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Weil, Simone. The Need for Roots: Prelude to a Declaration of Duties Towards Mankind
1952, New York: Routledge
Added by: Deryn Mair Thomas
Publisher’s Note:

In The Need for Roots, her most famous book, Weil reflects on the importance of religious and political social structures in the life of the individual. She wrote that one of the basic obligations we have as human beings is to not let another suffer from hunger. Equally as important, however, is our duty towards our community: we may have declared various human rights, but we have overlooked the obligations and this has left us self-righteous and rootless. Published posthumously, The Need for Roots was a direct result of Weil's collaboration with Charles De Gaulle, where Weil set out to address the past and to propose a road map for the future of France after World War II. She painstakingly analyzes the spiritual and ethical milieu that led to France's defeat by the German army, and then addresses these issues with the prospect of eventual French victory.

Comment: This text offers a unique and original analysis of the duty to uphold community, and the bearing of community on the life of the individual. As with much of Weil's writing, the series of essays constitute a distinct contribution to the philosophical literature, in part, because they showcase a somewhat idiosyncratic style of philosophical methodology that was unique to Weil - a blend of continental style, treating philosophy as poetic prose, and analytic method, laying out an argument in sequential premises which lead the reader towards a conclusion. As such, it might constitute an interesting contribution to a course on political philosophy, by offering an alternative approach outside of 20th century canon to examining basic human rights and collective obligations. In addition, it could also be used as supplemental text in courses examines alternative philosophical methodologies, especially in political philosophy (for example, it could be paired with work by Hannah Arendt) or underexplored women of 20th century western philosophy.

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