Resilience: An Explorative Workshop

Resilience: An Explorative Workshop

30 June 2022 | 12:00 – 15:00
sponsored by ÖAW, UW, MUW

Resilience has become a buzz-word in our pandemic times. This explorative workshop brings together interdisciplinary researchers to talk about the concerns and possibilities that the concept of resilience carries with itself. Neil Vickers and Felix Tretter will approach the topic from the vantage points of Medical Humanities and psychology. We cordially invite everyone interested to take part in the discussion.

Below you will find the event details, the programme, and abstracts of the talks.

Event Details

When: 30. Juni 2022, 12:00 to 15:00
Where: Östrreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Sitzungssaal / Dr. Ignaz Seipel-Platz 2 1010 Wien
Contact: kgpw(at) / Phone: +43 1 51581-2450
Kommission für Geschichte und Philosophie der Wissenschaften der ÖAW
Registration: until June 24 via kgpw(at)

Workshop Programme

12:00 Monika Pietrzak-Franger (UW), Henriette Löffler-Stastka (MedUniVienna): Introduction: Covid-19 and Resilience

12:15 Neil Vickers (King’s College, London): Why Medical Humanists Need Concepts of Resilience 

12:45 Felix Tretter (Bertalanffy Center, Vienna): Epistemic trust and Infodemics – micro-/meso-/macro-level (systems view) 

13:15 Discussion

Download the programme here


Neil Vickers – Why Medical Humanists Need Concepts of Resilience

One of the most remarkable things about the development of the medical humanities is how small the impact of the contemporary health sciences has been. Medicine is still widely understood by humanities scholars in terms of the tasks of doctors, especially hospital doctors treating patients for acute conditions. The social determinants of health seldom feature in medical humanities papers; neither do studies of childhood adversity. Yet studies in epidemiology, epigenetics and social neuroscience since the 1980s tell us that the history of our interpersonal engagements has a decisive, cumulative effect on human health. They indicate that social adversity can become embedded in the body physiologically, leading to greater risk of illness and death. Obviously, interpersonal engagements are not the only things that make us well or ill; biogenic causation is also real. But the contemporary health sciences tell us that, because of the centrality of the interpersonal and environmental context, resilience has a determining effect on health outcomes. If we are to understand illness as a social fact in the full Durkheimian sense we also need to understand resilience in everyday life. We cannot know what health is or what disease is without understanding resilience. Until recently the view prevailed that resilience is a trait that develops from an individual’s experience with extreme adversity. The alternative, more universalising view has tended to be expressed in terms of ‘good enough’ parenting (Winnicott) or secure attachment (Bowlby, Schore, van der Kolk). In this talk I will explain why I believe the ongoing experience of ‘supported autonomy’ is the main source of resilience for most of us and will outline how Jerome Bruner’s theory of narrative might help us to understand why this is so. 

Felix Tretter – Epistemic trust and Infodemics – micro-/meso-/macro-level (systems view) 

1. The social micro-level

  • as developmental psychology and psychoanalysis shows, children develop several  phases of extreme  curiosity and exploratory behaviour; successful experiences in this action cycle might contribute to self-value formation
  • it can also be seen as the anthropological basis of science
  • in these phases the interaction with the parents (obviously mainly the mother)  is essential: they provide the naming, explain mechanisms etc.; this can be seen as the basis of individual and socially mediated „epistemic trust“, also in the sense of P. Fonagy  
  • In adult phases, this basic experiental matrix of successful exploration could be a reference structure for further demands of social epistemic trust

2. Social macro-/meso-level:

  • Science, in modern differentiated societies, is the institutionalized truth and knowledge producer with the mandatory “Follow the science” (=> evidence-based politics; N. Cartwright; e.g. climate change)
  • In situations where science gives significant orientations for the population, their “epistemic trust” is relevant (follow the science)
  • Trust in (or rejection of) science depends on several features of science as they are attributed by the respective individual / group (e.g. conspiracy believers)
  • Mass media play an important role in transfer of scientific information
  • Politics can have relevant influence, if they follow (or not) the science (masks wearing)
  • In context of communications theoretical model, analyses of texts (in a wider sense: words, numbers, graphs) e.g. about incidence numbers are material for further empirical analysis

3. Corona – from description to explanation and forecasting ?

  • Daily variation of incidence numbers makes confusion, but not to show them by conforming  „cancel culture“ is also not a good idea
  • the meaning of numbers is unclear as many error variables interfere, after a while of being exposed to these variations also reflecting recipients build their own opinion 

Hypothesis: the lack of theoretical framing: no epistemic circle model, no funnel model of disease course + supply, no multiple regression equation as result of big data analysis, no mechanistic model of pandemic and/or pathology.

This enhances distrust in science / media / politics.

Or the other way round:  theoretical framing would enhance adherence

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