal respect towards all human beings. Whatever formulation of belief or disbelief a man may choose to make, if his heart inclines him to feel this respect, then he in fact also recognizes a reality other than this world's reality. Whoever in fact does not feel this respect is alien to that other reality also.

„The proportions of good and evil in any society depend partly upon the proportion of consent to that of refusal and partly upon the distribution of power between those who consent and those who refuse.“

—  Simone Weil

Draft for a Statement of Human Obligation (1943)
Context: The proportions of good and evil in any society depend partly upon the proportion of consent to that of refusal and partly upon the distribution of power between those who consent and those who refuse.
If any power of any kind is in the hands of a man who has not given total, sincere, and enlightened consent to this obligation such power is misplaced.
If a man has willfully refused to consent, then it is in itself a criminal activity for him to exercise any function, major or minor, public or private, which gives him control over people's lives. All those who, with knowledge of his mind, have acquiesced in his exercise of the function are accessories to the crime.
Any State whose whole official doctrine constitutes an incitement to this crime is itself wholly criminal. It can retain no trace of legitimacy.
Any State whose official doctrine is not primarily directed against this crime in all its forms is lacking in full legitimacy.
Any legal system which contains no provisions against this crime is without the essence of legality. Any legal system which provides against some forms of this crime but not others is without the full character of legality.
Any government whose members commit this crime, or authorize it in their subordinates, has betrayed its function.

„The surrealists have set up non-oriented thought as a model; they have chosen the total absence of value as their supreme value.“

—  Simone Weil

“The responsibility of writers,” p. 167
On Science, Necessity, and the Love of God (1968)
Context: Dadaism and surrealism … represented the intoxication of total license, the intoxication in which the mind wallows when it has made a clean sweep of value and surrendered to the immediate. The good is the pole towards which the human spirit is necessarily oriented, not only in action but in every effort, including the effort of pure intelligence. The surrealists have set up non-oriented thought as a model; they have chosen the total absence of value as their supreme value. Men have always been intoxicated by license, which is why, throughout history, towns have been sacked. But there has not always been a literary equivalent for the sacking of towns. Surrealism is such an equivalent.

„If a man has willfully refused to consent, then it is in itself a criminal activity for him to exercise any function, major or minor, public or private, which gives him control over people's lives.“

—  Simone Weil

Draft for a Statement of Human Obligation (1943)
Context: The proportions of good and evil in any society depend partly upon the proportion of consent to that of refusal and partly upon the distribution of power between those who consent and those who refuse.
If any power of any kind is in the hands of a man who has not given total, sincere, and enlightened consent to this obligation such power is misplaced.
If a man has willfully refused to consent, then it is in itself a criminal activity for him to exercise any function, major or minor, public or private, which gives him control over people's lives. All those who, with knowledge of his mind, have acquiesced in his exercise of the function are accessories to the crime.
Any State whose whole official doctrine constitutes an incitement to this crime is itself wholly criminal. It can retain no trace of legitimacy.
Any State whose official doctrine is not primarily directed against this crime in all its forms is lacking in full legitimacy.
Any legal system which contains no provisions against this crime is without the essence of legality. Any legal system which provides against some forms of this crime but not others is without the full character of legality.
Any government whose members commit this crime, or authorize it in their subordinates, has betrayed its function.

„To believe that the desire for good is always fulfilled — that is faith, and whoever has it is not an atheist.“

—  Simone Weil

Last Notebook (1942) p. 137
First and Last Notebooks (1970)
Context: In order to obey God, one must receive his commands. How did it happen that I received them in adolescence, while I was professing atheism? To believe that the desire for good is always fulfilled — that is faith, and whoever has it is not an atheist.

