A Washington Post article this week about why people are blasé about covid-19 risk unwittingly gives good reason why philosophers worry about “mind-brain” relations/difference, titled: “How our brains…” I thought we each had only one. “…numb us to covid-19’s risks.” There are so many of me, you know.
Anyway, there certainly are enough people who are numb-minded (CNN) by habit—who believe that, because they’re asymptomatic, they’re not infectious. Or: They’re not infectious because they didn’t notice contact with someone else who might well have been aymptomatically infectious.
But being negligent or backsliding or being a slacker is a matter of selfidentity: being adolescent in the worst sense—proven by so many teens acting as if they’re immortal. Or: acting as if immunity is instilled by the pleasure of each other’s company.
Ah, the truthiness of spontaneous feeling.
“If you don’t see anything immediately bad happening, your concerns get deconditioned,” one researcher is quoted (WPost ) to avow. Duh. That would pertain to someone whose vapid sense of the world proves why “we” still confuse selfidentity with subjectivity: subjecting oneself to short-sightedness.
That’s failure of receptiveness, different from failure of responsiveness (which the WPost journalist confuses): compassion fatigue or exhausted grief: “…we have a human tendency to grow numb to mounting numbers of deaths and diagnoses.”
Yeah, but irrelevant: Being callous (or negligent) is different from being jaded (or emotionally exhausted). “I was so overwhelmed,” casual dude says. No, you were cavalier.
The dangerous immortals (teeny minds) are indeed showing “overriding heed-
lessness decoupled from evidence,” commonly known as egoism. The WPost journalist would have us feel better about that in terms of being subject to chronic slips of mind?
“And experts say this backsliding is predictable—in the face of what feels a threat.” What? Nonsense: Backsliding is predictable in the face of what doesn’t feel to be a threat.
Irrationality is predictable in the face of facile writing.
But there does emerge in the article a useful focus on cost/benefit feeling, where inept intuition overrides good sense.
With parties, when you do the right thing and stay home, “you feel an immediate cost,” [one researcher notes:] “You’re not able to be with your friends,”…[W]hile there is an upside to this decision—helping to stop the spread of the virus—it feels distant. “The benefit is invisible, but the costs are very tangible.”Rejoice to see, then, why rationality is not primarily about interaction, rather about the reasonableness of one’s decisions. That’s a selfidentical issue, secondarily a social issue. In other words, that’s an issue of self-oriental maturity, secondarily an issue of social maturity.
By contrast, Slovic [the expert] said, when you flout guidelines about wearing masks or avoiding gatherings, you get an immediate reward: You rejoice at not having to breathe through fabric, or you enjoy celebrating a close friend’s birthday in person.
“To gauge whether to take a particular risk,” the journalist recounts, “we usually look to how we feel about it.” Oh, “we” do?—we who have reliable intuition, of course; but also, those who are fools.
So, how does one know that one’s intuition is reliable? How does feeling become trustworthy?
That’s another reason why we need thoughtfulness shared (if not philosophers in the curriculum and media), together cultivating Our humanity’s capability for good thinking.
The “expert” recommendations here—recounted in the WPost article—are wrong- headed: “tough government mandates to curb virus spread” and “importan[ce for] authorities to supply in-your-face reminders of those mandates, especially visual cues.”
That sounds like authoritarian gesture, born of absent leadership causing a crisis that “compels” forceful intervention. (“Never let a good crisis go to waste,” says the great divider.)
No wonder that fools become reactionary libertarians.
What’s needed is appealing leadership by example which shows the importance of “mandates” as personal goods that are esteeming to emulate.
That’s what good parenting and teaching does. That’s what virtue ethics in political leadership has standardly embodied—being the standard bearer whom stragglers want to follow for good reason.
At the level of parenting, it’s called “concerted cultivation.” Scaled up as a politics, concerted cultivation can inform a sense of leadership that harmonizes with notions of extended sphere of belonging, born of enowned neighborhood identity, building and broadening community horizons.
“It’s what We, the people, do,” hallmarked by the leading voices who show it well, thus leading because they effectively appeal (affect) durably.
Concerted cultivation scaled up to a politics might well be called political parentalism—not paternalism (let alone authoritarian tending).
Parentalism welcomes and enables mature autonomy because genuine adulthood allows collaborative peerage (son becomes best friend; mentee becomes colleague).
Contrary to that, paternalism is invested in its reserve power to override
(and feel “warranted” to be overbearing).
Libertarian reaction might eventually dissolve in the face of appreciative decency, by genuinely appealing leadership’s exemplarity, by compassion for people’s difficulty acting well together. Genuine political leadership evinces neighborly trust and care. Genuine political leadership evinces local desire to see community as extended family growing together, helping each other in Our venture of evolving (where learning never ends).
It’s not primarily that “each of us can learn to argue against our own snap judgments about covid-19’s dangers.” It’s that each of us can help each other learn to live in a healthy manner because we care about ourselves and others at the same time—those neighbors with whom we widen circles of belonging.
Indeed,“the first step is awareness that sometimes you can’t trust your feelings.” The second step is awareness that—in “this” case—“you” usually can’t trust your feelings. The third step is to be[come] committedly on the road to learning how feeling becomes reliable thanks to reliable intuition.
To my mind, reliable intuition builds and broadens itself by getting good with astute reasoning.