Institute for the History of Concepts and Ideas
Éric Weil was born in 1904 in the town of Parchim within the present German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. He studied medicine and philosophy in both Hamburg and Berlin before writing his doctoral dissertation on the Italian Renaissance philosopher Pietro Pompanazzi under the direction of Ernst Cassirer, which he defended in 1928. Following his doctoral studies, Weil continued his research in Renaissance philosophy, notably studying Neoplatonist philosopher Marsilio Ficino while working at the Aby Warburg Library in Hamburg. When Hitler rose to power in 1933, Weil fled Germany and settled in Paris. Once in France, Weil became a regular contributor to Alexandre Koyré’s journal Recherche Philosophiques and regularly attended Alexandre Kojève’s famous seminar on Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit. During this time, he completed a graduate thesis on Giovanni Pico della Mirandola at the École Pratique des Hautes Études directed by Alexandre Koyré. In 1938, Weil became a French citizen and enlisted in the French Army under the false name Henri Dubois to fight in the Second World War. In June 1940, Weil was taken prisoner and would spend nearly five years in a camp as a prisoner of war.
Following his release from captivity, Weil became part of the initial editorial team at Georges Bataille’s new journal Critique, a journal in which he would also go on to author numerous articles. During this same period, Weil wrote his seminal work on “first philosophy,” Logique de la philosophy (1950) [English translation: Logic of Philosophy (forthcoming 2022)], followed by Philosophie politique (1956), Philosophie morale (1961). He additionally published numerous essays and conference papers concerning first philosophy, praxis, the philosophy of history, the history of philosophy, and a variety of other themes. Many of these writings are found in the collections Hegel et l’état (1950) [English translation, Hegel and the State (1998)], Problèmes kantiens (1963), Essais et conférences (1970), etc.
Éric Weil taught philosophy as a member of the Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences (Faculté des Lettres) at the University of Lille from 1956 to 1968 before moving to the University of Nice from 1968 until his retirement in 1974. Eric Weil died on 1 February 1977 in Nice.