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The Dope on Weil – since 1995

I launched this Simone Weil site in December of 1995. To mark my Fifth Anniversary on the web I've written a "gonzo" rumination on smoking dope, the nature of philosophy and a brief review of Simone Weil, On Politics, Religion and Society.

My first and last course in philosophy was "Philosophy 101: An Introduction to Plato." The professor began his first discussion of Plato's dialogues like this:

"What I would like to say – but I can't say that – so what I will say – or rather what I should say – if I could say what I mean, is that we can't say anything."

I couldn't actually drop out. It was a required course. However, I could virtually drop out by taking what we then called ESL. ESL stands for "English as a second language" and means, in this context, smoking so much dope that you can no longer comprehend your native tongue. If the professor was going to make it his business not to say anything, I was going my to make it my business not to listen. So philosophy was just me reading Plato's dialogues, and soon me reading Nietzsche's aphorisms. Then, years later, philosophy was me reading Weil's notebooks, letters, essays and books.

One afternoon in the campus bookstore I met an acquaintance I hadn't seen since high school who told me he was a philosophy major.

I said, "Oh, I love philosophy. I've read nearly all of Nietzsche's books."

He responded, "Nietzsche was not a philosopher."

"Uh, why do you say that?"

"He doesn't talk about the impossibility of talking about time … about the falseness of language, about how we can't say what we mean to say, and can't mean what we say."

I sighed and silently thanked the pot-head who taught me ESL.

Professors arguing in Plato's Cave

Professors standing in the dark of Plato's cave and arguing by artificial light.

Etching is Saenredam after Cornelis Corneilisz, The Cave of Plato, Engraving, 1604

© Brian Thomas, 2009
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