A discussion on who we are when we are alone.
- Who are you and how are you maintaining your social distance these days?
- Is the individual human being the proper “unit” of (bio)ethics?
- Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1892) posits that “[t]he solitude of the king on his throne and the prisoner in his cell differs in character and degree but it is solitude nevertheless.” What is shared between these two in their lonesomeness? Do we share it here today?
- Leigh-Hunt et al. (2017) conclude “policy makers and health and local government commissioners should consider social isolation and loneliness as important upstream factors impacting on morbidity and mortality due to their effects on cardiovascular and mental health; their possible influence on behavioural change should also be taken note of.” With the massive upsurge in social isolation due to many state imposed “stay at home” orders, what sort of health consequences do you think will follow therefrom? How should such consequences be mitigated/dealt with?
- Are people more or less solitary now than they were a month ago? A year ago? A decade ago? A hundred years ago? A millennium ago? At the dawn of civilization? At the dawn of humankind?
- Noting that “[p]eople have biological needs for attachment, affiliation, and sociality, yet they spend time in solitude”, Long and Averill (2003) ask “[h]ow do we account for this apparent need for solitude, and what do we know about the benefits of solitude for which people are searching?”
- Are you an introvert or an extrovert and how do you know?
- Long and Averill cite studies from 1982 indicating “that adult humans spend approximately 29% of their waking time alone”. With the advent of the “flattened earth” – one interconnected by commerce and communication – do you believe adults are spending more or less of their waking time alone? As a corollary, do you believe adults have more or less “waking time” now than they did in 1982?
- As intimated by Callahan (2003), the field of bioethics often tries to find the balance between a patient’s autonomy – an individual’s choice for their self – and the medical enterprises paternalism – decision stemming from the field’s collective expertise. With this tension in mind, Callahan asks “[i]f , for instance, we are interested in a fair allocation of future resources, what kind of a research agenda for what kind of medical progress would most promote it?” And, perhaps more to the point, how would it best be decided?
- Are we born alone? Do we die alone? Where does our commune with others begin and end?
- Are we any closer than we once were? Are we any farther?
- Who are you when you are alone? Is it your “truer” self?
Essays to consider