Any crisis can bring about a paradigm shift in your thinking and hopefully broaden your thinking. If it opens up your thinking, you are receptive to more ways of seeing things. If you are too scared, it may cause you to close up and your thinking can become quite narrow and defensive. (Maria daVenza Tillmanns, Philosophy Instructor).
To philosophize in pandemic times – the context
It’s 2020 and suddenly the world woke up to a pandemic [state of mind]. It all started in 2019 when China shared with the world that a new corona virus was active in the country. Soon the virus spread all over the world: on march 12th, WHO declared a state of pandemic.
Many countries, like Portugal, declared a state of emergency and closed schools, shops and all non-essential services. Like me, in many parts of the world, there are people who do not leave home except to purchase food or medicine.
WHO started by advising social distancing, but recently the expression was changed to physical distancing. We are trying to stop this virus by staying at home, avoiding crowds, using digital media to communicate with family, friends and strangers.
“We should think of this time as ‘physical distancing’ to emphasize that we can remain socially connected even while being apart.”
Because social media and other digital media, like e-mails, are an excellent way to keep us close, I thought it would be interesting to ask philosophers to think about this pandemic context we’re living. I wrote some questions that intrigued me, reached out to ICPIC and Sophia Network members and used a google form to collect the answers. I will be sharing this collaborative work here at my blog. This is the first article.
A disclaimer: this is an EN & PT article. Also, I’m not used to write long articles in english, so forgive me if you find some errors (I ask you to help me and to tell me where are the errors, by writing me an e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org)
Is living a pandemic very different from thinking about the pandemic?
Jason Buckley (philosophy for children writer and trainer) says YES:
Living in it almost necessarily involves a strong affective element. As philosophers we tend to privilege reason, calculation, clarity, objectivity, all of which are difficult to attain when one is enmeshed in such a situation.
Grace Lockrobin, Founder and MD, Thinking Space, talks about “how philosophical thinking sometimes requires our distance from a subject. But I’m not quite sure how to spell out this metaphor… Distance in time? Distance in space? Distance from the professional responsibility to sort things out? From personal risk to health? From financial ruin? Or emotional toll?”
Are you ready to think about the pandemic? “I suspect I am still in shock about the pandemic, but thinking will inevitably follow. As I acclimatise, this sense of having been close, having lived through it, will help me to think more clearly and productively about pandemics than I wold have been capable of before all of this happened. I already glimpse how this might also change my thinking about community, society and the future too.”
Roger Sutcliffe (Philosophical teacher-and-learner) reminds us of an english saying: “Yes, but of course that is true of all words and thoughts. The saying in English is ‘Easier said than done’.”
Living a pandemic can strongly influence your thinking – in both good and not good ways. Thinking about the pandemic during non-pandemic times is abstract and not directly related to the situation at hand. Of course, this is all very different for health care workers. Any crisis can bring about a paradigm shift in your thinking and hopefully broaden your thinking. If it opens up your thinking, you are receptive to more ways of seeing things. If you are too scared, it may cause you to close up and your thinking can become quite narrow and defensive. (Maria daVenza Tillmanns, Philosophy Instructor).
Of course! But there is, of course, an important relationship between them. The test of the philosopher is the extent to which their thinking accords with reality when reality bites. Unless they are Parmenides or Plato (given that what we think is reality biting is really just appearance). (Peter Worley, Author, co-CEO & co-founder of The Philosophy Foundation and Visiting Research Associate, King’s College London)
O Professor Jose Barrientos Rastrojo assume:
Eu nunca tinha pensado numa pandemia na minha vida; portanto é complicado responder. No entanto, a vivência duma pandemia tem diferentes formas de ser vivida, desde a angústia até à possibilidade de ter, por fim, tempo para fazer coisas em casa ou na nossa vida. Acho que diferenciar entre viver e pensar é muito pobre porque há pensamentos que são muito vividos e pensamentos que são muito mortos. Aliás, há vidas muito vividas e vidas muito mortas. Em termos gerais, suponho que a pandemia vivida dá mais possibilidades de fazer uma experiência com ela do que com o pensamento. No entanto há “experiências do pensamento” mais significativas que as experiências.
I agree with Barrientos Rastrojo: I never really thought about living a pandemic state like this. Yes, I read about the spanish flu and even started to watch netflix’s documentary Pandemic. But only somewhere in February I started to think that #Covid19 was flying all around the world and that our lives would have to be lived in a different way: like we are now, isolated in our homes, avoiding human contact with others, having a lot of restrictions to go outside.
Walter Kohan (a Vélez Sarsfield’s fan, and also one of the philosophy for children investigators that I truly admire), answered with a YES: “Sim, é a diferença entre viver e pensar, que é uma parte (pequena) do viver.”
Yes, it is completely different. As we all know, to think something is not the same to live something so this time we experience this pandemic globally and that”s not the thing we imagine before. (Nimet KUCUK, Philosophy Teacher who has a phD degree).
Gregor Michael, a Student History Teacher, Moray House (University of Edinburgh) brings back the past to life:
I have the unique experience, for the first time in my lifetime, of being alive and present during a seismic global event. As a student teacher of history I am becoming more familiar with the challenge of bringing the past to life, of providing lessons in which pupils can interact with otherwise established historical facts.
Now I find myself being one of millions thrust into disorder, chaos, by this natural phenomenon. The biggest surprise is, given the expanse of human history, how ill prepared we were, both materially and psychologically, for the certain return of what had come before, many many times. Just over a hundred years ago the so-called Spanish Flu killed millions, adversely effecting young people the most. Yet compared with the bravura narrative of the First World War it is but a footnote in history, despite statistically being the bigger killer.
If you want to enjoy some time to learn philosophy, here’a a suggestion:
— Open Culture (@openculture) March 27, 2020
I would like to thank everybody that answered my questions. This is only the first article, I will write others real soon. The questions around Philosophy for Children will be published on filocriatiVIDAde’s blog.
(*) thanks to Ethics in Bricks for the image!
(**) please use google translate to help you, if you need help translating!