Luigi Amato Kunst: OPHD project (Online Philosophy Help Desk) model. A network of philosophers across Europe cooperating with institutions. It’s inspiring.

Philoactiva’s founder reflects on the state of philosophical action and social support system today, in the Covid fallout era,  and explains how the support of institutions , such as municipalities, health care institutions,  humanitarian organizations may enable philosophers to investigate and plan at how to better support people suffering from marginalization, our time.

Some months ago, when I took over in this project, we were faced with the urgent challenge of how to make philosophical practice ‘empathic’ during this Covid era. The most urgent problem to face was the loss of empathy and the bi-dimensional image of people that took over the real presence of a person in flesh and blood.  The situation looked bleak across institutions, social, information programs and social support systems.

Counselling, generally speaking, was in steep decline, and social help was going almost entirely to social work and psychological support. Municipalities and other institutions rooted into the territory everywhere were searching for answers to the challenge they were being involved more than ever before, but with fewer ways to face the rising sufferance and hardships that overtake millions of ordinary people.  

I realized we had to find a new way to think of the role of active philosophy. The watershed between philosophical practice (that claimed to be an alternative to psychotherapy) and active philosophy (aiming actively to think a better world, according to the eleventh thesis on Feuerbach) was becoming increasingly evident.

The obvious answer was to go to philosophers across Europe and create an Online Philosophy Help Desk network, to speak with people and listen to them and make them feel less alienated, more informed, in short persons rather than numbers. To study the effects of Covid alienation on people, a dramatic fallout that was affecting billions of people across the planet. Our planet.  It was a big step, but this time I asked for the direct participation of Municipalities, Universities, and health care institutions.  

I knew I wanted the OPHD project to remain ethical, independent, and out of the fancy idea of making money from something we had to learn and not to teach.

OPHD project embodied the very sense of the word ‘practical’ in philosophy nowadays. The practice that philosophers have to do of the human condition.   I wanted to give philosophers the opportunity to contribute to our society, in brilliant and effective unusual ways that worked for them. I meant that we could provide special spots where they could make the experience of the many hardships people are suffering, by cooperating in partnership with Humanitarian Organizations, Health Institutions, and Municipalities.

How can we give an account of “empathy” or “person” or “alterity”, “solitude”, “anger”, if we don’t make an experience of it, among the many contexts? How can we speak of a better world if we don’t get through into it?

When I started the project just few months ago, I wasn’t sure whether it would work. It takes a long time before new ideas shape within an organization. Some colleagues and acquaintances were deeply skeptical for a long time, but some of my friends and people close to me listened and responded. It was inspiring how much philosophical thinking could work into social life through the Online Philosophy Help Desk project.

OPHD project,critically takes into consideration what has changed in human relationships, subjective intentional horizons, and sharing cooperative activity. A sort of social disengagement took place together with a detachment from social institutions and dystonic-social behavior.

The philosophical presupposition lies in the loss of the body and, accordingly, in the lack of empathy. Empathy is about perceiving others’ psychic substratum through physical contact.  Without the presence in flesh and blood, the Other can be switched off and disappear, anytime.

Therefore, the Other is an illusion, an interlocking bi- dimensional game. All this generates solitude more structured loneliness, something that closely resembles a video game rather than intersubjectivity.    

The outcome is that the sense of responsibility dramatically dropped down. The Other, has not to be reached out, just switched on or off, like SMS, links, social. Disengagement excludes the fatigue of the presence, which transforms the other into an object at hand, something at our disposal inside our little practical world, depriving The Other of its own absolute transcendence of alterity. This turn is going to change our way of interacting in this world.

This program of cooperation is free of charge and works in two directions: it provides philosophical thinking to the organizations, and it provides a meaningful experience to the many philosophers wishing to have a career as consulting people specialists.

And of course, this cooperation may lead to professional partnerships and projects specially funded.

Previously the Covid we made several experiences with the Kirkens Korshær, a Danish charity, the Red Cross with the Wanteraktioun in Luxembourg, LISKO experience with refugees and inclusion in Luxembourg, and a philosophy help desk in Italy in Sedico and great cooperation with the University Ippolito Pinto in Vittorio Veneto about the effects of aging. .

The era of secure jobs and institutions through which we navigated our lives with pretty well ease and certainty is being lost, and post-modernity is imbued with vagueness, alienation and loss of meaning. Everything seems unstable.  People are walking along facts and concepts that are pretty much “blurred”, far for being clearly stated. The outcome is we have lost the valid presuppositions upon which we can share common argumentation.

What we need today is not a kind of duplication of psychotherapy, but experienced rationality able to understand the social world, making the practice of the human condition, to combat fear and anxiety and inspiring people to take action and change the world for the better. Hope, after all, is rational.

The OPHD is the opportunity to research and study the effect of Covid restrictions on people, to reflect and to deepen the concepts as self-determination, freedom, law, empathy, relationships, marginalization, depression, trust and intersubjectivity.