Socratic Epidemiology

It’s a little known fact that Plato’s truly last and final dialogue was called “The Coronavirus,” took place on a college campus in north Jersey, featured a protagonist named “Khawaja,” and had a soundtrack by Ozzy:

Student 1, walking down the quad: So Khawaja, are we closing or not?

Khawaja: I don’t know.

Student 2: You don’t know? What do you mean you don’t know?

Khawaja: I don’t know.



2 thoughts on “Socratic Epidemiology

  1. Felician is going online as of Monday. I asked about 50 of my students about their attitudes re the coronavirus. (I’m assuming that IRB regulations are suspended during this emergency.)

    Q1: Have you gotten a flu shot?
    Most students in my early morning section had. None of the students in my late morning section had. They pooh-poohed the idea of getting one on the grounds that “there are no guarantees in life.” And “anyway, the flu shot doesn’t protect you against the coronavirus.” Right, I said, but what if you get both, and why not at least protect yourself against one? Answer: “The flu kills more people than have died by the coronavirus!” No, I’m not the one who teaches them biology or probability theory.

    Q2: Are you worried about the coronavirus?
    Most students in the first section seemed worried. Students in the second section belittled concern over the virus as “media hype,” adding that “we’re all going to die at some point anyway,” and that “it only kills old people.” One student ventured concern that her mother might get it. Her mother, I take it, is “old.”

    Q3: Have you been taking measures to prevent its spread?
    Most students expressed fatalism. “I already wash my hands!” they claimed, a patent lie in the case of the males. Luckily, Felician has a 7:3 female to male ratio.

    Their basic concern? Why didn’t Felician close when other schools did?

    The students who seemed most concerned were the high school students taking the class by special arrangement. They seemed positively frightened. Had any of them gotten a flu shot? No. They seemed unacquainted with the topic altogether.

    Those were the ethics students. I’m sure things will be totally different with the critical thinking students.

    In case you were wondering how it is that disease vectors spread, despite the existence of containment regimes.


    • True to form, my critical thinking students (about 20 of them) told me that they hadn’t gotten flu shots because they “didn’t believe in them,” because “flu shots give you the flu,” because “I have a good immune system and never get sick,” and best of all, “because I never get the flu shot.”

      Their view on the coronavirus? Incomprehension that anyone could make such a big deal out of a mere virus.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s