John Berteaux


catastrophe, philosophy, David J. Rosner


In Chinese, the word “catastrophe” is composed of two characters: 危机 The first character represents danger and the second is the symbol for opportunity, suggesting as my son so aptly put it, “We should never let a ‘good’ disaster go to waste.” In much the same light, philosopher David Rosner’s sensible and probing anthology, Catastrophe and Philosophy, directs us to observe that, “catastrophes are catastrophes not only because they bring widespread death and destruction in their wake, but also because they fundamentally challenge the basic ‘sense making’ feature of the human mind and our need for a meaningful world.” (Rosner, p. xi) By occurring at the intersection of lived experience and philosophy, catastrophes urge us to rethink the world we inhabit. Rosner’s analysis is well-timed given the social, political, and economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic that currently grips the world. To be sure, conventional wisdom has it that Covid-19 is permanently changing the way we live our lives. But what exactly do crises like Covid-19, global warming, or the recent fire storms in California, Oregon, and Washington require?