E. Jane Doering
Simone Weil’s philosophical and social thought during her short life (1909–1943) was intimately engaged with the nature of power and force, both human and natural, and the problems inherent in the use of force. Weil argued vehemently for pacifism, then moved toward a guarded acceptance of the use of force under very specific circumstances, in the context of the rise of Nazism. Ultimately she came to a nuanced and unique perspective on force and on the preservation of human dignity, in the aftermath of several profound mystical experiences during the last years of her life. E. Jane Doering carefully examines and analyzes the material in Weil’s notebooks and lesser-known essays to illuminate her evolving thought on violence, war, and injustice. In addition, Doering addresses Weil’s engagement with the Bhagavad Gita during her final years, a text that reoriented and enlightened Weil’s activist and intellectual search for moral value in a violent world.
E. Jane Doering draws extensively on the four volumes of notebooks complied and annotated in Simone Weil: Oeuvres complètes, recently published by the Editions Gallimard. Simone Weil and the Specter of Self-Perpetuating Force contains Doering’s expert translations of numerous notebook entries. The book will interest Weil scholars, those in French studies, and those who explore interdisciplinary topics in philosophy, religious studies, history, and political science.
“. . . a definitive contribution not only to Weil studies, but to any effort to understand the problem of violence and the sources of peace. E. Jane Doering helps to frame a plausible case for the optimism Weil forged in the fire of her own suffering: there is a counter-force to violence, and it is available when we attend to life beyond the delusions we habitually cultivate.” — Ann Pirruccello, University of San Diego
“E. Jane Doering deals in a novel and insightful way with the concept of force (and self-perpetuating violence) in the thought of Simone Weil particularly as this was elaborated in the anguished writings of the last years of her life (1938-43) after her mystical experience and her renunciation of pacifism.” — Lawrence Schmidt, University of Toronto
“Jane Doering’s seminal and meticulously researched work may well bring Simone Weil into the central currents of intellectual discourse—a voice from the mid-twentieth century that speaks to our increasingly fraught planet. Weil is presented in her full complexity: not only a relentless, rigorous mind with an abiding faith in reason, but a person of incarnational spirituality.” — Peter Walshe, University of Notre Dame
“In Simone Weil and the Specter of Self-perpetuating Force, Jane Doering deftly examines some of the most difficult ethical issues that peace researchers ever face, particularly the need to confront perpetrators of ruthless violence without engaging in immoral acts oneself. Doering skillfully portrays Weil’s analysis of how the abuse of force arises and how the exercise of military force contaminates victor and victim. Readers will find an original perspective on just war thinking, one that highlights the obligation to respect human dignity at all times.” — Robert C. Johansen, Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, University of Notre Dame
“This book, at once carefully organized and explanatory, makes lucid Simone Weil’s relevance to studies of the problem of violence and the sources of peace. . . . Probing questions of gravity and grace, Doering illuminates Weil’s deep interest in ‘the mystery of transferring energy toward good ends’ posing a counterforce to the Empire of Force.” — Choice
“The idea of force underpins much of Simone Weil’s thinking . . . . E. Jane Doering gives a nuanced account of the way in which this concept is fundamental to an understanding of Weil’s life and thought.” — French Studies
“Doering counters that the most compelling explanatory account for continued interest in Weil’s life and work is (or ought to be acknowledged to be) the profundity of her thinking. Weil had a gift for expressing universal truths in an aphoristic form that invites continued meditation. This is especially true with respect to the focus on Doering’s meticulous study: the development, expression, and, ultimately, the tragic relevance of Weil’s insights on the nature of force.” — Theological Studies
“. . . readers can appreciate the work of a notably eclectic, experimental and perplexing person who lived and died in one of the most shameful periods of Europe in the twentieth century. . . . Weil’s insights are crucial to our self-understanding and our capacity to confront our self-made miseries, not least that of war.” — Theology
“Simone Weil’s earliest published essays from the 1930s advocate an uncompromising pacifism she gradually abandoned in the aftermath of Hitler’s invasion of Czechoslovakia. E. Jane Doering takes these writings as a starting point for a compelling account of the development of Weil’s thought. The result is a valuable study of a central preoccupation of Weil’s, and also an admirable and illuminating introduction to her thought as a whole.” — Journal for Peace and Justice Studies
“Simone Weil and the Specter of Self-Perpetuating Force is a practice in attention that, in revealing so painstakingly the nuances of a person’s thought in contact with a violent world, unveils and illuminates our own present crises and asks us not to look away.” — Ars Disputandi