Date of Award

1-1-2008

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Philosophy

First Advisor

Steinbock, Anthony

Abstract

My dissertation, "Voiding Distraction: Simone Weil and the Religio-Ethics of Attention," was motivated by my recognition of our contemporary culture of distractedness, which I thought was largely enabled by our idolization of technology and the attendant media delivered to the masses. Through examining Simone Weil's writings on attention, I came to realize that our distractedness could not be divorced from a fundamental misunderstanding of attention as well. A Weilienne conception reveals that attention is not just an intellectual capacity to be analyzed only in frameworks of psychology, sociology, or neurology, and something simply threatened by competing stimuli, but it is an ethical issue at base. Under this revision, to be attentive is to empty the self of attachments, expectations, and any self-satisfying consolations that preclude openness, patience, and humility. The resultant ethic is an asymmetrical one, involving an orientation to an impersonal order of love, justice, and self-renunciation--what Weil calls a "supernatural" orientation--that transcends the relative, personal, and "natural" ethics of competing rights, benefits, and duties, usually writ in the language of the marketplace. This radical ethic is inherently pedagogical, too, as an orientation that is the exemplification and socialization of a quest for truth characterized by humility. Therefore an effective antidote to a distracted culture will be found in coming to terms with this revised notion of attention through the impersonal exemplarity of it.

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