Imparare dalla vulnerabilità. Le passioni come bonus epistemico e motivazioni all’agire politico nel contesto pandemico

Anno LVII, n. 235, settembre-dicembre 2022
Centro Einaudi
Articolo completo/Full text


In March 2020, the global Covid-19 pandemic hit our life and societies, forcing ourselves to stand in front of the possibility of infection, sickness and death. One of the first reaction to the pandemic outbreak was the perception that in front of a common threat, ‘we are all in the same boat’.

Though such statement dangerously overshadows the perverse relation between the pandemics and social inequalities, it also gives expression to something real: the perception of common vulnerability of all humankind to the same global threat, expressed and felt also by those who are normally spared by other vulnerability dimensions.

In this paper, such a perception of common vulnerability will be considered as a particularly valuable epistemic bonus for subjects belonging to the ‘privileged élites’, that is, those individuals who are normally more predisposed to be blinded by the epistemic vices highlighted by Medina in his epistemology of resistance. I will then argue that this epistemic bonus can be generated not by cognitive processes related to a model of cold mechanical rationality, but by the evaluative and cognitive component of passions.

By bringing together analytical proposals such as Medina’s epistemology of resistance and Fricker’s epistemic injustice with Butler and Pulcini’s reflections on vulnerability, Cavarero’s theory on inclined subjectivity and Nussbaum’s thoughts on the intelligence of emotions, I will consider the common vulnerability and the authentic empathy that can be generated from it as a possible origin of the «judgment of the analogous possibilities» introduced by Nussbaum, and I will highlight its crucial role in the development of a type of compassion as an empathic passion that activates a potential for political action in the arendtian sense, representing an opportunity for the extension of inclined subjectivity to individuals previously unattainable by such an open, relational gaze.