This essay introduces the second installment of a symposium in Common Knowledge called “Apology for Quietism.” This introductory piece concerns the sociology of quietism and why, given the supposed quietude of quietists, there is such a thing at all. Dealing first with the “activist” Susan Sontag's attraction to the “quietist” Simone Weil, it then concentrates on the “activist” William Empson's attraction to the Buddha and to Buddhist quietism, with special reference to Empson's lost manuscript Asymmetry in Buddha Faces (and to Sharon Cameron's work on the topic in her book Impersonality). The author, who is also editor of the journal, argues against the effort of some contributors to substitute new terms for quietism and emphasizes instead what he calls (quoting Sontag) “the need for repose.”

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