Wednesday, March 18, 2020

The Final Solution: The Plague

In the existentialist paradigm existence precedes essence. Thus a human being is defined by his or her actions. Camus wrote two novels The Stranger and The Plague. He apparently was reticent about adding the existentialist label to The Plague, but the emphasis on action seems particularly applicable at the present moment with global crisis centered on a particularly virulent disease. Numerous questions about behavior are spawned on an almost hourly basis, particularly around social connection.  In his play No Exit, another existentialist thinker Jean Paul Sartre famously intoned, “hell is other people” and that becomes a literal truth when it comes to COVID-19. Decisions constantly need to be made. Social distancing has become the mantra, but recusal makes altruism more difficult. Do you help someone when you yourself may be infected? You monitor your own condition so as not to do anything that would be adverse to someone else; at the same time you decide to take chances which you deem to be possibly beneficial, knowing at the same time that the adverse consequences of self-sacrificing behavior may come back to haunt both you and others. You're constantly weighing and there are, of course, no answers--though, ironically, you'll ultimately be defined by successions of actions whose moral intent may ulitmately be belied by ulterior motives.

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