From Ancient Stoic philosophers to Confucius, they have one thing in common. They arose when the gloom in the social and political domains of individuals’ life required mitigation. The general public requested a new direction of thought to overcome the psyche crisis. A philosopher’s duty becomes crucial in such times, i.e., rewiring people’s perceptions regarding the situation.
Let’s Understand this: Philosophy is for everyone
Before we dive into the theme, it is essential to understand what philosophy as a discipline means and how it is different from philosophy as a “mental activity”. Philosophy as a discipline aims to study the different ideas and beliefs many eminent personalities have given on fundamental matters like existence, ethics, knowledge, etc. While to philosophize is a mental activity of reasoning and speculating on the issues around oneself, which eventually gives birth to different schools of thought. The point behind this bifurcation of the meaning of philosophy lies in the fact that –philosophy is for everyone.
In times of a pandemic, people have no tangible cure as they come to terms with the fact that human technology is still limited to help solve our problems and there exists a harsh social inequality when it comes to the access of resources, philosophy comes to the rescue of a typical person. As Descartes rightly proclaimed, “good sense is of all things in the world the most equally distributed and that, the reason is by nature equal in all men”.A contention that can be raised against this is, in regards to how just individuals with certain socio-economic foundations can possess the privilege of philosophizing. In any case, if this was an unadulterated fact of the matter, Buddha wouldn’t have left behind his regal way of life, the major vow of Jains would exclude Aparigraha (non-possession) and Diogenes would have perpetually grieved his banishment. While equality is indeed important, and poverty is not to be romanticized- why shall we limit the potential scope of philosophy by absolutely agreeing with the contention, which would imply, the poor do not philosophize, and as if the man, by nature is not bound to philosophize? The degree, to which one can do that, isn’t completely reliant upon one’s financial position yet additionally on their desires and the willingness to introspect about their experiences. After all, there is no carved-in-stone way of doing it, but rather, in a manner suited to one’s own unique situation and necessities.
Philosophy acts as an invisible remedy for the commoner, reason out their feelings of misery, introspect about their social obligation to help the circumstance, and settle on choices regarding moral issues, which carries us to our subsequent point –philosophy helps us get through ethical issues. The uncertain and bleak times of a crisis give birth to situations and exercises that may be questioned from a moral outlook. Ethicists play a crucial role in applying the various moral theories and principles to address and resolve such disputes and dilemmas.
A relatively new example from 2020 September can help us understand that if there is one thing that science cannot assist us with, it is to decide the ethicality of its innovations and disclosures. In 2020 September, quite a few vaccine candidates from countries like America, Australia, wanted to kill thousands of vulnerable sharks to derive an ingredient from their liver for the COVID-19 Vaccines, it was when many experts and NGOs started considering the ethical implications of this move, an entire petition was raised against such activity. Hence, we make sure that we are not undermining the perspectives of different stakeholders in an ethical issue and not just thinking from only one absolute lens.
Hopelessness is also a significant cause of irrationality in such times. People feel anxious, and have a lost sense of purpose. In recent times itself, all locked inside their own houses for the past year, people flushed out their feelings of frustration by rebelling against COVID-19 restrictions. For example- The anti masks protests, or the anti-vaccine protests, in the US, Spain, even India, wherein the people think COVID is an overstated and exaggerated virus. Philosophy has an answer to these problems of destructive emotions. For example–Positive nihilism, which focuses on not only validating & understanding these thoughts of hopelessness and existential dread but asks to utilize the same sentiments to give us an enabling motivation to carry on with our lives— “Nothing matters in life!” one would cry. “Well since, nothing matters in life, you can do anything.” would say, an optimistic nihilist. Similarly, a stoic will help let go off those cortisol by telling us that the distressing situation is not in our control but controlling our emotions, thoughts, and opinions about it are. This alone helps people in alleviating a lot of stress.
Another non-medicalized way of treating one’s despair and anxieties is through philosophical counselling. It is a spearheading contemporary in practical philosophy. It aims to change destructive thinking patterns through performing self-introspection in a controlled setting under the guidance of a trained philosopher. According to ‘Curious Soul Philosophy’, one of the stages of philosophical counselling entails examining the client’s core principles, which helps them realize the reasons and evidence that support their beliefs. It likewise also assists them with becoming mindful of inconsistencies, dissonances or clashes among their ideas and actions. These disclosures assist the client with becoming mindful of examples in which they may be experiencing some miscommunication within themselves.
In conclusion, taking everything into account, the utilization of philosophy in these times of pandemic or any other states of emergency is something that cannot be subverted. People might say philosophy is not practical and physically tangible, well that is precisely why Philosophy is enabling and can be empowering, in light of the fact that it does not see a person’s gender, colour, class, caste, nationality, and it is the only resource in the times of pandemic that is intrinsic in all of us, that which lies within us.