I was reading this article,Contagion and Visibility: Notes on the Phenomenology of a Pandemic by J.P. Caron. It is about ways of knowing and covid19. It is really excellent and I recommend reading it.
It is from a phenomenological perspective, which can mean one of a million things. But mainly that we start our investigation from sense perception in some way. With something like covid19 what does this mean?
Well it could mean starting with symptoms, if you have them. It can mean starting with the protective measures we take and the feeling of that, the locus of attention on the hands, on the mouth. What is the sensation of washing hands, of dry hands, of mask marks (as I am sure many of you have seen on social media). It can start with our visual experience of charts (of different scales) showing infection, unemployment claims, or the stock market.
However, all of this is an oblique, or mediated, ways at getting at what we believe is the cause of these sensations – an invisible virus. Sure if we put the virus under a microscope then we have a sense perception of this virus through the eye. Our experience of this is even different than our feelings of illness/symptom, or of protection.
This article mentions invisibility and scale. Invisibility is a problem of scale. It starts from the notion of world building and how we create meaning within worlds – this is a notion that is very close to my heart, as my investigation of system poetics is in many ways about world building. The virus exists in a different world than the world we live in where we can feel a masks but not virus. We cannot directly ‘sense’ it – that is sense it unmediated. The phenomenology of the covid19 is the phenomenology of the aspects in which our world of sensation intersects with covid19.
J.P. connects this with ethics and the cognitive load that is associated with interacting with a something that exists in so many worlds (such as fear). His perspective is informed by Kant and perhaps Hans Vaihinger, through the notion of as-if. We have to act as-if these worlds or that these worlds represent something we do not directly sense.
Ethics is essentially the study of how to act. I offer a different perspective. This is not a matter of as-if, but a matter of system poetics, or world poetics. As I see it, the ethical issue with covid19, from a phenomenological perspective, is that it presents itself in so many conflicting phenomenological experiences (or worlds). Which worlds we choose is based on our phenomenological experience of those worlds, the places where they overlap and where they rhyme.