Profile Image

Ken Stringer

Posted April 22, 2020      

Civic Reasoning and Covid-19

Posted by: Ken Stringer | Posted for: the Community

{"ops":[{"insert":"\t"},{"attributes":{"color":"#222222"},"insert":"Civic reasoning"},{"attributes":{"italic":true,"color":"#222222","bold":true},"insert":" "},{"attributes":{"color":"#222222"},"insert":"is the practice of thinking through the various aspects of individual and collective involvement in the governance of a community. It is the process by which a member of a community makes reasonable, ethical decisions regarding the policies, programs, and laws that define the community and relationships within the community. Civic reasoning is the application of ethical reasoning in the realm of politics and civics."},{"insert":"\n\n\t"},{"attributes":{"color":"#222222"},"insert":"In the context of the Covid-19 emergency, here’s how civic reasoning applies."},{"insert":"\n\n\t"},{"attributes":{"color":"#222222"},"insert":"Our community and the relationships within our community are being re-defined almost daily by the pandemic. The governance of our community is, of necessity, now one of emergency crisis management. The things we are being asked or directed to do to help reduce the impact of the virus’ spread—put simply, "},{"attributes":{"color":"#222222","italic":true},"insert":"to save lives.  "},{"attributes":{"color":"#222222"},"insert":"Every one of us is responsible for making reasonable, ethical decisions about all sorts of new and proposed policies, programs, recommendations, regulations, and laws: how we understand them, whether we agree with them, approve of them, comply with them. "},{"insert":"\n\n\t"},{"attributes":{"color":"#222222"},"insert":"To get to the point of making reasonable decisions, we have to think through how the crisis is affecting our community now and what its effects will be depending on the choices we make. "},{"insert":"\n\n\t"},{"attributes":{"color":"#222222"},"insert":"To ensure our decisions are ethical, we have to determine whether the implications and consequences of those choices either enhance or harm the well-being of others. And this is where we must think broadly about “community,” because if the Covid-19 outbreak has (or should have) taught us anything it is that, in this case, “community” is everything from local to global. We cannot make ethical decisions in the narrow context of what is appropriate or right just for our local community; we must take into account how our decisions relate to what is happening elsewhere. "},{"insert":"\n\n\t"},{"attributes":{"color":"#222222"},"insert":"We might, for example, think social distancing or other measures intended to curb the virus’ spread aren’t needed locally because there are only a few local cases of Covid-19 infections. But the known facts of how the disease spreads, of how many people who are infected have no symptoms and thus are carriers as silent and invisible as the virus itself, of the crucial importance of widespread, robust testing, tracking, and tracing capabilities, are things we’ve learned from the experience of other communities, states, and nations across the globe—they are facts that demonstrate the necessity of the unprecedented measures our elected officials have put in place, the extraordinary things we, individually and collectively, are doing now every day. "},{"insert":"\n\n\t"},{"attributes":{"color":"#222222"},"insert":"The unknowns—the facts we don’t have, the things that might cause us to make different decisions—are daunting; in many instances we don’t even know what we don’t know. "},{"insert":"\n\n\t"},{"attributes":{"color":"#222222"},"insert":"And yet we don’t have the option to avoid or delay making decisions, tough though they may be, because that itself would be unethical—it would harm the well-being of others."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#222222"},"insert":"           "},{"insert":"\n\t"},{"attributes":{"color":"#222222"},"insert":"When it comes to how each of us, individually, thinks through our role, our involvement in the governance of our community during a crisis such as this, being able to make ethical judgments—sound judgments based in fact not falsehood, reason not panic, taking into account the welfare of others as well as ourselves—is paramount."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#222222"},"insert":"This is true even in normal times, but especially in crises. "},{"insert":"\n\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#222222"},"insert":" "},{"insert":"\t"},{"attributes":{"color":"#222222"},"insert":"The sad and dangerous reality is that most of us haven’t exercised this skill in a long, long time (if ever), and now we need to acquire and strengthen it quickly and significantly. The physical, emotional, economic, and social well-being of our community—writ local or global—depends on it."