Medio-Passivity, Metaxy, and Attention


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    Thomas Sojer

    A question that unites both Simone Kotva and Hartmut Rosa is how to speak of and how to think of passivity. Both emphasise in their talks the “passive mode of (Weilian) attention” as *addition* to autonomy – as (Rosian) resonance cannot be apprehended within a theory of autonomy (Kotva) – or medio-passivity as characterisitcs of transforming resonace experiences (Rosa). In the context of Simone Weil, here, we touch the Hindu theory of action she encounters while studying the Bhagavad-gītā and the Upanishads. Here, we find karma (action) and akarma (non-action), to “be free from the bondage of action” ( Gita, 4 . 16 ). Yet, as both Kotva and Rosa outlined, we cannot think both poles (action and non-action) as dualism or even a dialectical opposition but a way of being, or as Kotva puts it: being ‘passively active’. Kotva speaks of “modulation of action by passivity towards dispositional (habitual) resonance”, and Rosa of “mutual transformation by the primacy of the relationship”/”the in-between”. This corresponds with Weil’s application of the Platonist metaxy to the Upanishads. What is she doing here? In the Lectures on Philosophy Anne Reynaud-Guérithault writes that her teacher Simone Weil explaining to the young women in the girls’ lycée at Roanne that “Toute pensée impliqe une liaison, et c’est toujours le « je » qui opère la liaison”. And this liason is by its nature metaxial that means there is a primacy of relational ontology defining being itself as self-world-relationship. This fundamental self-world-relationship needs a ‘home’ and this ‘home’ is the ‘I’ that ‘acts out’ (opérer) this relationality albeit in the passive mode of attention. This protection of the ‘I’ is suprising if one thinks about Weil’s passages on décréation and the nihilation of the ‘I’. Yet, such a one sided perspective of décrétion as destroying the ‘I’ misses the other side of Weil thinking décréation, namely “le pouvoir de dire je” – that has to be protected at any cost. In this way, building on Kotva and Rosa, we could specify décréation not as nihilation but as the cultivation of the passive mode of attention – that is ‘learing to die’. Here, it is very promosing to think attention as a special form of resonance – resonance that in terms of self-efficacy protects “le pouvoir de dire je” as well as empties the self by being transformed within a state of medio-passivity, and this m e d i o – passivity, we can call m e t a x y – attentivness that transcends autonomy (and subjectivity) and, as Kotva puts it, adds to autonomy.

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