Cover

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Title Page, Copyright Page, Dedication

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pp. i-vi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Preface

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pp. ix-xviii

In the twenty years that separate this new publication from its original, much has been written on Hannah Arendt and Simone Weil as well as on the relation between them. Although I cannot reference the extensive critical literature that in Italy alone has enriched the understanding of their work in recent years, I will mention two editorial initiatives that have been of particular significance; I am referring to the texts gathered by Simona Forti in The Arendt Archive1 and the complete edition of Simone Weil’s London Writings, edited by Domenico Canciani and Maria Antonietta Vito.2 Both...

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1 Partitions

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pp. 1-5

The relation between Hannah Arendt and Simone Weil can be viewed through the sign of a double paradox. First of all, theirs is the sign of a missed encounter: Two of the most important thinkers of the century, both Jewish and both deeply touched by the experience of persecution and exile, never had the chance to meet, each one generating their thought in distinct and distant circles. Nevertheless— and this is the second paradox—it is precisely this conceptual distance that appears to constitute an imperceptible zone of contact, an invisible tangent, a form of mysterious convergence that...

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2 Truth

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pp. 6-11

It is precisely in relation to this order of inquiry that Arendt and Weil’s interpretations of the Homeric world— and of The Iliad in particular— assume singular importance. Th is is the case because it is a question to which they both return on a number of occasions, as if the return itself were decisive for the formulation of their own categories. But, above all, it is the case because their interpretations uncover, like nothing else, the aforementioned phenomenon of “concordant dissonance” or of “dissonant concordance.” It is not by chance that the most extensive reference that Arendt ever made to...

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3 Principium and Initium

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pp. 12-18

The emphasis falls once again on origin. It is precisely Homer’s originarity—the fact that he precedes even the beginnings of historiography— that attracts the attention of both philosophers in relation to the event that he translates into verse. The reason is clear: The poem does not deal with just one event in Western history, though this is indeed remarkable in itself. Rather, it deals with the first event, as Hegel had already underlined forcefully: “The highest form that floated before Greek imagination was Achilles, the Son of the Poet, the Homeric Youth of the Trojan War....

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4 Beginn, Anfang, Ursprung

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pp. 19-23

The complexity under lying the relation between object and interpretation is grounded in the fact that in Arendt there are two distinct and even contradictory readings of origin that lie in pursuit of each other, alternating and intertwining throughout the entirety of her work. The first is of a deconstructive nature, while the second is constitutive. In order to identify them separately— and before turning to the antonymic point at which they converge—we need to return to two authors who were both very much present in Arendt’s formative years. The first is Nietzsche and, more specifically,...

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5 Polemos/Polis

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pp. 24-28

In what way does this “passage through origin” take us back to our point of departure, that is, to the complex relations established by Arendt between the origin of Western history as narrated in the Iliad and the very story recounted therein? An initial interpretative template is provided by the fissuring of temporality and history—or at least by their noncoincidence— that is present in different ways in all three of the aforementioned authors. However, the most intrinsic point of convergence between them is to be found precisely in the double dimension of origin— diachronic and synchronic,...

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6 The Third Origin

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pp. 29-35

It might seem that the path traced thus far in Arendt’s thought can best be characterized as the squaring of a circle, as the forging of a lineal solution for the antinomic relation between originality and duration, deconstruction and constitution, violence and power. But things are more complex than they appear to be at first sight. If we take a closer look at the hinge that conjoins and absorbs the “before” and the “ after,” we can see that it does not develop without gaps or remainders. As such, in order to guarantee the success of a differential translation of war into politics, of conflict into...

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7 Nothingness

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pp. 36-41

With Simone Weil, we confront a different scenario. For her, origin does not collapse under the weight of historical catastrophe. But this is not so because history—in particular, modern history—is conceived in more positive terms. On the contrary, we could say that in many ways Weil emphasizes origin’s negative characteristics. It is merely that, unlike Arendt, the negative in Weil does not affect origin from the outside principally because it is already embroiled in it. The modern therefore is not ailing because it betrays origin, but precisely because it fulfills it in all its unbearably antinomic...

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8 Forces

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pp. 42-47

The Iliad constitutes the most perfect example precisely because nothingness can be perceived there in all its meaningful resonance. Weil’s definition of the poem as the “picture of God’s absence” (Notebooks, Vol. II- A, 405), as “misery of the man without God” (Notebooks, Vol. I- C, 229) should not be interpreted merely in terms of lack. It should be interpreted in the sense of the powers that fill and inhabit, of the plenitude that installs itself most optimally in the absence of God, or, rather, as that absence itself in its most terribly “positive” expression, as the content of Abandonment: “The...

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9 In Common

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pp. 48-53

As already observed, the void is the place of force’s deployment and, as such, of the implacable conflict that divides and locates men in their opposition. However— and this is the analytical shift that moves in a direction unexplored by Alain— the fact that force deploys in an originary void is not the same as saying that it is the origin of the universe. If things were so, that is, if origin were once again self- coincidental on the side of force, then its plenitude alone would exist rather than the emptiness throughout which it extends. In other words, emptiness is the sign of something lacking because the absence it leaves in its wake is its most luminous trace. Weil...

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10 Imperium

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pp. 54-60

It is precisely because of this ability to split, to be oneself and one’s contrary simultaneously, that the experience of the Greeks is unrepeatable. This is especially the case in reference to the Romans, who, along with the Jews, constitute their most radical negation precisely for the reasons vindicated by Arendt in the name of their glory. For Weil, the jus appeared to be nothing more than the self-legitimization of force; the traditio built the violent uprooting of all other cultures; and the religio, which she understood to be the theological- political glorification of the Roman State, was judged for that very reason to be worse than its proclaimed atheism. From this point...

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11 Topologies

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pp. 61-66

The overturning of Arendt’s views is not limited to the judgment on Rome, since it also proceeds by means of a symmetrical inversion in the shadow of this argument. By this I mean that the very Christianity that Arendt situates as the commencement of the drift toward the modern constitutes for Weil both its internal rampart and its principle source of contention simultaneously. Indeed, for Weil Christianity is the spiritual thread that allows modernity to continue advancing in light of its originary inspiration. This does not mean that the two interpretative horizons are openly contradictory....

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12 In the Grip of Love

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pp. 67-72

As already noted, this consciousness is the poetic heart of the Iliad. This heart, however, beats not in the verses but in the lapses, pauses, and silences that scan and pierce the poem like a “clearing” suddenly opening and immediately closing in the universe of force, in which force contains its limit as its own oblivious surface. This means that contrary to what Arendt believed, one can never “ really” escape this consciousness, and “reality”— which coincides with our notion of the possible—is not infinite in the sense of it being limited by an impossible toward which at least one part of our soul is drawn as if through an irresistible vortex. It is this that allows us to...

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13 The Final Battle

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pp. 73-78

Despite all of the above, one final twist, acute divergence, or digression still remains in the relation between Arendt and Weil’s notions of heroism. In order to understand this twist, however, it is necessary to approach from afar, for it originates in one of Nietzsche’s aphorisms: “The heroic consists in doing a great thing (or in not doing a thing in a great fashion) without feeling oneself to be in competition with others before others. The hero always bears the wilderness and the sacred, inviolable borderline within him...

Notes

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pp. 79-88

Bibliography

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pp. 89-94