Coronavirus and Schopenhauer are not brands of beer
Tuesday 05 May, 2020
The porcupine parable is one of the most famous passage in the work of Schopenhauer:
One cold winter's day, a number of porcupines huddled together quite closely in order through their mutual warmth to prevent themselves from being frozen. But they soon felt the effect of their quills on one another, which made them again move apart. Now when the need for warmth once more brought them together, the drawback of the quills was repeated so that they were tossed between two evils, until they had discovered the proper distance from which they could best tolerate one another. Thus the need for society which springs from the emptiness and monotony of men's lives, drives them together; but their many unpleasant and repulsive qualities and insufferable drawbacks once more drive them apart.
In other words, only tolerate being close to others if it is necessary for your survival, and avoid it as much as possible.
Practicing this misanthropy today would no doubt have substantially reduced the number of people infected by the SARS-Co-V-2 (even without a mask).
Back in 1831, Arthur Schopenhauer hurriedly left Berlin after a cholera outbreak in the city and moved to Frankfurt. We do not know whether exemption certificates for travel were used at that time.
Most psychotherapists these days would have no hesitate in recommending therapy to anyone who expressed such furiously anti-social sentiments. The digital revolution is moving us a little bit in that direction. It promises us at the same time growth, jobs and comfort, but also solitude and precariousness.
The current health emergency has dragged us, like Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times, into the cogs of a machine that is beyond our control and dehumanizes us.
A Chinese person who takes a bite of a pangolin in Wuhan can cause a toilet roll shortage in the LIDL in Saint-Ouen!
To spare our collaborators from burdensome therapy, we have invited each of them to send us a text, photo or drawing showing what this period of enforced lockdown means to them. We hope that this will help to reinvent society to make it more pleasant to live in.