},{"insert":"\n\n\t"},{"attributes":{"color":"#222222"},"insert":"The other threatening and distressing reality is that we live in a world where false information, propaganda, and lies, are more infectious and easily spread than Covid-19. We live in a world where emotional manipulation—playing on, stoking, amplifying fear, anger, hatred, resentment, etc.—is employed intentionally, cynically, shamelessly. Think of this as the equivalent of someone who knows they have the virus coming up and coughing or sneezing right in your face when you have only the equivalent of a homemade facemask, if that.  Yes, we know "},{"attributes":{"color":"#222222","italic":true},"insert":"that "},{"attributes":{"color":"#222222"},"insert":"wouldn’t happen, but emotional manipulation "},{"attributes":{"color":"#222222","italic":true},"insert":"is "},{"attributes":{"color":"#222222"},"insert":"happening in exactly that way."},{"insert":"\n\n\t"},{"attributes":{"color":"#222222"},"insert":"Under these circumstances it’s tough to avoid infection, let alone improve your resistance to it, unless you’re inoculated against it. "},{"insert":"\n\n\tIn my last post ["},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"Covid-19 and Fear"},{"insert":"] I pointed to critical thinking as the vaccine that can inoculate us against panic, enable us to deal properly with our legitimate fears and anger, and keep our community together and productively engaged in addressing the huge and complex problems posed by the coronavirus pandemic. \n \n    That may have left the impression that to think critically about the pandemic (or anything) is as easy as getting a shot: a “little pinch,” some very brief discomfort, perhaps some soreness at the injection site for a day or two. Well…no. \n \n\tCritical thinking is a “treatment” that entails hard work; it takes time, effort, discipline, and commitment. It’s more like a series of daily self-administered “shots” accompanied by a rigorous exercise routine. \n \n\tNone of us is born with a natural immunity to the “pathogens” of irrationality, lies, fear-mongering, propaganda, and scapegoating to name just a few. Indeed, the way we normally “think”—without really considering how our thought processes are working and whether our thinking is sound or not—makes us highly vulnerable to them. But if you want protection from them, if you want to build your resistance to them, critical thinking is essential. \n \n    If we’re going to engage in civic reasoning in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, we need to engage in critical thinking.    \n \n\tThe pandemic has raised all sorts of fundamental, highly complex questions for which there are no easy answers, no quick solutions. Accepting that reality is the first step in thinking critically about the situation, acquiring and strengthening the skills needed for civic reasoning and ethical decision-making. In practice, what that means among other things is that we:\nIgnore those who offer easy answers, quick solutions, non-sensical approaches."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"Pay attention to experts and heed their advice and recommendations but recognize that even they don’t have all the information they need, that what informs their decision-making can change significantly in a matter of days, that they are human."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"Value the judgments of those who willingly admit they could be wrong but are deciding based on the best information available to them."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"Grant, until demonstrated otherwise, that leaders (in health care or politics) are motivated by concern for the community’s welfare—not their own potential gain or advantage."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"Allow for mistakes except for those whose intellectual arrogance is such that they insist they can never be wrong, that only they have the solution, that only they are perfectly consistent in their decisions and statements."},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\n\t"},{"attributes":{"color":"#222222"},"insert":"If you really want to fulfill your role as a member of the community capable of making reasonable, ethical choices in this crisis--if you really want to start thinking critically about this crisis, start using the resources available at the Foundation for Critical Thinking ("},{"attributes":{"color":"#954f72","link":""},"insert":""},{"attributes":{"color":"#222222"},"insert":"). You can also contact me directly at "},{"attributes":{"color":"#954f72","link":""},"insert":""},{"attributes":{"color":"#222222"},"insert":"."},{"insert":"\n"}]}

