Category Archives: Henry Le Roy Finch

A false individualism

The connection between [Weil and Heidegger] can be seen in what Heidegger calls the “subjectivism” of modern philosophy (which cuts people off from each other and from the world and Presence and confines them in a metaphysical privacy) and what Simone Weil calls “personalism” (which reduces the human being entirely to the dimensions of the I and we, the psychological and the social, not recognizing anything about them that belongs to the superpersonal). The modern oppression of the individual by the social (found in both Communist and non-Communist states) and the metaphysical humanism of scientism and technocracy, while they may appear to have nothing in common, actually contain the same element, a false individualism that produces the lonely, locked-away solitary ego, a ready victim for the exploitations and manipulations of mob consciousness. This is the nationalistic or ideological man whose normal and sane intelligence has been smothered by commercial and political indoctrination. For both Heidegger and Weil, this is the closed private individualism of modern philosophy, the counterpart of the world of scientific and technological objects. The absolute privacy of the Cartesian thinking is the horror of the modern human self.

In answer to this, Heidegger finds the essence of the human being in an openness to Being as Presence, an openness receptive to all its self-revealings and self-concealings, while Simone Weil finds a supernatural element in every human soul, which is the basis for all justice, the universal expectation that good will be done to us.

—  Henry Le Roy Finch, Simone Weil and the Intellect of Grace


Heidegger’s conception of science and technology is concerned with the fundamental attitude toward the world that they embody and that they have translated into the actualities of modern life all over the earth. This attitude may be described as that of traditional humanism and metaphysics, which has developed in the Western world from the time of the Greeks and which has now achieved worldwide acceptance. It is the attitude that attempts to know the world, to penetrate it fully and to seize control of it.

Heidegger notes the enormous success of this point of view. Science and technology are the success story of world history, perhaps its only one. They have triumphed beyond anyone’s wildest dreams, fathomed the secrets of the natural world, and accomplished what metaphysics envisages and rationalizes. For Heidegger they are not a chapter within the history of metaphysics; they are the essence of metaphysics, its complete fulfillment. They show what the “reality” they represent really is, namely, to be no more than what they can grasp. Science puts an end to metaphysics by fully realizing it in theory and practice. In science metaphysics has achieved its own conception and thereby brings itself to an end. In this it is seen to have been something different all along from what it supposed itself to be, to have been part of a different and much larger story.

The moment of the end of metaphysics is the moment at which it reveals what it always was, in a context that until now was hidden from us. We see simultaneously what the essence of science and technology, and therefore metaphysics, is and how this relates to the still larger history of self-revelation that includes it. This essence of science and technology as representation of the world Heidegger calls Gestell, or “enframing.” This coined word has both the connotation of a “scaffolding” used in a construction and the slang meaning of a “frame-up” or something “rigged” to produce a predetermined result. Science “rigs” its results by framing only questions that elicit a certain kind of answer. This is not full, open, free thinking, only calculation where the question “forces” the answer.

— Henry Le Roy Finch, Simone Weil and the Intellect of Grace


Never has the individual been so completely delivered up to a blind collectivity, and never have men been less capable, not only of subordinating their actions to their thoughts, but even of thinking. Such terms as oppressors and oppressed, the idea of classes—all that sort of thing is near to losing all meaning, so obvious are the impotence and distress of all men in face of the social machine, which has become a machine for breaking hearts and crushing spirits, a machine for manufacturing irresponsibility, stupidity, corruption, slackness and, above all, dizziness. The reason for this painful state of affairs is perfectly clear. We are living in a world in which nothing is made to man’s measure; there exists a monstrous discrepancy between man’s body, man’s mind and the things which at the present time constitute the elements of human existence; everything is in disequilibrium.

— Simone Weil, ‘Oppression and Liberty’ (quoted in Henry Le Roy Finch, Simone Weil and the Intellect of Grace)