The Examined Year: 2020

Sunday, December 27, 2020

What Is It

  • The Year in Pandemic Ethics with Karen Stohr from Georgetown University, Senior Research Scholar at the Kennedy Institute of Ethics and author of a coronavirus ethics column for The Washingtonian magazine.
  • The Year in Misinformation and Conspiracy Theories with Tamsin Shaw from New York University, author of Nietzsche’s Political Skepticism.
  • The Year in Virtual Learning and Communication with Iris Berent from Northeastern University, author of The Blind Storyteller: How We Reason about Human Nature.

Plus poetry from this year's recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Louise Glück (read by Director of Research Laura Maguire).

Comments (1)


Tim Smith's picture

Tim Smith

Saturday, December 26, 2020 -- 6:01 PM

If we are trying to find our

If we are trying to find our way back to Ithaca... I'm not sure we will get there or if rationalization was there in the first place.

Environmental change driven by anthropocentric economics has pushed the frequency of pandemics for sure. If root cause is needed (and it isn't) find it there. The social changes crashing around SARS CoV2 are not caused by the virus.

I second Iris' concern that the attack on dualism is leaving people without identity politics to fall back on. The inequities rooted in the 1960's (free love) and realized in the 70's (when US life expectancy diverged) thru the 80's and onward ... the philosophical call to ethics and public health have been under assault for a long time.

What concerns me most is the same as 9/11 - when wise people warned of over reach and scapegoating. Where the Saudi family and Japanese paid for the initial gulf war... 9/11 opened the public dole to occupy Iraq and Afghanistan. Follow the money.

Now with CoVid - the relief package for the neediest is corrupted to underwrite non essential infrastructure some of which will not be needed once recovery is in place. The deficits will not be righted in our children's children's lifetimes. I understand the need for relief but have no faith in the government to spend wisely.

This is what it was like in late antiquity perhaps. Science is the modern saving grace?... hardly. It would seem just when scientific and economic truth is most needed the community turns wholesale in on CoVid abandoning peer review or proper trials or judgment. Don't wear a mask, wear a mask, now data says this now that. Yes... science has always been this way ... but never this fast or hasty. Never have pre-print communication protocols dominated biology and turned public health on it's head. What is good for physics is not good for biology.

Physicalism is here to stay. Dualism is dead. Let's openly call out this change before resurrections become plausible. Whether qualia is explained in the folk psychology, identity politics will rule the next decade. Let philosophers bone up on the science and economy now. We will need a foundation to build upon.

Tamsin's political reversal is needed, but it didn't really happen. The rural vote got redder and the blue vote is frayed. This is a crisis that transcends ethics and conspiracy. Let's make each day philosophically germane... that is the clarion call of 2020. Fasten you seat belts or exercise your identity by not fastening them. There is a big 'P' Philosophical road less travelled. Let's choose that one. I look forward to a 2030 year in review ... void of this virus, the social contagion that goes along with it and hopefully a path from the very real darkness on the 2020 horizon.