Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

Coronavirus! The Movie

Yes, of course there’ll be a Covid-19 movie, as soon as they can find a film crew not in self-isolation, but meantime, how are you enjoying the crisis?  Is it permitted to even ask the question? Our whole world has been turned upside down, you or someone you love may die prematurely, when it’s over we’re all going to be a lot poorer. So how is it you feel more intensely alive than you have done in years?Because suddenly we’re living in a drama. By which I mean one of those stories we watch on Netflix, or in the cinema. Our life now comes with what we in the screenwriting business call inciting incidents, character arcs, plot beats and climaxes. We track the unfolding story agog, not knowing what tomorrow will bring, and that alone delivers a buzz of excitement to life. Add to that a very real dread as we contemplate the collapse of our safe world, and the stakes get high indeed. We all know how different it is when you’re ‘inside the story’, when you watch a drama about something [More]

Beyond catastrophe

I'm okay, if I don't look a little closer I'm okay if I don't see beyond the shoreThe Indigo Girls, Perfect WorldBuddhist philosophy tells us nothing about virology, public health, or how to treat respiratory illness. But it may have something to teach us about what we can learn from a pandemic, how we might best contribute to the lives of others in the context of a pandemic, and how we might develop in insight and moral sensitivity by reflecting on the pandemic and on our place in the world in which it unfolds.The first of the four noble truths, the one that constitutes the foundation of all Buddhist thought and practice is that of the ubiquity of suffering. Many people, when they first hear this, regard Buddhism as at best pessimistic, and at worst, a denial of the reality that the world is full of goodness and beauty.  This is because we often think of suffering simply in terms of our own present pain or distress,  as that suffering of which we are immediately aware.  This is a [More]

Science in the time of coronavirus

If it does nothing else, the Covid-19 pandemic provides an opportunity for some sober reflection on the tension between scientific reasoning and human irrationality. The self-enforced lockdown in the UK is a response to a global crisis that threatens to overwhelm an already fragile health service, inflict a death toll unprecedented in my lifetime (I’m 63), and do untold economic harm.Yet despite clear warnings of the risks of contagion and the need to maintain social distance, we’ve been confronted with scenes of crowds gathering at Britain’s beaches and tourist spots in the warm spring sunshine, or crammed together on rush-hour tube trains. What were they thinking?Actually, irrational behaviour is not so difficult to understand. The simple truth is that we have created for ourselves a world that is far more complex than any individual human mind can ever hope to fathom. We have invented extraordinary social structures to help us earn a living, care for us, protect us from harm, and [More]