Posted April 22, 2020      

Covid-19 and Fear

Posted by: Ken Stringer | Posted for: the Community

{"ops":[{"insert":"\tWe are in the midst of a global crisis none of us has experienced. Other past crises, such as the Great Depression, world wars, natural disasters are in some ways analogous, but even they, by comparison, seem orders of magnitude different—somehow more comprehensible and thus not as terrifying. The Covid-19 pandemic, with all of its unknowns and uncertainties, is posing challenges we are struggling to understand, let alone address. By the time you read this a few weeks from now, things may be better, but the odds are they will be worse. \n\n\tWhat to do—what can the average citizen do?\n \n    Beyond all the things we’ve been urged to do to slow or stop the spread of the virus and thereby help keep our health care system from being overwhelmed, we need also to take steps to slow or stop the spread of fear and panic, and thereby keep the fabric of our society from being ripped apart.\n \n\t"},{"attributes":{"color":"#222222"},"insert":"Fear is one of the strongest emotions we humans have. It is elemental; it is innate. It is a key part of our basic survival instinct and, depending on how we handle it, can be the determining factor in whether we live or die. "},{"insert":"\n\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#222222"},"insert":"    "},{"insert":"In the midst of the Great Depression, at his first inaugural address, Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” That’s the short, most well-known, version of the statement. Roosevelt elaborated, however, explaining that he was warning against the “"},{"attributes":{"color":"#222222"},"insert":"nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” "},{"insert":"\n\n\t"},{"attributes":{"color":"#222222"},"insert":"As in the Great Depression, it’s not just fear itself we’re afraid of; it’s the reality we find ourselves living in. Today we have a name for it: the Covid-19 pandemic. But if we are to avoid being paralyzed in our efforts to deal with the enormous, unprecedented challenges it poses, we have to focus first and foremost on keeping "},{"attributes":{"color":"#222222","italic":true},"insert":"unjustified "},{"attributes":{"color":"#222222"},"insert":"terror at bay; and the only way to do that is to bring our reasoning skills fully to bear on how we, as average citizens, should think and behave, how we should handle our fear. "},{"insert":"\n\n\t"},{"attributes":{"color":"#222222"},"insert":"What’s emerging are two basic attitudes. One employs reason and recognizes that only by pulling together can we overcome the challenges of our time. The other ignores reason and rejects the very idea of working together—“It’s all about me.” "},{"insert":"\n\n\t"},{"attributes":{"color":"#222222"},"insert":"At this point, fortunately, the predominant attitude is one of keeping our fear under control by thinking our way through the crisis and relying on the advice, guidance, and counsel of experts and leaders who are knowledgeable, forthright, honest, and empathetic. The vast majority understand that, under these circumstances, it is all about "},{"attributes":{"italic":true,"color":"#222222","bold":true},"insert":"us"},{"attributes":{"color":"#222222"},"insert":"; we know that only by working together can we make the choices and take the steps needed to solve the numerous and enormously complex problems confronting us."},{"insert":"\n\n\t"},{"attributes":{"color":"#222222"},"insert":"By far most of us are heeding the advice of our health care professionals and taking in stride the unprecedented restrictions and upheaval in our daily lives. The supreme irony of the moment is that by being forced apart physically, we’re actually coming closer together socially and using a variety of creative, inventive ways to connect, to help others in need, to do our part. "},{"insert":"\n\n\t"},{"attributes":{"color":"#222222"},"insert":"And, as we were reminded recently by "},{"insert":"Dr. Emily Landon, the chief infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of Chicago Medicine, “…these extreme restrictions may seem in the end a little anticlimactic because it’s really hard to feel like you’re saving the world when you’re watching Netflix on your couch but, if we do this right, nothing happens. Yes. A successful shelter in place means that you will feel like it was all for nothing. And you would be right. Because ‘nothing’ means that nothing happened to your family and that's what we are going for here.”\n\n \tIn short, the vast majority of us around the world are handling the situation rationally, responsibly, and ethically. The Covid-19 pandemic seems to have dampened our natural ego-centric and socio-centric tendencies to some degree so far. That optimistic assessment may be unwarranted but, at least for now, I’m sticking with it.\n\n\tSome, however, have succumbed to the kind of unreasoning, unjustified terror Roosevelt warned against in 1938. They are the ones "},{"attributes":{"color":"#222222"},"insert":"acting on an impulse of pure self-protection—panic buying, hoarding, making sure their arsenals are ready to fend off the collapse of civilization, the end of the world. Handling the present situation this way is irrational, irresponsible, unethical. It is, at its core, cowardly retreat; it is shameful behavior. "},{"insert":"\n\n\t"},{"attributes":{"color":"#222222"},"insert":"When we "},{"attributes":{"color":"#222222","italic":true},"insert":"feel "},{"attributes":{"color":"#222222"},"insert":"a sense of imminent physical peril, we are equipped biologically to respond instantaneously—instinctually; this is the “fight or flight” response, which kicks in automatically because in those situations our fear is telling us we don’t have the time needed to think through all the potential implications and consequences of a decision. In other words, our action is dictated by our emotion—our unreasoning fear. Even when the peril is actually imminent, whether we run or stand our ground is no guarantee of survival. "},{"insert":"\n\n\t"},{"attributes":{"color":"#222222"},"insert":"In our current situation, however, we cannot afford to simply act on instinct. This is exactly the time when we need to think through all the potential implications and consequences of the choices we make, the things we do, the ways we behave.  Now is when we must make rational, responsible, ethical decisions that reduce, rather than increase, the dangers we face. "},{"insert":"\n\n\t"},{"attributes":{"color":"#222222"},"insert":"The issues we have to address regarding fear about the pandemic are just like the ones we confront about the virus itself—how to reduce its transmissibility, how to slow or stop its spread, how to minimize its effects."},{"insert":"\n"},{"attributes":{"color":"#222222"},"insert":"           "},{"insert":"\n\t"},{"attributes":{"color":"#222222"},"insert":"Unlike Covid-19, though, we have a treatment that can drastically reduce its transmissibility, slow its spread, and keep it from becoming the unreasoning, unjustified terror that can overwhelm not only our individual, but our collective psyche. That treatment is critical thinking, and it is readily available to everyone right now—if only we choose to take it.  "},{"insert":"\n"}]}

