Guest of Honor Minister Provincial of the Province of Zambia OFM Conventuals, who is also the incoming Chairperson of the SBU Board of Governors, Father Ferena Lambe OFM Conv., outgoing chairperson, Fr. Augustine Mwape OFM Capuchin, Members of the SBU Executive Board, Superiors of the Franciscan Families, Major Superiors and delegates of Various religious Orders and Congregations CMMs, SVDs, Passionists, OMIs, SDBs, Pallotines, OSBs, Marianists and Diocesans, All our distinguished guests, Members of the Diplomatic corp, Acknowledging the presence of Her Excellency Madam…………………………………………………………..High Commissioner of the Republic of Malawi to Zambia. Her Excellency Madam --------------------------------- Deputy High Commissioner of the Republic of Botswana to Zambia and her Assistant ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ Delegate of the Mozambiquean High Commissioner and the Charge de affair Mr. and Members of different ministries of Zambian governments, Priests, Religious, Teaching Staff, Administration staff, Ancillary Staff, our collaborators, our graduands and all the students at large- ladies and Gentlemen- All protocol Observed If philosophy is defined as the epistemic activity of seeking the ultimate principles of realities, it is therefore irrefutably true that philosophy has to offer an explanation to the current reality of the pandemic. Acknowledging the confusion that the world has been thrown into by the Covid-19 pandemic, every field of knowledge has turned into its inner depths in search of an answer to this global catastrophic situation which has claimed many lives worldwide. As a response to the same, the philosophers have also engaged their inner -most depth of knowledge to see if the ultimate causes of this reality can be ascertained.
In reference to history of philosophical thought, men and women of wisdom have found comfort in the aphorisms of Seneca the Stoic when he asserted, “Cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of will.” This is echoed in the famous Christian prayer which goes: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” In relation to the pandemic, one would see the creation of two schools of operation where one school is deterministic whilst the other schools plod the path of pragmatism or solution-seeking. Inevitably, those who chart the route of solution solving are confronted with moral questions such as “With finite medical resources who do we save and why? What constitutes evidence in modelling the new virus? Is it morally acceptable to track pandemics with personal data from the electronic devices? What ethical obligations do we have when it comes to Covid-19? How can we know effective reliable responses? And how can we choose among alternative, conflicting responses? These and many other questions present some pertinent moral dilemmas in relation to the ensuing pandemic Even though philosophy cannot offer a cure to the Covid-19 pandemic, it can instead offer “immunity from rash political, healthcare and personal decisions. A contemporary professor of philosophy, Vittorio Bufachii raised an important question on social epistemology viz a vis the pandemic. He argued, how can the testimony of the experts be trusted by laypersons especially when experts do not agree in their findings? Generally, lay persons trust experts on what Bufachii calls second-level trust which entails that the experts are trusted by the laypersons because some people they trust have told them to do so. Laypersons do not trust from their own convictions but they do so because the government have told us to do so or out religion. Whilst this is taken as a norm, it is comparatively clear that when trust is on the second level, it is easily multiplied. For instance, the trust rendered to politicians is very different from the trust rendered to the scientists especially in the face of the pandemic. Where scientists find joy in discovering the scientific solutions to different problems, politicians are often times accused of distorting or twisting advice from the experts in order for them to gain the political mileage. Think of former President Trump and Dr. Fauci in America, think of the minister of Defence in Zimbabwe who ascribed Covid-19 to be God’s wrath on those who are imposing sanctions on Zimbabwe. Such a distortion has been a serious cause of concern which exposes the layperson to the mental twists like those of a Rastafarian who justifies his smoking of weed by asking a question; whom do you trust between the two; God who made weed and man who made beer? A sound argument but from twisted premises. Socially, there has been a proliferation of “the unprecedented removal of knowledge through the avalanche of fake news, misinformation and conspiracy theories. We have been subjected back to the Platonic cave where knowledge is nothing but a mirage and silhouettes where truth is hard to distinguish from falsehood. As philosophers, we however adhere to the rational attainment of knowledge through the light of reason thereby bound by individual’s moral responsibility to do what is right. Guided by the Hippocratic Oath, of primum non nocere (first do no