2. The Point: The End is Coming
I’m still wrapping my head around coronavirus and what is happening, as many people are. The pandemic is highlighting many issues we have known for a while: healthcare costs, the slow response to climate change, the economy, and growing inequity on countless other political fronts. If there is one thing we are learning from coronavirus it is that “we may not have arrived at the end, but we have certainly arrived at the thought of it.” At some point science will inevitably fail us, and humanity as we know it will end.
For philosopher Agnes Callard, in a time like this it is imperative to consider and understand the ethical and moral situation of the last (as in final) generation. “For a long time, philosophy and the other humanistic disciplines have been concerned with how to achieve advances that might mirror those of the sciences,” Callard writes, “but it will not be through science that we come to reconcile ourselves to the fact that unlimited scientific progress is impossible.” Humanists are not responsible for making progress, but are expected “to acquire and transmit a grasp of the intrinsic value of the human experience; this is a job whose difficulty and importance rises in proportion to the awareness that all of it will be lost” and to “become the specialists of finitude, the experts in loss, the scientists of tragedy.”
It might not be today, or with this pandemic, but the last generation is coming, and “scientists and politicians must work to delay their arrival as long as possible; humanists, by contrast, must help prepare us for them.”