Jon Stewart, PhD., Dr. habil. phil. et theol.
PhD study topics for the academic year 2022/2023
Can existentialism help to provide insight into our modern crisis: the Covid pandemic?
Born in the fires of the Holocaust and the Second World War, existentialism has often been regarded as a philosophy of crisis. Its focus on themes such as anxiety, despair, meaninglessness, death, suffering, freedom, and individual responsibility reflects the experience of the generation that lived through these horrific events and tried to develop new intellectual tools to understand and deal with them. Existentialism continued to enjoy a broad international interest even after these events and well into the Cold War period. This suggests that some sense of crisis still remained and perhaps was even periodically revived. Can existentialism help to provide insight into our modern crisis: the Covid pandemic? Can the philosophical tools developed by thinkers such as Heidegger, Sartre, de Beauvoir, Merleau-Ponty, and Camus be applied to our situation today? Can they help us to gain insight into the complex ideas surrounding the pandemic such as lockdowns, restrictions, home office, vaccination, testing, online interaction, isolation, etc. Many of the so-called existential themes mentioned above seem to fit perfectly with the experiences reported by people today with the Covid virus. Does existentialism have a special modern relevance for us engulfed in this new crisis in the 21st century? What specifically might this be? This topic should be conceived as falling under the rubric of the history of philosophy. This should be a historical study in the sense that it demands an understanding of the history and development of the existentialist school in the 20th century. The goal is to determine what relevance this historical school still holds for us today.