Simone weil essay on iliad

Holoka ed. Where there is no room for reflection, there is none either for justice or prudence. For her, the poem is a "flawless mirror" of force, conveying to its readers the fate to which all are subject.

Force employed by man, force that enslaves man, force before which man's flesh shrinks away.

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In a brief introduction, it is contextualized as a response to a defining catastrophe of the then contemporary world. Hence we see men in arms behaving harshly and madly.

Simone weil essay on iliad

Weil says only by using force in moderation can one escape its ill effects, but that the restraint to do this is very rarely found, and is only a means of temporary escape from force's inevitable heft. We are given a French text drawn from a recent scholarly edition, to which we can compare the new, studiously faithful translation that is also provided the earlier, somewhat freer translation having been guaranteed simply by the credentials of its author, Mary McCarthy ; in addition, the text is elucidated through an introduction and a commentary. These men, wielding power, have no suspicion of the fact that the consequences of their deeds will at length come home to them - they too will bow the neck in their turn. At the end of the first day of combat described in the Iliad, the victorious Greeks were in a position to obtain the object of all their efforts, i. The Occident, however, has lost it, and no longer even has a word to express it in any of its languages: conceptions of limit, measure, equilibrium, which ought to determine the conduct of life are, in the West, restricted to a servile function in the vocabulary of technics. Where there is no room for reflection, there is none either for justice or prudence. Bryn Mawr Classical Review

And at this point they exceed the measure of the force that is actually at their disposal. It is not surprising that this dimension of the Iliad was invisible to Weil, who believed that suffering is inherently ennobling and sought it for herself when she did not have to -- and is perhaps more readily apparent to those who lead the quieter, safer lives of scholars.

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Weil, a philosopher, social activist, Marxist, and ascetic, admired the Iliad for its honesty in treating the realities of war, its foregrounding of love in different relationships, and the equity that it shows in its treatment of the two opposing sides in the Trojan War. Notes and references[ edit ] "War and the Iliad". There Weil's essay, which began its life in English in the November issue of Politics, is offered as an aid to spiritual meditation in a tradition of pacifism. Killing in battle may be recognized as brutal and dangerously heady, but it is also an artform and an exhilarating achievement. The Pendle Hill pamphlet conveys a degree of certainty about what this essay is good for that is less evident in a scholarly edition produced after a greater lapse of time. The man who is the possessor of force seems to walk through a non-resistant element; in the human substance that surrounds him nothing has the power to interpose, between the impulse and the act, the tiny interval that is reflection. For the poem's characters, clear-sightedness about the costs of war does not preclude investment in its promise of immortal fame. ISBN

Weil introduces the central theme of her essay in the first three sentences: "The true hero, the true subject, the centre of the Iliad, is force.

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Simone Weil’s Iliad: Misunderstanding Homer?