Pandemic and Religion: Oliva Offers Two Ways of Waiting for the End of the World
The issue of coping with a crisis from the perspective of the Christian idea of salvation and the end of the world was addressed by Associate Professor of Philosophy, Mirela Oliva, in a virtual conference on Pandemic and Religion.
The recent two-day conference, sponsored by the University of Vienna, was titled "(Ir)Rationality and Religiosity During Pandemics.”
Oliva’s talk, titled "How to Reasonably Wait for the End of the World: Aquinas and Heidegger on the Thessalonians”, offers a phenomenological approach to the experience of waiting for the end of the world. She puts in balance two opposite ways of waiting for the end of the world: the calculative attitude of those who claim to know when the end will happen, and the lucid and sober attitude of the true believers, who know that nobody can know the day of the second coming of Christ and thus we have to continually prepare and be ready for it.
“These ways pertain to different modes of human rationality,” Oliva said. “Which way is the most suited to handle a crisis like the current pandemic? The calculative reason is surely beneficial in scientific research, such as medicine. But when dealing with a crisis that brings up unexpected and unknown circumstances, we also need the virtuous, sober, and awakened attitude promoted by St. Paul in his letters to the Thessalonians”
Oliva earned her Ph.D. in Philosophy from University of Freiburg, Germany. She joined the Philosophy Department at UST in 2010 and holds the Frank A. Rudman Endowed Chair of Philosophy. This endowed chair memorializes the contributions of Mr. Rudman to Catholic education and the University of St. Thomas, where he served on the Board of Directors from 1953-59.
Oliva is currently writing a book on the meaning of life from a Christian perspective. The book shows that life's meaning has to do with both human action and the existential situation of human beings, which escapes our control.
Oliva engages with the growing contemporary scholarship on the meaning of life, but also aims to reach a wide, non -academic audience. She published several papers on this topic. Her undergraduate and graduate classes included subjects pertaining to the quest for meaning.
She recently became a member of the Philosophy as a Way of Life network (PWOL) based at the University of Notre Dame. PWOL has more than 100 faculty members from various institutions who research on aspects of philosophy as a way of life and exchange teaching strategies that serve students and the humanities.