A Study of Character
Simone Weil’s Psychological and Ethical Attention
Keywords:Virtue ethics, Moral psychology, Simon Weil, Theological anthropology
In the later, ethically oriented writings of the philosopher Simone Weil, she develops her concept of attention. This involves using the body to train the mind and thus the soul, into an open, receptive state. This state is the first condition for any ethical action to take place. This article explores how Weil’s account of attention can provide a new perspective in philosophical and theological engagement with psychology, first in terms of moral psychology and virtue ethics, and second in statements on the malleability or plasticity of human nature. As Weil sees that human nature’s stress on activity tends to lead to suffering rather than ethical action, she proposes not ethical action per se, but an ethical attitude of attention instead. Habit-formation and character development can thus be approached differently as cultivating a state of openness rather than of particular virtues. This article will therefore explore the relationship of theology and psychology in terms of human nature as irremediably situated but also psychologically receptive for restoration.
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