judge science on how well it connects us to our inner self as well as to our outer shell. - Passing Notes
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Cave Glossary


"Grace [in terms of Plato's Cave read the true light coming from outside the cave] fills empty spaces, but it can only enter where there is a void to receive it. We must continually suspend the work of the imagination in filling the void within ourselves."


"Introspection is a psychological state incompatible with other states.

"1. Thinking about things of the world precludes introspection.

"2. Very strong emotion precludes introspection.

"3. All actions which require attention preclude introspection.

"To sum up, thought, action and emotion exclude examination of oneself.

"[therefore] introspection results in one's taking notice, for the most part, of what is passive in human thought. By the very fact that one keeps a watch on oneself, one changes: and the change is for the worse since we prevent that which is of greatest value in us from playing its part."
– Lectures on Philosophy


Weil lamented that education had become no more than "an instrument manipulated by teachers for manufacturing more teachers, who in their turn will manufacture more teachers." rather than a guide to getting out of the cave.

not due to a lack of intelligence

"The difference between more or less intelligent men is like the difference between criminals condemned to life imprisonment in smaller or larger cells. The intelligent man who is proud of his intelligence is like a condemned man who is proud of his large cell.

"... All that matters is that he has come to the end of its intelligence, such as it was, and has passed beyond it. A village idiot is as close to truth as a child prodigy. ..."
- Human Personality

excerpts as noted from GRAVITY AND GRACE by Simone Weil, New York, G. P. Putnam & Sons, 1952. edited and arranged by Gustave Tibon, translated by Emma Craufurd

French © Libraire Plon 1947
English © G.P.Putnam's & Sons 1956
All Rights Reserved

"Human Personality" is one of Weil's most challenging and moving essays. It is included in both of these volumes:

UTOPIAN PESSIMIST - The Life and Thought of Simone Weil by David McClellan, Poseidon Press: NY, 1990

Weil, Simone, SIMONE WEIL, AND ANTHOLOGY, edited and Introduced by Sîan Miles, Virago Press, London, 1986

© Brian Thomas, 2009
All Rights Reserved

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diagram of Plato's Cave

Allegory of the Cave

[excerpted from LECTURES ON PHILOSOPHY by Simone Weil based on notes taken by Anne Reynaud-Guérithault when Weil's pupil in a French girls' school 1933-34.

In the second line Weil talks about the fetters or chains of the imagination. Our society worships imagination. We are not used to thinking of it as our prison. To help you understand what Weil means when she gives a word a different meaning than we are used to, the word is set in red and defined to the left by a key passage from Weil's writings.]

The cave is the world

The fetters are the imagination

The shadows of ourselves are the passive states which we know by introspection.

The learned in the cave are those who possess empirical forms of knowledge (who know how to make predictions, the doctors who know how to cure people by using empirical methods, those who know what is going on, etc.). Their knowledge is nothing but a shadow.

Education, he says, is, according to the generally accepted view of it, nothing but the forcing of thoughts into the minds of children. For, says Plato, each person has within himself the ability to think. If one does not understand, this is because one is held by the fetters. Whenever the soul is bound by the fetters of suffering, pleasure, etc. it is unable to contemplate through its own intelligence the unchanging patterns of things.

No doubt, there are mathematicians in the cave, but their attention is given to honors, rivalries, competition, etc.

If anyone is not able to understand the unchanging patterns of things, that is not due to a lack of intelligence; it is due to a lack of moral stamina.

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