I think it is safe to say that most people assume that the Corona pandemic is the cause of the fear that is so rampant. But I think that this might be a naïve view of the matter. Instead, it seems like the virus and the fear of the virus are concomitant at the very least. In a basic way, we know that fear triggers physiological changes like an activation of the sympathetic nervous system, which suppresses immune function. But I believe that this side of the mutual contribution goes much further than this. I won’t speculate too much, but I think it is quite straightforward to assume that anyone who lives in a chronic state of fear is much more physiologically susceptible to infection than someone who does not, and also much less resilient against infection if it happens. This seems like an obvious scientific fact.
The implications of this, however, lead to a conclusion that might seem like magical thinking. Namely, that fear is the cause of the pandemic. Fear is to the pandemic not as smoke to fire, but as dried wood to fire. I will try to explain what I mean. I will use archetypal language because it is more expressive. Fear is the antagonist of love and, according to Christian doctrine, love is the divine ground of the universe. This means that the more people sin, which is to say, “miss the mark” or “stray from” (see the etymology of “sin”) this divine ground, and instead indenture their souls to the “rulers of the darkness of this world” (see Ephesians 6:12), the more that the phials of divine wroth will be emptied upon the Earth in the form of scourges and plagues. So in just the same way, the more people fear the plague, the more people have to fear from it.
I know that it may seem that I am taking this rather far, but from my perspective, attempting to grasp most real-life scenarios through notions of conventional linear causality is much more far-fetched. Moreover, archetypal images are much more expressive than merely trying to convey something in concepts. But more importantly, if the principle of reciprocal causality that I outlined is true, then the archetypal images are merely a more concentrated expression of this truth. I invite any thoughts that you may have on this subject.
On Conspiracy, Censorship and Critical Thinking
Your comment in light of Ben Franklin’s quote about sacrificing freedom for security that you could not understand this perspective was intriguing to me. It is the mark of a philosopher to “know what she doesn’t know,” so I was very impressed. That being said, it is also the mark of a philosopher to try to learn what she doesn’t know, so let’s try to come at the issue. In our meeting, S. brought up the concern that Google has begun to remove YouTube videos (Google’s parent company, Alphabet, owns both) claiming that 5G is dangerous. Their reasons are very clear: it was spurring people to vandalize 5G antennas. Nevertheless, how confident can we be that Google has our best interests in mind (and will keep them in mind) after we have locked ourselves in the chambers of censorship and handed them the keys? Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? “Who will guard the guards?” as Juvenal famously wrote. Even if we both believe that people’s concern over 5G is baseless, I think we should still be very hesitant over allowing them to be silenced. Clearly, it is a complicated issue and these are delicate times in which we will make decisions that could define the kind of society that we live in for the rest of our lifetimes.
Suppose we do decide to “hand over the keys,” so to speak. I think it is safe to say that we are giving away our responsibility to think critically because we won’t have to anymore. I think it is also straightforward that we are giving away our freedom to do this as well, because we will henceforth be handed ready-made conclusions and barred from participating in the critical thinking that could lead to them. We are doing this for the sake of security. We don’t want to run the risks that might follow from freedom, like the arson of those towers, for instance. Does this help you see any connection between these ideas? Freedom means taking responsibility in our own hands to be critical thinkers, and this is always somewhat “dangerous.” Freedom cannot be separated from critical thinking because otherwise it is not freedom but arbitrariness or caprice. What I mean is that freedom means being able to act for reasons that follow from understanding. Acting for no reason is not freedom, it is just spontaneity.
I am also curious, in the spirit of critical thinking, what you mean when you use the phrase “conspiracy theory.” Many people use the term as a way to discredit a view they disagree without having to refute it on the plane of argument. I think we can both agree that this is antithetical to the approach we are trying to take as critical thinkers so I would like to hear from you what you intend by the term.