Self-Purification and Social Dramatization; from Simone Weil to Martin Luther King Jr.

Theodosiadis, Michail. 2023. Self-Purification and Social Dramatization; from Simone Weil to Martin Luther King Jr. Religions, 14(4), 541. ISSN 2077-1444 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

This article begins with an analysis of Simone Weil’s notion of “impersonality”, which implies disengagement from earthly attachments, deep introspection, and connection with an “anonymous” God, that is, with an imagined spiritual force of purity, located beyond the observable secular world. “Impersonality” encourages purification (or catharsis) from frantic passions (excited by such attachments); it inspires love, which Weil associates with respect and selfless devotion to social justice. My goal is to identify a shared set of similarities between Weil and Martin Luther King Jr. on the issue of individual catharsis, acknowledging also important divergences. King—contra Weil—claimed that rejection of frantic passions is incited through connection with a “personal” (rather than “anonymous”) God, with a high moral power, which responds to individual prayers and leads men and women into the path of love. Like Weil, King associated love with mutual respect and social justice. Both Weil and King believed that individual catharsis should lead to civil disobedience, whose ultimate objective is collective catharsis, that is, the abandonment of deeply rooted attitudes and beliefs (on behalf of a collectivity) that (sometimes unknowingly) perpetuate injustices, causing great suffering. By reflecting on the viewpoints offered by these thinkers, the present study will attempt to shed light on the process by which collective catharsis shifts public attitudes. The aim of civil disobedience, I will explain, is to dramatize social evils (such as racism and social exclusion), making large portions of a society aware of their passive reproduction of attitudes that contribute to the perpetuation of such unjust practices.

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Simone Weil; Martin Luther King Jr.; impersonality; personalism; ancient drama; Homer; Euripides

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13 April 2023Accepted
17 April 2023Published

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Date Deposited:

02 May 2023 15:28

Last Modified:

02 May 2023 15:28

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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