dePICTions volume 1 (2021): Pandemic Times
What is an intellectual? What is her place in society? How should he intervene? An awful lot has been said and written about what it means to be a (public) intellectual, and first editorials of new intellectual reviews have often played a primary role in attempting to respond to these questions. We will not take part in this enterprise, as, in the end, these questions and answers only lead to the enclosure, circumscription, and limiting of the fundamentally boundless roles, functions, and modalities of the mainly gentile intervening the critically cultured person (be she an amateur or professionally and intellectually trained) has at his disposition. We also do not engage in polemics except in the ancient etymological understanding of giving as many different voices as possible the chance to be heard.
With this in mind, it is my great pleasure and honor to present to you the first volume of dePICTions, the Paris Institute for Critical Thinking’s own, brand-new, critical review. As PICT keeps growing beyond its core mission of opening up humanities-based “higher” education to the general public, and as it has increasingly assumed the broader responsibility of enabling a global community of critical thinking, it was a natural step for us to engage ourselves even further with this community, this time through the written word. Following Plato’s Phaedrus, however, we will proceed on this adventure with the utmost caution. The Roman saying of festina lente—make haste slowly—can be considered as our motto.
This caution is not only related to our prudence and awareness of—and rebellion against—the (proclaimed) ephemeral nature of all things, but above all to our understanding of the fact that thoughts evolve. As can be read in the Manifesto that accompanies our journal, dePICTions’ peculiar modality of publication, open-access and open-ended, aims to stimulate the active interaction between authors and readers, and also between authors and their own thoughts over time. Not only are readers encouraged to comment on the texts, the authors too will be able to revise and/or elaborate on their work if they so desire. And it is in this context that we decided to dedicate our first issue to the further elaboration of those scholars’ thoughts who have participated in our podcast series, PICT Voices, with contributions dedicated to the COVID-19 pandemic—which can thus be considered the topic of this first issue.
I could not be happier to introduce to you the work of Philip Alcabes, Frank Furedi, Barbara Lambesis, Iain MacKenzie, Carlo Salzani, David Selim Sayers, and Kristof K.P. Vanhoutte. All of these thinkers joined us on PICT Voices during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic to attempt to shed some instructive light on the mass of confusing information with which we were being bombarded. They are further joined by award-winning filmmakers Nicolás Rincón Gille and Hector Ulloque Franco, whose insightful conversation with Yonca Talu relates to the questions evoked by COVID-19 in more ways than one. More than a year into this crisis, the thoughts of these intellectuals—further refined and developed over this period—allow us not only to shed some new light on this pandemic, but also a fundamentally humbling, because so precarious, view on the development of ideas and thought itself.
Kristof K.P. Vanhoutte