COMPANION PANDEMIC RELATIONS: [Re]Forging our Moral Bonds in the Time of COVID-19.

  • Edited by Evandro Barbosa 
  • Publisher: Routledge (Under Contract)
  • Expected to Be Released: 2023

  ❅ Companion Description

Could the Covid-19 pandemic be forging new kinds of bonds in human relations?

Living in pandemic times is like having the Sword of Damocles hanging over our necks each day. This situation has led to significant changes in our family, work, and social relationships, so answering the question above requires that we undertake a critical examination of the moral factors present in it. And although a wide range of philosophical discussions have mapped out some of the ethical issues related to the pandemic, one thing that seems to have been overlooked is that human relations themselves have a prominent place as an object of study for ethicists. Our intention in this book is to bring into focus novel questions about how relations during pandemic times shape our moral behavior, attitudes, and judgments. The contributors have all been experiencing the pandemic in widely varying contexts across the planet. Their explorations of the moral content at the heart of our relationships can help us all to unfold what I call pandemic relations and to understand in depth the implications of this new (provisional or not) social dynamic for morality. 

The discussions presented here focus on pivotal issues about the moral implications of the relationships established within the 21st century’s first devastating pandemic. Like it or not, humanity may be subject to similar situations in the future, and we hope that this book sheds light on the importance of analyzing why these kinds of interactions, at their most diverse levels, should constitute the core of contemporary moral discussions. Before trying to (re)create our social bonds, we need to understand how they have been altered amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The points here are but a first attempt to answer the question initially raised. Nevertheless, we expect they will find an echo in future debates among those interested in the subject. 

The book will be organized into four main sections:

Section I could be seen as examining two sides of the same coin. Recent surveys have offered an interesting view of how extreme conditions act as triggers for certain emotions. For instance, the inner emotion of loneliness is present in contexts that overwhelm individuals, which can offer a transforming epistemic experience. Other feelings, however, are less generous to individuals and may undermine their thought structure and agency. This is the case with the emotions of fear and anger, which can interfere with agents’ choices and lead to biased collective attitudes. Similarly, the rationality conditions of agents are affected by a pandemic, especially regarding the risks involved. Consider the case of the “denier,” a figure that emerges amid the chaos and best represents this condition. A quick glance at the news is enough to realize that deniers’ existence is not mere fiction, since they are everywhere, engaged in the anti-vaccine movement or even rejecting the very existence of the coronavirus. Deniers usually underestimate the situation and generate doubts about what should be done. The most common response is to label such people irrational, but it is not so simple. Excruciating pandemic-like situations can contribute to rational or emotional biases, and this seems to be the case with deniers. 

Section II considers the roles the character traits of agents play in shaping the moral quality of our relationships in pandemic times. Though this seems a blurry area, it is undeniable that the context of human interactions during a pandemic has a decisive influence on the moral universe and challenges the use of core virtues. The pandemic context challenges us to transcend our own secluded point of view—to step out of our safety zone and put ourselves in each other’s shoes. For instance, consider this question: is there a need to develop new habits in extreme situations? Although we cannot reduce the correctness of an action to the situation in which it is performed, we may find that important virtues like honesty, prudence, and self-control may take second place in extreme situations. Therefore, it should not be surprising if we find ourselves asking whether we should maintain our standards for moral integrity in such unusual circumstances, or whether we should lower or raise our moral standards for other members of society. Even a pandemic is not enough to completely undermine the moral relevance of key virtues, but it is crystal clear that the challenge of their application is most evident in hostile environments. As the pandemic has brought new types of social demands that challenge the use of our virtues and traits of character, it is necessary to pinpoint how our social bonds are upheld by moral elements. Then – at long last – we will be able to point out some important implications of the previous considerations, acknowledging that individuals hold rights but, at the same time, as members of moral communities, they bear at least some level of responsibility for their choices. 

Section III points out the ethical challenges that the pandemic has brought about in the dynamics between groups in society. The pandemic has produced shifts in relationships. Even though many of these shifts are negative, genuine values related to the well-being and happiness of others can emerge in social interactions despite the context of suffering and anguish. During the harshest phase of the pandemic, individuals were at a crossroads. Some people were concerned about lack of compliance with certain enshrined rights, while others began to call into question the legitimacy of the moral and political authority of certain prominent groups or persons, confirming that our social units were at risk of falling apart. One point in particular dispute here concerns the way we should use scarce resources during the pandemic, such as ICU beds, masks, or vaccines. In order to provide plausible justification for our choices, a minimum level of public deliberation and social integration is required. Once the debate about these social arrangements is framed in moral terms, the COVID-19 pandemic may be seen as a suitable ground for developing strategies for lighting the path and dealing with such conflicts. 

The fourth section increases the book’s scope by addressing some issues that may remain relevant after, as well as during, the pandemic, such as COVID’s impact on social conflicts and social bonds, and the nature of virtual social connections. One concern is how we deal with our emotions throughout the pandemic and whatever unfolds in the future. We seek to understand how, in crisis contexts, ambivalent emotional responses interfere in the decision-making of individuals and to see if there are ways to mitigate this impact. Another critical point of discussion concerns how we face the pandemic. Throughout its most intense and dark period, we were called to be resilient in the face of a terrible scenario. However, this attitude cannot be neutral to external factors (oppressions, material and structural conditions, and the interests of minority groups). To what extent do external conditions interfere with the strengths we must drawn on to face this pandemic challenge? Finally, some signs allow us to identify how the pandemic has changed work dynamics. These changes have required us to reforge human relationships. Therefore, a relational dimension of justice will be an essential tool to analyze how alterations in the world of work have also altered our relational goods (care, community, and social recognition) even in a post-COVID world of words.