Saramago’s Blindness and Community

Duncan McColl Chesney


Drawing on classic works of philosophical anthropology by Helmuth Plessner, Max Scheler, and Arnold Gehlen, the article looks back at José Saramago’s Blindness, (and its film version of 2008 by Fernando Meirelles), to explore his experiment in thinking the foundation of human community by imagining the response to a sort of pandemic of white blindness. Positing a fundamental precarity of human co-existence, Saramago subtly develops a set of basic moral values, including trust, dignity, and a sensus communis, to show what binds us together as meaningful communities in the absence of a shared ethico-religious tradition. Paying close attention to the details of Saramago’s famous and gripping thought experiment, the article shows how the novel, with help from the resources of the tradition of philosophical anthropology in thinking human being as naturally “deficient” and “eccentric” and human nature as consequently basically communal, can continue to teach us important lessons in community today in a time of pandemic.  


Saramago, community, Plessner, Gehlen

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