The Big Question with Naomi Zack: Ethics and the COVID-19 pandemic

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The COVID-19 pandemic has presented the scientific, public health, and political worlds with a number of questions that were not entirely evident prior to the disease’s global spread. However, SARS-CoV-2 has also raised a number of ethical issues that extend past the three most prominent fields. We asked philosophy and ethics professors for their take on the coronavirus pandemic. Professor Naomi Zack (Philosophy Dept, Lehman, CUNY) set aside the time to answer the Big Question.

Prof. Zack introduced Disaster Studies to philosophy after Hurricane Katrina. Between 2007 and 20014, she taught four Philosophy and Disaster courses at the University of Oregon. She has published widely in the field, including her 2009/11 Ethics for Disaster and given talks in the US, and in United Nations formats in Paris, Tokyo, and Copenhagen. Her earlier focus was on weather events (hurricanes and earthquakes) and she is now working on Covid-19, A Philosophical Digest.

What is the biggest ethical question that has arisen as a result of the coronavirus pandemic?

In an ethical question, human life or well-being is at stake. The biggest ethical question resulting from the coronavirus pandemic is, How much do we as a society and as individuals value human life and well-being?

Why is it significant?

It is significant because the higher we value human life and well-being, the greater will be the economic and social sacrifices we are willing to make to preserve them.

How can it be addressed?

This question of the value of human life and well-being is addressed in word and action, by leaders on all levels, social influencers, and individuals. The U.S. federal government has shied away from the strongest answers to the question. If the federal government does not act, then states do. But if state governments act, counties may still interpret their rules. While there is social opinion on the rules, they have not been strongly enforced, for either mitigation or reopening. Mitigation has preserved human life and re-opening has been tentative. Belief in conspiracy theories is widespread. The biggest ethical question arising from the corona virus has and will continue to be addressed in a variety of ways and for a free society to remain peaceable, such variety will continue.

Fore more information about Prof. Naomi Zack and her work, visit her CUNY faculty page.

IMAGE SOURCE: Creative Commons


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