The Medial Age or the Present in the Middle Voice
This paper proposes the middle voice as a hermeneutic key to understand ourselves and our endeavors in today's world, and it argues that our time could be called the "Medial Age". The balloonists Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones realized Jules Verne's vision with their non-stop balloon flight around the world–-but with a medial twist. The positivist and active stance of a Jules Verne has yielded to a middle-voiced understanding. As Piccard says, the only way to steer a balloon is to change the altitude by jettisoning ballast to find favorable currents. The notion of progressing by letting go within an environment that escapes our total control is the essence of this proposal. Based on Hans-Georg Gadamer and Émile Benveniste, I develop the middle voice as a way to understand by standing under. Instead of the active "go-getter" attitude that seeks to possess and master the world or the passive view that sees itself determined in everything it does, the middle-voiced or medial disposition is aware that no matter what it undertakes, it is part of an encompassing process. Leaving behind the active/passive and subject/object oppositions, it focuses on the subject and the verb. The force of the middle voice is that it ushers in a way of thinking that places the subject within his or her actions. The subject partakes in and of whatever he or she does, like the balloonist who steers while being carried by wind currents. The middle voice is an innovative way to understand the present-day Western mindset, which unlike Modernity has a growing awareness that the expression "the sky is the limit" is about being encompassed by one's own actions and not about boundless activity.
Keywords: Hermeneutics, Gadamer, Middle voice, Mediality, Postmodernity, Understanding
Dr. Philippe Eberhard
William Paterson University, NJ