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The subversive philosophy of Simone Weil

Her family called her Antigone, her classmates “the categorical imperative in skirts”—but Simone Weil was a profoundly influential thinker

By Max Norman  
Simone Weil's passcard when she worked for the Resistance during the Nazi occupation. Credit: Alamy

Simone Weil's passcard when she worked for the Resistance during the Nazi occupation. Credit: Alamy

The French philosopher Simone Weil (1909-1943) had a precocious gift for sympathy—and more than a hint of masochism. She sought out the darkness to escape the comfortable bourgeois life—the very model of assimilated Third Republic French-Jewish success—into which she was born. When she was ten years old, in 1919, she disappeared from her Paris apartment only to be found marching down the Boulevard Saint Michel with striking workers, singing The Internationale. On holiday before her last year at the École Normale Superièure—where she would graduate first in her cohort, ahead of Simone de Beauvoir—she toiled on a fishing trawler…

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