We’re So Plugged In, “We’re About to Implode”

Nancy Sherman is a Distinguished University Professor in the Philosophy Department of Georgetown University. She received her BA from Bryn Mawr College, her PhD from Harvard, and her MLitt from the University of Edinburgh. From 1997 to 1999 Sherman served as the first Distinguished Chair in Ethics at the US Naval Academy. She has taught at Yale, Johns Hopkins, and the University of Maryland, and has trained in psychoanalysis at the Washington Psychoanalytic Institute. Since 1995 she has consulted for the U.S. Armed Forces on issues of ethics, resilience, and post-traumatic stress, lecturing at the Uniformed Services University, Walter Reed Army Hospital, the National Defense University, and elsewhere. In October 2005, Sherman visited Guantanamo Bay Detention Center as part of an independent observer team, assessing the medical and mental health care of detainees. She has served on the Board of Directors for the Carnegie Council on Ethics and International Affairs. 

Sherman's books include "Aristotle's Ethics: Critical Essays on the Classics," "Stoic Warriors: The Ancient Philosophy Behind the Military Mind," and her most recent, "The Untold War: Inside the Hearts, Minds, and Souls of Our Soldiers," published by W. W. Norton & Company in 2010.
  • Transcript


Question: What’s the biggest challenge you face in your work?

Nancy Sherman:  I’m a parent of two amazing kids and—adult kids now, and a spouse, a wife, and an academic and a writer, and it may sound trivial, but being able to do well in all of those things all the time, or most of the time, some of the time, is always before me.  And it’s not just about juggling, but it’s about being there.  When my children were little, my son Jonathan would sort of catch on when I was playing Legos and I really wasn’t there, there with him.  You know, I wasn’t in the game and empathically involved because my head was thinking about some paragraph on the fabric of character I was about to write, or a lecture I had to give in the morning.  So, I think for me, the challenge is—and I feel this with my students too, to always remain empathically connected to the people that I’m with and  not be so busy...  But I think right now, I feel is the challenge and I share this, I’m sure with many others, I think we are about to implode because of being plugged in.  Everyone on the street has got their head in some little device, electronic device.  And my students feel guilty that they’ve been in a lecture for 15 minutes and someone might have been texting them and they haven’t been able to answer in the 15 minutes.  So, this sense of—you might say there’s a flip side of what I was saying, of being over-connected.  But it’s over-connected in an insidious way.  So, I’d say, go off to the mountains and smell and breathe and workout hard and attach to people in the real, physical, concrete, emotional way, and not just through cyberspace.  That would be the—that’s the instruction we have and the challenge to realize as well.