Meditations on Freedom. Autonomy in the Mirror of Vulnerability, between Paranoia and Responsibility


Freedom in the Grip of the Pandemic


Conference: "Freedom in the Grip of the Pandemic"

Lecturer: Dr. Barbara Gallavotti (Superquark, RAI Radiotelevisione Italiana, Milan)

Cycle: Eranos-Jung Lectures: "Meditations on Freedom. Autonomy in the Mirror of Vulnerability, between Paranoia and Responsibility"

Date: May 21, 2021, 6:30pm

Place: Auditorium, Monte Verità, Ascona and Zoom online streaming

Chairman: Prof. Fabio Merlini (Eranos Foundation, Ascona, and Swiss Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training SFIVET, Lugano)


As part of the measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic and on the basis of cantonal directives, a maximum of 33 listeners will be allowed in the Auditorium. The registrations will be accepted in chronological order of adhesion. Registration, to be done by email, is thus mandatory. Those who can not be present will still be able to follow the conference in real time via Zoom. The recording of the conference will then be available on the official YouTube channel of the Eranos Foundation.


The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged our idea of freedom, forcing us to give up part of what we considered inviolable rights in order to imitate the risk of damage not only to ourselves but especially to others and the community. But are the limits within which the new coronavirus has forced us really unprecedented or are they primarily a relocation of already existing barriers? The fact of having to wear a mask has caused dismay, yet since immemorial time we have surrendered the freedom to choose which parts of the body to cover, in fact relying on rules dictated by custom, opportunity, and respect. The epidemic has prompted us on several occasions to find a compromise between individual freedoms and the need to deal compactly with an infectious agent, but perhaps it has also reminded us that the balance between individual freedoms and living in a community is always dynamic and maintaining it requires us to solve complex problems.


Barbara Gallavotti, geneticist by education, is a populariser of science and essayist. Author of scientific television programs such as Superquark (broadcast on the first channel of the Italian Radio and Television) and collaborator of the Swiss Radio and Television, she is the Scientific Coordinator of the Museum of Science and Technology in Milan and teacher in several Masters of Science communication. She collaborates with newspapers and magazines. He has written several books on various scientific topics, including Le grandi epidemie, come difendersi (Donzelli Publishers, 2019). For her activity, she has been awarded several awards and recognitions.

The 2021 edition of the Eranos-Jung Lectures is dedicated to the topic, “Meditations on Freedom. Autonomy in the Mirror of Vulnerability, between Paranoia and Responsibility.” Abandoned to its sole desire for affirmation, freedom runs the risk of becoming an instrument of oppression. For this reason, freedom must be protected from itself. And the only way to do this is to associate the exercise of freedom with a sense of responsibility. Faced with our vulnerability, in the complication of the multiple crises to which we are exposed today (economic, health, ecological, interior...), we must learn to rethink the idea of freedom in the light of the obligations that make each of us a "being of relationships". Committing ourselves to this path means giving a chance to our unassailable fragility, so that it can consciously resist the temptation of paranoid behavior: a temptation, after all, always lurking, whose final outcome is tyranny.

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