COVID-19 calls for virtue ethics

Journal of Law and the Biosciences 7 (1) (2020)
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Abstract

The global spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) or coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19) has led to the imposition of severely restrictive measures by governments in the Western hemisphere. We feel a contrast between these measures and our freedom. This contrast, we argue, is a false perception. It only appears to us because we look at the issue through our contemporary moral philosophy of utilitarianism and an understanding of freedom as absence of constraints. Both these views can be substituted with more sophisticated alternatives, namely an ethics of virtue and a notion of freedom of the will. These offer a fuller picture of morality and enable us to cooperate with the current restrictions by consciously choosing to adhere to them instead of perceiving them as draconian and immoral. We ask whether we should collaborate with the restrictions and argue that considerations of virtue will lead to an affirmative answer. More broadly, virtue ethics permits to deal with the practical concerns about how an individual should behave during this pandemic, given the current lockdown measures or lack thereof. In section 1, we present how utilitarianism and a notion of freedom as negative liberty support the opposition to restrictive measures. In section 2, we outline an alternative based on an ethics of virtue and a more elaborated notion of free will. In the concluding section 3, we argue that considerations of virtue should guide the individual and public response to the emergency.

Author's Profile

Francesca Bellazzi
University of Birmingham

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