In my opinion "Essay on blindness" is Saramago's masterpiece.The work is not only impressive for its philosophical content but also for the way in which it is exposed. Surprisingly enough there are not many novels that touch upon such deep and stirring topics developing them at this level of mastery. No doubt this is the reason why Saramago could be considered both, a philosopher and a writer.
The novel explains how circumstances determine human lives and contribute to degrade human values which are now adapted to the changes being suffered.
Readers can easily feel shaken by the tough topics being treated.
As Ortega y Gasset quoted "I am myself and the circumstances and I cannot save myself if I do not save them". At this stage characters are suffering from blindness due to a virus and this is a situation they cannot do anything about.Therefore, it is imperative for them to face the music with all the terrible consequences. These circumstances get harder and harder and the most important thing is that are contributing to changing the essence of every character pushing them to the limit. Their ethics keep changing as they gradually face the threat to their survival. It can also be considered that extreme circumstances make people show their real personality in the quickest way. The slow rithm the author uses, may seem difficult to get used to but helps to get step by step into the story and to perceive the depht of the message. It is also well known the particular way how commas are used in this novel and how the author refers to characters and places through very brief descriptions instead of using specific names. This gives the work a universal sense.
The main philosophical question discussed is the gift of knowing more than others do, as the starring character is not affected by blindness. Therefore what initially seemed a blessing becomes as well a suffering by the end due to the realization of many matters and the responsability of guiding others.
As a summary I think many other philosophical questions are risen in the novel, how we behave in communities in extreme situations, how differently we all face trouble, how degradation can make us in a justified way unhuman and immoral in order to live our own life, even if the life we are having is a devastating nightmare.