Embracing our Contingency: A Response to COVID-19

Living in the grip of a pandemic invites us to consider existential questions of life and its meaning, and of the goods of human flourishing. It also provides a space in which to ponder the very grounds of our existence, and our reality as contingent beings.

Drawing on the way society has responded to the pandemic, it is the thesis of this paper that humanity (in large part) has not embraced this opportunity to reflect on the deeper questions of our being. In particular, in the presence of a novel threat, our contingency is deemed to be a limitation that must be overcome. The predominance of measures that rely on human ingenuity, on technology, and control of human behaviour – combined with the alienation of religious practice – would suggest our attitudes continue to be formed by a kind of positivism that doesn’t allow for contingence and faith.

This paper traces the origins of this form of positivism, with its exaggerated sense of power and control over our human destiny, to its roots in Enlightenment philosophy and the technological revolution. In doing so Dr Corby will draw on the thought of Romano Guardini with his insight into the shifts in concepts of power and control, and relate it to societal responses to COVID-19.

In response, Dr Corby will also consider the contribution of Christian faith to the understanding of our contingency, and ponder how it has influenced the response to the current pandemic. Since within the Christian faith contingency does not simply constitute our unnecessity and limitations, but is also an expression of the freedom and love in which we were created, he will ponder how faith acts as a foundation of hope in the midst of a pandemic, that considers our future is in the hands of One who loves us.