Section II


5. Bending Rights to Meet Responsibilities: Moral Considerations in Pandemic Times.

Evandro Barbosa

There are two main concerns for those interested in playing the moral game in the morality domain. On the one hand, they need to perceive themselves as holders of claim-rights; on the other, these same individuals are aware that they can be duly held responsible from a moral point of view for their actions and attitudes. My interest in this issue is to consider the conflict between moral rights and the type of moral responsibility derived from what I call “pandemic relations” in the context of COVID-19. The pandemic is a type of challenging context that carries singular features about the way in which human relationships are established. It seems to indicate that different moral contexts do not operate under the same rules. Think about the kind of rights that individuals have in a liberal democratic society: the right to freedom of movement, the right of free speech and the right to autonomy over my body. It is these rights that authorize me to ask for a voice and express my opinion regarding a certain political choice, to cover my body with satanic tattoos, or to walk in public places without any hindrance. Now, transfer such rights to the context of COVID-19: if I have freedom of speech, can I openly report fake news, saying vaccines don’t work against the coronavirus? Can I walk around without a mask, as the control of my body is defined by me? Can I go out on the street even during periods of social distancing and lockdown? In a way, these elements seem to suggest that individuals are holders of certain rights, which authorize them to take certain actions. But, at the same time, our moral sense begs the question whether in certain contexts we should not alter the priority of enshrined moral rights. I defend the thesis that the individual’s moral responsibility towards his/her moral community outweighs individual rights. Should we, then, carry out a debunking of the thesis that we are bearers of inalienable rights? I hope to provide an affirmative answer at the end of this work: in extreme situations like the COVID pandemic, our rights should bend for the sake of the moral responsibilities we owe to each other.

6. Danse Macabre: Levity and Morality in a Plague Year.

Simone Gubler

After two weeks of multiple health screens and asking everyone to quarantine, I surprised my closest inner circle with a trip to a private island where we could pretend things were normal just for a brief moment in time. We danced, rode bikes, swam near whales, kayaked, watched a movie on the beach and so much more. 

– Kim Kardashian West

Even if they hadn’t gotten caught or risked infecting others, there would still have been something ‘off’ about their behaviour. Intuitively, they shouldn’t have been having such good times in the first place. 

– Ben Bramble

In the statement above, Ben Bramble invokes an intuition: even if our behavior presents no risk to others, we should not party during pandemics for the same sorts of reasons that we should not surreptitiously watch cat videos at a funeral. There is something “off”, he tells us, about having a good time during a bad time. But is it really wrong to be happy, or to engage in certain sorts of leisure activities, when many members of our community are sick and dying? We might characterize this question as a matter of “onlooker” morality: having controlled for risk to (and adverse influence on) others, how should a relatively unaffected person act and feel while they know that many of their compatriots are suffering? In this chapter, I make the moral and political case for dancing while the world crashes down (and, for that matter, for watching cat videos at funerals). I argue that not only is Bramble’s “intuitive” claim false, it is morally and politically perilous. In making the case for the morality of pursuing joy during dark times, I also address adjacent questions of the justification of other emotional phenomena that might be experienced by onlookers to a pandemic, such as survivor’s guilt and schadenfreude. 

7. Covid-19 and the Role of Relational Ethics.

Jana S. Rošker 

In everyday life, people tend to be self-interested and driven by immediate goals. Concern for the risk of contagion to the community seems abstract and less important than the preservation of individual freedoms. If we are to develop other principles and embrace the values of cooperation and solidarity, which are among the most urgent needs in times of global crisis, we need to modify and reshape our thinking so that it starts from a communal or social perspective rather than a self-centred one. Covid-19 belongs to global crises. Strategic solutions to such crises can only be found and implemented at the global level. This means that we must strive for genuine intercultural dialogues that are more than fashionable buzzwords, but rather new forms of interaction based on mutual learning and, above all, mutual listening. Different societies have developed different structures of social interactions. Regardless of the geopolitical space and culture in which we currently live, the pandemic requires us to radically rethink our position in society and our relationship to it.On this basis, some new ways of understanding interpersonal and intercultural interactions are suggested that could help us to develop new forms of cooperation and solidarity, which are among the crucial strategies against the current and possible future pandemics. Such ideas can stimulate a view of cooperation that goes beyond the divide between an independent singularity and obliterated self, and challenges dichotomies between the self and the other, or between the individual and the whole. These views are rooted in the paradigm of contrastive complementarity because the exclusive features of an individual can be measured not only by its individual merits but also by its broader social impact. This, in turn, is assessed according to the individual’s position within their contextual environment and their relationships with others. From an ethical perspective, such a web of relationships has several significant social implications, especially when compared to those frameworks that postulate the independent stability of individuals.

8. Pandemic and the Language of Virtues.  

Denis Coitinho

The current Covid-19 pandemic has substantially changed our lives, introducing a new language of virtues. Health officials call on the population’s prudence to wear a mask and maintain social isolation. The media, in turn, runs solidarity campaigns, saying that we must empathize with people, especially with the elderly and poorest. Psychologists warn of the need for resilience in times of confinement, highlighting the vital importance of discipline to ensure mental health. And, against the usual expectation of profit in a market economy, public opinion has condemned greed in this moment of crisis, blaming those who shamefully raise the prices of certain essential goods. In spite of seeing this new social demand for virtues as welcome, I identify three problems, one practical, another of a more theoretical nature and, third, a political problem. The practical problem is that virtue (moral and intellectual) is acquired through a process of habituation, and this process takes time. It is not enough to say that one must be prudent, supportive, resilient and fair so that agents act automatically in a virtuous way. It is necessary to practice virtuous actions to acquire a virtuous character. As Aristotle taught us in the Nicomachean Ethics, we become just, moderate and courageous by practicing acts of justice, moderation and courage. The theoretical problem that can be observed in the political field is that a liberal democratic state does not require virtuous behavior from its citizens, and that is because it correctly wants to avoid paternalism. And in this moment of the pandemic, despite the separation between the private and public spheres, the State has attempted to enforce the virtuous behavior of citizens. Finally, the political problem is that there is a lack of clarity in identifying the central moral-political principles (principles of justice) that should guide our political, social and economic institutions, thinking more specifically about the criteria that should guide the distribution of scarce resources, such as of health care.