The middle voice in Eckhart and modern continental philosophy

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The recurring narrative of the relinquishment of human will animates the spiritual discourses of almost every mystical tradition. But contemporary discussions of spirituality gravitate towards exasperation when acknowledging the radical impotence of human agents, while much modern philosophy has found itself unable to think beyond the aporia of freedom and determinism. The ability to mediate between total subjective autonomy and radical dissolution in God is vital if we are to avoid the dualism that Meister Eckhart subverts with his conception of detachment (Gelassenheit). Heidegger takes up the terminology of Eckhart here, but provides a more philosophically astute sense of releasement. This article argues that both Heidegger and Eckhart draw upon the middle voice, an ancient linguistic mode that places agency between activity and passivity. By uncovering traces of the middle voice, I propose that philosophy and theology bear with a grammatical cleavage that constitutes our experience of the world.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-46
Number of pages19
JournalMedieval Mystical Theology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • Meister Eckhart
  • Heidegger
  • middle voice
  • Derrida
  • Ricoeur


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