Joseph Halter - 3y Ago
{"ops":[{"insert":"Ken, thank you for the many fine points you have made about the COVID-19 and the relationship and use of critical thinking to abate the virus.\nI acknowledge your argument about reducing the \"health\" harm of COVID-19 by the information that we are given by the CDC in particular. The concern or \"fear\" many have is the economic, social and political harm that is created by practicing the health guidelines. \nMy key question is this: Can we do both,"},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":" reduce"},{"insert":" the transmission of the virus and "},{"attributes":{"bold":true},"insert":"reduce"},{"insert":" the economic harm individuals and families are experiencing with \"stay at home\" guidelines and other terms used? Please elaborate on possible enumerated solutions, thanks. \n\n"}]}
David Reilly - 3y Ago
{"ops":[{"insert":"Really interesting, thank you. \n\nI am based in London and these are two observations I have had durring COVID19:\n\nOnline News and Twitter; how the toxic natural of can really such you into a blackhole "},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"Our PM, in my opinion, has been very vague about some of the policy in response to COVID 19 and as a parent juggling work and child care at home it makes me quite angry. I feel he fooling people unnecesarily which is putting lives at risk"},{"attributes":{"list":"bullet"},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\nMaybe I need to meditate, rationalise the situation and just calm down :)\n\n"}]}
Create a Comment / See More Comments

There are no more posts.

Ken Stringer's Connections
Work Experience
Academy Tutorials
Reading and Writing Alcove ▼

    Wheel of Reason ▼

      Criteria Corner ▼

        Virtuous Virtues ▼

          Triangle of Thinking, Feeling, and Desires ▼

            Wall of Barriers ▼