Introduction

This issue includes a collection of essays reflecting on the COVID-19 pandemic alongside a group of essays first presented at the 2019 Public Philosophy Network conference at Michigan State University.

A Contractual Justification for Strong Measures against COVID-19

Laetitia Ramelet

Many countries have taken extensive measures to slow COVID-19’s progress and attempt to avert a sanitary collapse. Although the necessity of saving lives seems evident to many of us, these measures will nevertheless have dire economic effects and impose major costs on much of the population. A solid public justification is essential, for which a social contract perspective is useful. I argue that it helps us understand why such measures not only do justice to the claims of those who are likely to become severely ill, but also those of many others, and that no less is at stake than the foundational bonds of our communities.

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The Loss of Playfulness

Janet Jones

How does social distancing affect our sense of self? Our ability to create ourselves? In this article, I explore the value of interacting with strangers for our sense of self and the impact of COVID-19 safety measures on our relationships with others. Specifically, I suggest that strangers can offer us opportunities to try on new identities but that this opportunity is lost as the public realm erodes because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Community-Engaged Learning in Times of COVID-19

Angie Mejia

In this text, I outline my attempt at restructuring a community-engaged course during a pandemic while also navigating institutional expectations that gloss over the logistical difficulties of modifying this type of curriculum. I argue community-engaged educators should bypass existing resources provided by their universities and look to what those at their discipline’s intellectual margins are providing instead. In a hurried, almost confessional tone, I also reflect on whether we can do community-engaged work during a plague; and, if so, how we can deliver educational experiences that remain centered on community building and societal transformation. I end this piece by summarizing changes to my curriculum, which run counter to what I (and possibly others) have been asked to do to meet course learning objectives. Thus, while this piece opens with a sense of doubt, it ends with a tentative sense of hope by advocating for the role of bold pedagogical movidas (moves) that could empower students to engage in new ways of being and doing community in pandemic times.

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