Ask a Philosopher about Covid-19 | Cassandra Voices

Ethical questions in the time of Covid-19? Ask a philosopher


The Centre for Ethics in Public Life at University College Dublin is inviting questions and reflections on all philosophical aspects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

What are your thoughts about the crisis? Is our freedom threatened? Should we rethink the welfare system? If different countries are dealing with it better, how do we know which experts to believe? Who, if anyone, should take responsibility for the spread of the virus?

Many of the questions we ask ourselves, and others, are ethical questions: from individual actions in everyday life like: ‘Should I go to the shop to buy non-essential items?’; to public, life-or-death decisions: ‘How should respirators be allocated if there is a shortage?’

We are all probably thinking about what we should do, and what is right. Some of the questions we ask, and the decisions we make on a daily basis, may be so ordinary as to seem morally irrelevant, but it is likely that there is an assessment of values going on.

The new, future-oriented questions, such as, ‘What changes, if any, should I make to my lifestyle after the crisis?’, include our ideas about what a good life ought to be; whether there’s a specific good life for me; or the comparative importance of pleasure and helping others in one’s activities.

Some of the time our moral answers, ideas or actions, are intuitive or spontaneous. At other times we need to reflect more intensely.

That’s where moral philosophy comes in, starting with disentangling the problem, and avoiding superficiality to reveal reveal hidden aspects; or evaluating the more relevant questions and asking what follows from each idea, and so on.

We also know that this process works well in conversation. After all, the origins of Western philosophy include long dialogues in the public square of Athens. Our public square, these days, has to be virtual.

So we would like to hear your questions and thoughts, and start a conversation.

The Initiative:

The Centre for Ethics in Public Life invites you to send a question, together with 50-100 words explaining why it’s important.

All questions will be displayed on the centre’s website and a philosopher will respond weekly to chosen queries by a video to be published online.

Everyone is welcome to respond to our videos on the CEPL Facebook pages, with a comment or a 1-minute video, and continue the conversation.

Please submit your questions here: or email us at [email protected]


About Author

Silvia Panizza teaches ethics at the UCD School of Philosophy. Previously she was Lecturer in ethics at Norwich Medical School, UEA and taught philosophy in Cambridge and Rome, and literature in Genova. She has published on moral psychology, Iris Murdoch, Simone Weil, and animal ethics.

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