Simone Weil and a Critical Will to Serve

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This chapter sets the ethical philosophy of Simone Weil (1909–43) alongside her political activism and decision to work in the Renault automobile factories in order to arrive at a critical ethics of the will to serve. The union of thought and action, word and deed, became for Weil an enacted will of service. This chapter extends two aspects of her wider ethical philosophy in order to think about the questions of this volume. The first is her contrast between two forms of service offered to two differing gods. In service to the false god—and here she means servile action to societies of domination and authoritarianism—evil is purified (sterilized), thereby eliminating the horror of its presence. Nothing appears as evil to those servile to the beast except failure to the beast’s service. By contrast, service to the true god is marked by the very remainder and intensification of evil. Service to the true god allows for evil to horrify us. Second, her understanding of god, which, it must be stressed, is an eclectic mystical concept informed by varying strands of Platonism, Jewish Kabbalah, eastern religions, and the Christian mystical tradition, is significant. God, for Weil, is conceived as utter fullness. Nothing, therefore, could exist where god was owing to god’s perfection. Creation was thus an act of self-delimitation—or god’s withdrawing. And yet, as Weil contends, we are god in our ethical becoming. All error, suffering, and unhappiness stem from forgetting this. Weil refers to the process of ethical becoming as “creative attention.” Creative attention is an individual’s just and loving gaze directed toward specific situations in need of love and transformation. “Love needs a reality.” In so doing, we become god where god is not, thereby uniting creation to god. The essay concludes with a programmatic sketch of a critical will to serve referred to here as ethical awareness.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationServant Leadership, Social Entrepreneurship and the Will to Serve
Subtitle of host publicationSpiritual Foundations and Business Applications
PublisherSpringer International Publishing
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9783030299361
ISBN (Print)9783030299354
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Economics, Econometrics and Finance
  • General Business, Management and Accounting


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