„The use of expressions like "to the extent that" is beyond our intellectual capacity.“

—  Simone Weil

Source: The Power of Words (1937), p. 222
Context: There is no area in our minds reserved for superstition, such as the Greeks had in their mythology; and superstition, under cover of an abstract vocabulary, has revenged itself by invading the entire realm of thought. Our science is like a store filled with the most subtle intellectual devices for solving the most complex problems, and yet we are almost incapable of applying the elementary principles of rational thought. In every sphere, we seem to have lost the very elements of intelligence: the ideas of limit, measure, degree, proportion, relation, comparison, contingency, interdependence, interrelation of means and ends. To keep to the social level, our political universe is peopled exclusively by myths and monsters; all it contains is absolutes and abstract entities. This is illustrated by all the words of our political and social vocabulary: nation, security, capitalism, communism, fascism, order, authority, property, democracy. We never use them in phrases such as: There is democracy to the extent that... or: There is capitalism in so far as... The use of expressions like "to the extent that" is beyond our intellectual capacity. Each of these words seems to represent for us an absolute reality, unaffected by conditions, or an absolute objective, independent of methods of action, or an absolute evil; and at the same time we make all these words mean, successively or simultaneously, anything whatsoever. Our lives are lived, in actual fact, among changing, varying realities, subject to the casual play of external necessities, and modifying themselves according to specific conditions within specific limits; and yet we act and strive and sacrifice ourselves and others by reference to fixed and isolated abstractions which cannot possibly be related either to one another or to any concrete facts. In this so-called age of technicians, the only battles we know how to fight are battles against windmills.

„It is not only in literature that fiction generates immorality. It does it also in life itself. For the substance of our life is almost exclusively composed of fiction.“

—  Simone Weil

“Morality and literature,” pp. 161-162
On Science, Necessity, and the Love of God (1968)
Context: It is not only in literature that fiction generates immorality. It does it also in life itself. For the substance of our life is almost exclusively composed of fiction. We fictionalize our future, and, unless we are heroically devoted to truth, we fictionalize our past, refashioning it to our taste. We do not study other people; we invent what they are thinking, saying, and doing. Reality provides us with some raw material, just as novelists often take a theme from a news item, but we envelop it in a fog in which, as in all fiction, values are reversed, so that evil is attractive and good is tedious.

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

Similar authors

Simone de Beauvoir photo
Simone de Beauvoir152
French writer, intellectual, existentialist philosopher, po…
Jean Paul Sartre photo
Jean Paul Sartre314
French existentialist philosopher, playwright, novelist, sc…
Albert Schweitzer photo
Albert Schweitzer121
French-German physician, theologian, musician and philosoph…
Michel Foucault photo
Michel Foucault128
French philosopher
Paul Valéry photo
Paul Valéry84
French poet, essayist, and philosopher
Pierre Teilhard De Chardin photo
Pierre Teilhard De Chardin63
French philosopher and Jesuit priest
Henri Bergson photo
Henri Bergson18
French philosopher
Romain Rolland photo
Romain Rolland43
French author
Walter Benjamin photo
Walter Benjamin69
German literary critic, philosopher and social critic (1892…
Brigitte Bardot photo
Brigitte Bardot35
French model, actor, singer and animal rights activist
Today anniversaries
Rumi photo
Rumi119
Iranian poet 1207 - 1273
W.S. Merwin photo
W.S. Merwin17
American poet 1927 - 2019
Buddy Rich photo
Buddy Rich2
Jazz drummer and bandleader 1917 - 1987
Eileen Chang photo
Eileen Chang3
Chinese writer and screenwriter 1920 - 1995
Another 58 today anniversaries
Similar authors
Simone de Beauvoir photo
Simone de Beauvoir152
French writer, intellectual, existentialist philosopher, po…
Jean Paul Sartre photo
Jean Paul Sartre314
French existentialist philosopher, playwright, novelist, sc…
Albert Schweitzer photo
Albert Schweitzer121
French-German physician, theologian, musician and philosoph…
Michel Foucault photo
Michel Foucault128
French philosopher
Paul Valéry photo
Paul Valéry84
French poet, essayist, and philosopher