Poster Presentation The 26th International Nursing Philosophy Conference 2023

Nursing Beyond Purpose (#62)

Naoya Mayumi 1
  1. Tokyo Medical University, Tokyo, Japan

Three years ago, when countries were issuing a flurry of countermeasures in the wake of the Corona disaster, the Italian philosopher Agamben's argument (2020) drew attention. As he sees it, in the pandemic we have split the unity of our vital experience, which is always inseparably bodily and spiritual, into a purely biological entity and an affective and cultural life. This would mean that in trying to prevent the spread of infection and protect our biological existence, we have disregarded too much the affective and cultural aspects of human life. Of course, in the midst of such a pandemic, the measures introduced were considered compelling, but his argument still deserves attention.

Arendt, in her book "The Origins of Totalitarianism (2017)," quotes Nazi Himmler's definition of the SS member " as the new type of man who under no circumstances will ever do ‘a thing for its own sake.’” This is to deny, say, "chess for the sake of chess," requiring that all deeds serve a purpose. Applying this to the pandemic, we could say that we were in a situation where the primary purpose was to control the spread of the infection, and everything else became a means to that end.

In Japan, as in many other countries, patients who died of COVID19 were placed in body bags for isolation and sent directly to crematoriums, without being attended to by their families. I read a report that some nurses shed tears of sorrow for a patient as they placed his/her deceased body in a body bag. Their behavior may be meant to restore “the unity of our vital experience.” In nursing care there is often something inherently beyond its purpose. That excess can have intrinsic value to the meaning of human beings, which would give nursing an identity.

  1. Agamben, Giorgio (2020). A Question.
  2. Arendt, Hannah (2017). The Origins of Totalitarianism. Penguin Classics