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HUMANITIES 565 Alain GoldschHiger. Simone Wei/ et Spinoza Editions Naaman. 238 Alain Goldschlager's book is a study of Simone Wei!. Spinoza figures in it only as an influence upon Wei!, through her teachers. Weil's life and thought are inextricably intertwined, and the first part of the work is an interpretation of the stages in her life as a spiritual odyssey. The second is largely devoted to an exploration of the influence of Spinoza's philosophy upon Wei!. Simone Wei! was a lifelong seeker - restless, dissatisfied, awkward, difficult with her friends, striving but never succeeding in her search for a niche within which her spirit could find peace. She was looking for a unified philosophical outlook which could express itself directly in her practical day-to-day activities. Her search was motivated by both a vis a tergo and a vis a fronte. To say precisely just what the forces were which moved Weil is not easy. I believe, however, that Goldschlager does bring us closer to an answer than any other writer. He suggests that there are psychological factors which only a thorough psychoanalysis could revea!. But he brings forward much convincing evidence that Wei! was running away from herself, from her Jewish religious heritage, and from her own sense of isolation and separation. She found religious truth everywhere - in classical Greece, in ancient Egypt, in the Bhagavad Gita. It was only in the Jewish Scriptures that she saw no religious truth. She tried to escape her separateness by working in a factory and living a working-class life. She could not bear it for long, and described this experience over and over again as death and slavery. After her clumsy effort to join the proletariat, she made an almost comically unsuccessful attempt to join the Republican forces in the Spanish Civil War. However, only three days after joining a combat unit she burnt her leg severely and was persuaded by her parents to return to France. It might appear that she was trying merely to escape from her bourgeois and Jewish intellectualism. Goldschlager shows, though, that it was her own separate sellhood that she wished to destroy. It was almost inevitable that she should bring about her own death, as she did in 1943, by her refusal to take nourishment. Goldschlager argues that her political actions were not, as some have suggested, really parts of a religious quest. Rather, along with her final religiOUS anchorage, they were stages in a search for an all-embracing spiritual love. The book brings out clearly and sensitively Weil's intuitive experience, through the Christian sacraments, of a saving love. Yet she could not accept the Church, any more than the Church could accept some of her strange views and miSinterpretations of Christian theology. She wrote that her fate was to be a Christian outside the Church. It was one of her Christian mentors who said, most perceptively, that this woman who wrote so passionately on the need for roots could not fully accept the Christian Church because she rejected its Jewish roots. How did Spinoza influence Wei!? Goldschlager makes it abundantly evident that it was not so much Spinoza as it was Spinoza's interpreters in France - Alain, Brunschvicg, and Lagneau - who were the major philosophical influences upon her. In particular, Alain and Lagneau were not interested in Spinoza's scientific and rationalistic outlook. Spinoza is unique among philosophers in holding that God's essence is fully intelligible. 'The human mind possesses an adequate knowledge of the eternal and infinite essence of God' (Ethics 1I, proposition 47). This central Spinozistic thesis is of little interest to Alain and Lagneau, and it is firmly rejected by Wei!. What she is interested in is Spinoza's contention that everything in nature happens in accordance with necessary laws, that morality is a matter of demonstrable law, that God embraces all of nature in an eternal love. Clearly, like any independent thinker, Weil selects from Spinoza only those theses which answer to her needs. Goldschlager 's book would have been more enlightening had he given due weight to the important Spinozistic theses which Weil rejected. At a time when the Jewish people was suffering...


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