harm), we all must follow to the best of our ability only that which is morally right. In his reflection, Skye Clearly argued that, “for many, this pandemic is a new kind of ambiguity and being anxious about is understandable since millions of lives are being unexpectedly disrupted, disinformation, disbelief and denial are rife.” This ambiguity re-echoes the mind of the all-weather female existentialist Simone de Beauvoir who opined that, “to be human is to live in ambiguity and the solution is not to eliminate ambiguity but to recognize it as the condition of existence.” Commenting on the nature of Corona Virus, in Irish Times, John Humphreys avowed that “the Corona Virus pandemic has been a shock not just to the health system. It has given a jump start to moral consciences which left the world stumped by ethical considerations. Be that as it may, as students and masters of Philosophy we need to see a bigger picture of the pandemic and be able to draw out implicit premises which redress the impending ambiguity. A philosopher ought to separate truth from reality, that is being able to extrapolate what is from how it is. There is a pandemic which is- that’s scientific and there is a pandemic as presented and this is political, economic and social. As men and women of reason, we need to be above the rest. We ought to remember that where we are sitting today is where we will stand tomorrow, our perception of reality today molds our future perspective therefore, we need to salvage the necessary truth from the mediocrity of this time. As we respond to the pandemic, let us do it guided by necessary truth or scientific truth. When taking the home-made remedies, we need to be fair to our bodies, daily steaming can be good as testified by many but scientifically what does it do to the nasal construction? Remember the difference between poison and medicine is only the degree of dose. So too much consumption of unmeasured doses is as detrimental to our health as defaulting. As we continue battling with the pandemic, may necessary truth not multiple truths guide us. We have the obligation to stop the spread of the pandemic but let is do so with philosophical vigilance. A lot of half-truths are in the air and we need not to settle on that. As the wisdom of the elders say, “Do not stand in place of danger trusting miracles.” We need to trust in the factual scientific truths which are tried tested and are seeking to be trusted. My fellow graduands, the pandemic needs more than class theory. Your last 18 months here has been a time of orthopraxis, that is the practical application of philosophical theories to the pressing pandemic, how some stagnant theories became very active during the time of physical distancing which proved that when we say I am because we are does not mean only physical togetherness but contemplation of the other even if he or she is not closer to you. The new normal gave new meaning to life but above all it made us to go back to the powerful Aristotelian cliché, “The unreflected life is not worth living.” Undoubtably, the lockdowns the quarantines and isolations were not passive and empty pastimes but were moments of reflection and discernment about life. When life is threatened, the Heideggerian aphorism “There is no other day you have been closer to your grave than today, here and now, starts to make a lot of sense. Or when he said, we have to find the meaning of our being through the existential circumstances that are found in time and space- through history. As we part to take different directions, can we be true ambassadors of Covid-19 by refusing to be swayed off by disinformation, conspiracy theories and political arm twist. Can we help people to understand the inductive meaning of the vaccines? Vaccines have been there since the development of medical sciences; however, they have not been 100% effective. Inductively, a smaller percentage will get affected, that’s the limitation of all vaccines. On a sad note, history testifies that some vaccines have been used to meet a clandestine end. From that standpoint, there emerges a moral doubt against them. It is therefore the duty of the philosophers to inform the masses about the best way to take. I congratulate all the graduates of this new normal as you will remain a historical landmark. You did the ordinary things in an extraordinary way. May the same courage you are exhibiting during this new normal help you to have a progressive future for the world in general, for the church in particular and for our religious charism to be specific. Let me restate the main Points: -What is the role of philosophy in the face of the pandemic. -Like in many wars, truth is the first casualty- how is truth being treated in the fight against the pandemic? Philosophers are not bystanders in the fight against Covid- 19 they are the custodians of truth and practitioners of moral choices. - As philosophers we join in the battle against the Virus but not with the injection as the first weapon but moral truth innocent of political and economic overtones. I finish with this solemn prayer: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” I thank you!