Simone Weil Essay

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Simone Weil is best known as a preeminent French philosopher and author who was also a factory and field laborer; a political activist and theorist; a revolutionary; and, in the last years of her life, a mystic. Weil’s compendium of work has significance for several fields; for education, her premises on the connection of thought and action and on the value of work for the development of the mind and spirit are particularly relevant.

Born in Paris to a well-to-do, professional family, Weil was a brilliant student who received her baccalaureate in philosophy in 1925. She advanced successfully through the Ecole Normale Superieure and began her teaching career as a professor of philosophy in 1931.

From the time of her first published writing in 1929 until her death, Weil examined the relationship of thought and action and sought the direct experiences of the material world through manual labor and political activism to understand better the world of ideas and value. From 1933–1935, Weil left teaching to work in factories and became an outspoken advocate for workers and trade unions. During this period, she also immersed herself in the political and economic structures of Europe, and in particular, the increasing militarism of Germany. In 1936, she joined a militia in Spain’s civil war; however, burns incurred in a camp accident forced Weil to return to Paris in late 1936.

Unable to return to teaching because of her deteriorating health, Weil concentrated her writing during this period on war and oppression.

By the close of the 1930s, however, Weil had turned her focus to spiritual values, and she began to include in her writing specific Christian assumptions gleaned from her discussions with a priest and a farmer in 1941. Forced to flee France in 1942, Weil ultimately resettled in London, where she wrote for the Free French Committee. She developed her mystical theology, as revealed in two of her best known texts, Waiting for God and The Need for Roots. In August 1943, Weil was hospitalized and died of tuberculosis and malnutrition in London.


  1. Bell, R. H. (1998). Simone Weil. New York: Rowan & Littlefield.
  2. Du Plessix Gray, F. (2001). Simone Weil. New York: Viking.
  3. Weil, S. (1951). Waiting for God. New York: Harper Perennial.
  4. Weil, S. (1952). L’Enracinement: The need for roots: Prelude to a declaration of duties toward mankind. London: Routledge.

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