In Praise of Weakness

By Alexandre Jolien

Jollien (Le Metier D’homme), a French philosopher and winner of the Prix Mottart for Literature, uses a dialogue between Socrates and himself to explore his struggles with his disability (he was born with cerebral palsy), his discovery of philosophy, and his relationship to weakness. Weakness is not necessarily a negative characteristic, he writes: it is a quality in one’s life to be wrestled with and to supersede. By bringing the critical inquiry of the philosophical method to his disability as weakness, Jollien was able to redefine what happiness and joy could mean. Jollien opts for a life lived through shared suffering, collaboration, and friendship.

Through the intimate sharing of weakness, he found that “weakness… was in search of a path to surpass itself.” Knowing one’s possibilities and weaknesses and facing one’s reality is wisdom, he says. This process of embracing weakness and deepening wisdom in turn creates an environment in which greatness and gifts of presence are revealed. Though his Socrates seems to have forgotten his fondness for irony, Jollien’s dialogue is an inspiring work that asks readers to challenge their own preconceptions about disability, ability, normality, and abnormality.