Meaninglessness and monotony in pandemic boredom

Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences (5):1105-1119 (2023)
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Abstract

Boredom is an affective experience that can involve pervasive feelings of meaninglessness, emptiness, restlessness, frustration, weariness and indifference, as well as the slowing down of time. An increasing focus of research in many disciplines, interest in boredom has been intensified by the recent Covid-19 pandemic, where social distancing measures have induced both a widespread loss of meaning and a significant disturbance of temporal experience. This article explores the philosophical significance of this aversive experience of ‘pandemic boredom.’ Using Heidegger’s work as a unique vantage point, this article draws on survey data collected by researchers in an ongoing project titled ‘Experiences of Social Distancing During the Covid-19 Pandemic’ to give an original phenomenological interpretation of the meaninglessness and monotony of pandemic boredom. On a Heideggerian interpretation, pandemic boredom involves either a situative confrontation with relative meaninglessness that upholds our absorption in the everyday world, or an existential confrontation with absolute meaninglessness that forces us to take up the question of our existence. Arguing that boredom during the pandemic makes this distinction difficult to sustain, I consider some of the ways in which pandemic boredom might be seen to expose and then exceed the distinctive methodological limitations of Heidegger’s philosophical interpretation of boredom.

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Emily Hughes
University of York

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